My husband and I had the most wonderful date last week. We spent the afternoon looking into each others eyes, talking about out dreams and hopes for the next season of our lives, sharing inside jokes, and even smooching a bit. It was heavenly.
But it hasn't always been.
What made this day so special was the fact that it came on the heels of a rough patch.
There wasn't fighting or crashing dishes. There wasn't a discovery of deception. There really wasn't anything specific to point to this. Rather, there was distance. And quiet, too much of it.
The truth of it was that we had lost the sparkles. After nearly 13 years of marriage things had dulled.
I used to sympathize with people who had marriage issues; and at the same time feel grateful for a strong union, wedded bliss. We have almost always been in a good place as a couple. And we still were, but distance had crept in.
We didn't notice it at first, a busy life from raising kids, working in a changing ministry, and running a business took center stage and we got crowded out. And then one day the distance was so great. We sat down to talk and found ourselves out of words.
How did we get here?
Somewhere along the way distance created more distance and it became easier to pull back and grow cold. It was gradual. But it happened.
And then one day I found the answer in an unlikely passage of Scripture. In second Kings there is a story about Israel under attack by an opposing army. God arranges for this army to miraculously be led right to where Israel's army is waiting. The king of Israel wonders what to do. Should he wipe them out? Annihilate them as punishment? Through a prophet the answer comes: No, no violence, treat them kindly. So the king prepares a banquet, a great feast. He feeds them and then sends them on their way. After that the fighting stopped. (See 1 Kings 6: 8-23)
The natural inclination here would have been violence, it was a time of war after all. This invading army was causing a lot of trouble for the people of Israel.
But God has a different way, a different idea. And his ways are always better. Often we want to meet trouble with trouble, strife causes more strife. This can be especially true in a marriage. When distance and complacency set in it seems much easier to maintain that, working against it is hard.
In this time of distance and cold we needed to turn up the thermostat. What was so hard about this was that it was the opposite of what I wanted to do. But the King of Israel found peace by conducting himself contrary to what he might naturally do. Could the sparkles return if I did the same?
It was like the slow moving an ocean liner to move my heart. Bridging the chasm took a conscious effort on our part. It started with some painfully honest conversations. It was punctuated with prayer. It took recognizing that there is a real enemy that really wanted to derail our marriage. And then, slowly, there was a thaw.
My first instinct was to withdraw, to fight, to remain cold and unmoved by the situation between my husband and me. But the king of Israel reminded me that peace often comes through making a conscious choice to act opposite of how you feel.
And guess what? Just like tarnished silver gleams after it's polished, the sparkle came back. It was gradual, like the rising sun that warms the garden.
Are we perfect? No. Not even close. But we are working on it, being intentional about romance and time together. Pursuing each other like we did at the start. We realize that the sparkles can lose their glimmer, sometimes love can grow cold. But we also know that there is hope.
Now we make sure we are making time for each other. We recognize that we are in a season, but it will pass. Later we know we will have new challenges to face, but we also know we will face those together.
And that was why the date was so special. It was because we were coming back from a place of pain. I'm grateful for the return. I'm grateful or the lesson . And I'm grateful for the warning too. It can be so easy to let something so precious slip away. I don't want to go there again.
So we'll make sure that we are regularly making marriage time. We'll pray together more. We will make a conscious effort to draw closer when life gets busy.
I don't want to minimize any one else's marriage problems, but sometimes I think the answers are more simple than we make them out to be. Making time for each other, especially when we don't really want to has made all the difference. And now, this fourth of July we can make our own fireworks.