As we write this month’s article we are in the midst of celebrating our 17th year anniversary. We usually spend our anniversary doing something that allows us time to reflect upon our marriage and genuinely assess with gratitude the many ways in which God has abundantly blessed us. Honestly some years it is easier to do this than others because (just like you) our marriage experience has not always been a “day in the park”.
This year more profoundly than others, it has been one in which that dreaded “itch” has been particularly noticeable. Everyone has heard of the 7year itch, where it has been said one begins to have a sense of restlessness with the monotony that comes from living with the same person or the same challenges for years. Well ours is a bit different but many of the symptoms touted by the 7year itch are the same.
For 17 years we have had a constant and consistent prayer, longing and desire to have children. These past years have been extremely challenging, spiritually, physically and emotionally as we have sought answers to what has appeared to be a resounding “NO”. Fertility treatments, failed adoptions, laying on of hands, “prophetic” words, prayer circles, support groups…. we have been down various roads, have made some painful decisions and have experienced profound disappointments. Just like the 7year itch; we have sought to escape the feelings of worthlessness, loneliness and heartache. We have denied our own pain and put on the brave face through many a baby shower, children’s birthday party and baby dedication and have answered what feels like a million times the inevitable question “so do you have kids?” Only to have some well-meaning person tell us how “lucky” we are to have the freedom to do what we want or the spiritual person tell us that we just need to pray more or harder.
In the midst we have muddled through some extremely dark days in which our marriage has been tried and tested. The conclusion we have come to is that we may have to live with the “itch” or accept that God’s plan to scratch that itch may not be as straight forward as we would like. Just as profound as the ”itch” has been, we have been uniquely blessed to have the time to be active in the lives of our nephews and nieces, godchildren and a host of children that may not have our DNA but whom God has allowed us to have influence. We have grown closer as a couple and more unified through this adversity. We have learned that we can survive disappointments.
We wanted to share this with those who read this column because there are so many couples that are experiencing similar disappointments or other types of grief and loss. We want to encourage you that you can survive and thrive even with an itch! Here are just a few lessons we have learned:
- Sometimes the answer to your prayers is “no” sometimes it is “not yet” and sometimes it just looks a lot different then you imagined. How you envision your life is not necessarily the same as God’s will for your life. The struggle becomes when you only want it your way and you are unwilling to surrender to the perfect Will of God. Our greatest struggle was (and still is) being settled with the unanswered questions and also accepting his ways as more perfect than our desires.
- Share the blame, no finger pointing allowed. Often when we do not have all that we feel entitled to have we look for reasons to blame something or someone else. When we recognized there was not separation of the two (i.e. the two became one flesh) we were then forced to look at ourselves when we wanted to point the finger at each other. Nothing that happens in your marriage affects just you! It is probably more beneficial to remove the words “it’s all about me” even when you are dealing with your own feelings of loss. That mantra has no place in marriage.
- God will (and does) flip the script- No matter how difficult or painful a situation can be, God can ultimately revive, recharge, resume and resurrect those things that may have been damaged or lost. Even when things have seemed dim (no money, lost jobs, no babies, no hope), God has and continues to show up miraculously in ways we could not have orchestrated or imagined and has righted some wrongs, provided means from unexpected places and has restored hope that even if his answer has been and continues to be ‘no” he has and will provide much more than we can dare to imagine