The list of things I am grateful for is quite long but at the top of that list is friendship with my children.
It doesn’t happen every day but a few days ago all three of our children called me just to chat…they didn’t need anything, just wanted to tell me something going on in their world.
My husband came home from work and I was in the kitchen as I hung up the phone with a big smile. He wanted to know what the big smile was for…
“Oh nothing, just all three kids called me today and wanted to chat.” He smiled too knowing that’s my love language…relationships that communicate.
I remember when our first-born was two years old and I was sitting by his bedside as he was sleeping and my thoughts gravitated towards, “Start releasing him now…”
Wait…what? “God, he is only two years old.” As I kept that strange notion in my mind throughout my child-raising years, it started to make more sense. (Even childbirth is splashed with the prophetic picture that all of life is about attachment and saying good-bye…for now.)
The All-Wise One wasn’t talking about merely the physical act of seeing our children leave our home but the emotional and spiritual release of being prepared on how much I would miss them.
Most every mom can attest to that feeling when, after everyone is out of the home, they all come back at the same time…under the same roof…safe, having fun, teasing one another, eating whatever they want and sharing fun memories… and sometimes finding out things that you couldn’t have handled knowing at the time, only reaffirming that God heard your prayers!
It’s a small taste of Heaven and when you crawl into bed at night with all of them in your home again…taking a deep breath and smiling as you drift off to sleep.
As Nathan and I celebrate twenty-nine years of marriage tomorrow, I’m thinking about the friendship we now share. I remember when we were first married and we attended conferences, read books, did studies and was in and out of counseling, all centering around the marriage. Typically it was some form of information about serving one another…the dreadful talk of dying to self and keeping your sex life alive.
So much pressure…so much performance…another to-do list.
I’m not taking away from truly serving and doing things for one another. I am not saying there’s no dying to self, nor am I downplaying a healthy sex-life…but I do want to propose something I believe can at least take the edge off of living up to expectations from sheer duty.
Nathan and I are the journey…we haven’t arrived…we are still learning…but the reality of serving one another by knowing one another has changed everything for us…focusing on the marriage without focusing on one another had left us frustrated and feeling hopeless for years.
It’s true we can’t know one another if we don’t spend time together but I want to take it even deeper than spending time together, because honestly, there are people who are married for decades and still do not really know one another.
God knows us in our past, present and future. He is intimately aquatinted with all our ways. He has perfect precision in knowing down to the detail of our every need and desire. We don’t have that in the same way with our spouse…but can I suggest it’s a good template to look at when serving our spouse by knowing them as best we can?
Here’s a brief example: When Nathan and I were dating, I told him I had placed a baby boy for adoption a few years earlier. He acknowledged what I shared with him but had no clue what that would mean when we started having our own children. To be fair, neither did I. When our first child was born, Nathan and I decided to run to Walmart briefly while they were finishing up the paperwork to release our son. We left the hospital and a few minutes into our shopping trip, I started panicking…all I knew was…”Get me back to the hospital now.” Nathan got me back to the hospital where I could breathe again.
The pain of placing my first son and leaving the hospital without him was a pain that took many years to heal. Though I knew I was doing the right thing at that time, it’s not natural to have the umbilical cord severed and then say good-bye. Even nine months in the womb of being attached creates a fierce bond. When I left the hospital without Brady, our firstborn, I was overcome with memories, even in my own body, of deep loss and pain.
When Nathan and I began a friendship of knowing one another after being married for twenty-two years, we started making up for lost time. We started over.
We began a journey of listening and asking questions about our past, our present and our future. We didn’t rush…we didn’t try to fix anything…we didn’t fear…we just became…
We became friends. We cried together, mourned together, fought, prayed for and with one another..mutually pursuing one another. And still today…we are learning, growing and settling into marital friendship and love.
We recently attended a marriage conference I can’t wait to share more about. The content made me want to go find a quiet, alone place and worship the God who hears and sees. The foundation of the conference was FRIENDSHIP as God describes…
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his Master is doing, but I have called you friends…” (John 15:15 ESV).
God invites us into a friendship through Jesus of knowing one another…not just by showing up at church, being busy in ministry, knowing “the language” but by being with Him in real dialogue…giving and receiving…abiding.
It’s been a few weeks since this conference and I’ve wondered what life would have looked like if Nathan and I attended a marriage conference in the beginning that gave us insight into the truths that were spoken. I’m not looking back feeling shamed and condemned but more with the responsibility to do things different, teach things different and believe for things to be different…
that instead of trying to create love and loyalty by merely doing laundry, taking out the trash, having good sex, and finding that one book or conference…we would seek to know one another. We would serve one another by going to the depths of past present and future…there’s so much more I could convey…this is only a start…twenty-nine years and counting for us…tomorrow (June 17th, 2018) we will be celebrating our anniversary, our daughter Bethany’s birthday and Father’s Day…we will also be aware of the pain going on around us in the lives of others…kids leave home…marriages end….parents die… and creation is groaning to be finally and forever reunited with our Creator and Friend, never feeling loss and pain again.