Marriage. Who knew one little word could carry such incredible weight? It is quite hard to wrap my brain around the emotions that overcome us, the experiences we have shared and the decisions that are placed in our hands, each and every day through marriage.
When I married Nathan, four years ago today, I was a different Ashli. He will tell you that too, but he a different Nathan.
I remember that day oh too well and yet so much already feels a blur. The day was gorgeous with bright blue skies and big puffy white clouds and a subtle wind that lifted my veil. I was not nervous, which if you knew me then and even know me now, would find surprising. I am always nervous and anxious. Instead, I was incredibly calm. I was confident in Nathan and in our first real decision as a couple, which was to wed.
I spent my wedding morning surrounded by those closest to me. I had coffee with my parents, alone. Again, I repeat – alone. I am the oldest of five children, being alone, never happens. I danced on the Lake dock that morning with my Dad. When hair appointments began, I joined up with the females in my life and sipped Mimosa’s my Momma made. My family – my grandparents, my in-laws, an aunt or two, checked in on me in the farmhouse as my cousin, Jordin applied my makeup and I put on my gown.
The only real moment it hit me that transformation was to occur was as I watched the backs of each bridesmaid walk away and I stood there gripping my father’s arm. One swig, no chug of wine and a deep breathe and off I went. Every step down that grassy hill and through the field to Nathan felt like an eternity. Tears filled my face and as I write this now, they too stream down. It is quite symbolic for a woman. The true giving away from a father. Each step together possibly reliving the years, the blink of an eye of the life that occurred before that person at the end of the aisle stepped into your life. My father gave me away as his daughter and I gave myself away to be my husband’s wife.
Marriage is about so much more than the rings, the big white dress, the decision between a band or DJ, the color of icing on the cake and what food you serve as your meal. It is a legal union, a contract. Above all that, it is a commitment to God and to each other.
1 Corinthians 13:4–8a:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails …
Notice what the verse does not say. Replace love with marriage and reread.
Marriage is patient, marriage is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Marriage does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Marriage never fails …
But, here is the thing…
Marriage is not always patient, it can be ruthless. Marriage is not always kind, it can be cruel. Some days I am downright mean and I feel hurt or I inflict hurt. It can be rude. It can be selfish and I am the Queen of recording wrongs. Some days I cry and feel hateful and resentful. Marriage does not always protect, trust, enlist hope and preserve and sadly, we know marriage does indeed fail.
The wedding day is bliss. The marriage is work. Some of the hardest work we do. Add in careers, money problems, health scares, children, and life puts pressure and strain on the people in the marriage. It is a constant staircase and not the escalator kind. You have to exert work, one step at a time. It is constant shift. There is no clocking-out. Some days you feel failure and other days triumph, and some days you pull only to realize you should have pushed all along.
But it is rewarding. Oh so rewarding.
Just like those early sleepless days with our daughter, Lo, when I would cry from pure exhaustion and postpartum and feel so hopeless and scared. She would suddenly, slightly smile at me and I would melt and forget all the hours of frustration and tiredness and smile back. My heart filled with contentment and love. So, too is marriage.
While some days he drives me crazy, and some days I feel frustrated and tired, it is he who is always there. Through my best days and my worst days, it is he who allows me to vent and cry and eventually lean in for support. He is my constant in a world full of unsteadiness. And for all of that, marriage is fulfilling and uplifting and nurturing and full of hope.
And, just like when I approached him on our wedding day, and he reached for my hand and I gave him mine back, so too is marriage. It is giving, supporting, reaching out and holding each other up.
People are the vessels that fuel the emotions that ignite the love. We work everyday towards that common ground – the love. And, while some days are easy and some days down right hard, it is still you and me working together no matter the situation or the emotion. The work of marriage, never ends.
“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”
I am not the same Ashli and he not the same Nathan. Marriage has harden me in some ways and softened me in others. Marriage has taught me more about him and even more about me. Marriage has been the most challenging road traveled, yet the absolute best drive. Marriage has made me love someone more as the time ticks on.
At the end of the day, marriage is what brought us together that sunny August day, but it is love that keeps us together each day after.
Happy 4th Anniversary, Nathan. “For wherever you go, I will go.”
Photography by: Sonlight Imaging