In parenting - it's so true.
But it's also true in... marriage! Today my husband and I celebrate the end of our first decade - our tenth wedding anniversary.
It's just gone by so incredibly fast.
When I look back to that day, though, it's easy to see how much we've matured and grown. I really cannot believe, as a matter of fact, how immature I was back then. How far I had to go, spiritually and maturity-wise (though I certainly didn't know it back then!).
At 22, I was a new Christian. I was still at least mildly pro-abortion. I was still good and brainwashed by the secular and ungodly teaching that I had received through seventeen years of public school education (and again... didn't even know it - and would have been quite indignant had anybody tried to tell me so). My theology was weak (though growing), I was very immature spiritually, I had little to no practical skills for living in the real world, and I was extremely naive, both politically and spiritually.
So much has happened since then during these past ten years.
If I had to describe this past decade of marriage, I would describe it as a decade of firsts.... or a decade of change. Everything has been new, and there have been constant introductions of new relationships and states of being into our lives.
In the past ten years, we have experienced...
- The first days, months, and years of early marriage, and of living away from my parents' home.
- Five or six moves.
- Our first experience with owning a home.
- The life-changing nightmare of hyperemesis gravidarum.
- Childbirth - three times.
- The babyhood of three very different children.
- Parenting. ACK!
- The challenges of multi-age children (which neither of us had experienced in childhood).
- Parenting a child with special needs and interfacing with the medical system.
- The beginning of our adventure into home education.
- Massive changes and growth in our views on a number of political, financial, spiritual, and theological issues.
In many ways, this has felt like navigating uncharted waters - it's the first time through these adventures for us, of course, but our chosen way of life is very different (on the whole) than that chosen by our parents (especially mine). For example...
- My mom was a career woman. I am a homemaker (best decision I ever made!).
- Both of our parents chose voluntarily to stop with one birth only. (I am an only child; DH is a twin.) We are learning the ropes of multi-age parenting, of dealing with pregnancies while already parenting, of trying to home educate with toddlers underfoot.
- I was raised in an extremely liberal church. We have chosen to choose churches that are instead very Bible-based. (And if you know anything about Christian culture, you know that liberal Christianity and conservative Christianity are basically different religions - no joke.)
- DH and I were public school kids. We have chosen to home educate.
All of these (and more!) make for many new adventures, and our parents seem sometimes to be looking at us as if we are stark raving mad. (They may be right.)
One thing that strikes me about the past ten years is how much I can see God's hand working in my life to grow me, shape me, sanctify me, and gradually chisel away at my selfishness and self-sufficiency. Hyperemesis expecially was a huge lesson in learning humility and compassion. Parenting, also, has been one long adventure in learning to die to self and consider others as more important than my own desires. (Not to mention that it forced me to grow a backbone, something that I definitely don't have naturally! Learning to develop the virtues of persistence and perseverance has been a tough road.)
Though I have passed through many experiences over this past decade that I considered horribly painful or unpleasant, I can now look back and see God's guiding hand, and I would not wish to go back to being the person that I was before passing through those fires. As this awesome article says
"I can take pleasure in illness, I can count it joy that I suffer, I can be thankful in all things, and when I am sick now, I make every attempt to praise the God who sought me, and bought me, and won’t let me go away unchanged. He is faithful to work in me the image of His Son, to continue pressing me when I am foolish and stubborn and want to remain a child. He is faithful to complete in me, the work which He began. I hope that I might be faithful to accept, and find joy in His workings."Not that I'm exactly eager to experience suffering (are we ever?), but the trials of this decade have been the impetus for incredible growth in my life. God is faithful to complete His work.
"'Would you exchange them - now - for two years filled with fun?'
'No,' said Rilla slowly. 'I wouldn't. It's strange - isn't it? - They have been two terrible years -a nd yet I have a queer feeling of thankfulness for them - as if they had brought me something very precious, with all their pain. I wouldn't want to go back and be the girl I was two years ago, not even if I could. Not that I think I've made any wonderful progress - but I'm not quite the selfish, frivolous little doll I was then. I suppose I had a soul then, Miss Oliver - but I didn't know it. I know it now - and that is worth a great deal - worth all the suffering of the past two years. And still' - Rilla gave a little apologetic laugh, 'I don't want to suffer any more - not even for the sake of more soul growth. At the end of two more years I might look back and be thankful for the development they had brought me, too; but I don't want it now.'
'We never do,' said Miss Oliver. 'That is why we are not left to choose our own means and measure of development, I suppose. No matter how much we value what our lessons have brought us we don't want to go on with the bitter schooling.'" ("Rilla of Ingleside", L.M. Montgomery, p. 186)Before I paint this decade too much as a vale of tears, let me quickly say that that is not my intent. This past decade has been awesome. We have had wonderful experiences, rejoiced in the births of our children, and made wonderful friends, along with great strides in personal growth. However, in reviewing the challenges and trials that this decade has brought, I can also see through them the hand of God in shaping and changing us for the better, and that's as much of a blessing as the joys and triumphs that have brought us pleasure.
Should I be allowed another decade on this planet, I am sure that I will look back and say the same things at our twentieth anniversary, when I am 42. Whatever lies ahead, God is using it for His glory and our good. (Though I can never remember that in the moment. I tend to be more of the "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" type - I can only gain perspective in the long term.)
This past year, our tenth year of marriage, has been what I would call a year of "coming together." It's been an incredible year.
When DH and I married, we had many, many, many areas of disagreement - both minor and major - in just about every area of life. Finances, spirituality, theology, practicalities, you name it - areas of all kinds where our opinions clashed. Don't we all?
While we still have those areas, this year has been a huge year of drawing together - of finally coming to agreement about a huge number of areas that had previously been bones of contention. This was truly the grace of God, and I am extremely thankful for it.
Thus, to all the newlyweds in the audience, I will say - don't lose hope! This time of coming together took ten years to arrive. For many marriages it takes longer - but it eventually can and does happen. This has been a great year, unemployment and all. (Not to say that we agree on everything, but a major shift has definitely taken place for the positive.)
And so, with all that said, we're off for our new (started last year) anniversary celebration tradition - milkshakes at Joe's Farm Grill! Of course, I can't have a milkshake, so I'm going to spend my tenth anniversary... watching other people have milkshakes. Can you imagine anything more enjoyable?? (But I am thrilled that since we have finally managed to develop an anniversary tradition, I no longer have to think about planning our anniversary! Hip hip HOORAY!!! Especially since our anniversary comes at the end of an exhausting birthday season when I am in no mood to plan yet another celebration. Bring on the milkshakes and I'll watch with complete contentment. It's five minutes that I actually get to sit down.)
Celebrating God's faithfulness for the first ten years and on into the future!
And a very happy 10th anniversary to our anniversary twins - you know who you are! Y'all may have been married five hours longer than us, but we'll catch up sometime!!