The more you do it the harder it gets. That goes against everything we’re taught. If you want to be good at something, keep doing it, and it will get easier the more you do it. And when we’re talking about baseball, about piano, about dancing, about almost anything to do with the body and the world, it’s true.
But marriage is different. The longer you’re married, the harder it gets. Early marriage is the discovery of each other, of the wonder of each other, of the discovery of God in each other, and of the realization that serving the other is serving God. You get used to each other. You get comfortable. But then it gets older. And the kids come, and the brokenness sets in. It all gets old. Every bit of it. It’s all dying, and none of it is to self. The sleepless nights, the constant work, the rush, the lack of time, and suddenly the kids are grown but the brokenness is still there, and while the rough edges have worn off, the selfishness has just slept for all those years, under the smother of diapers, laundry, sports equipment, dance gear, books, papers, dishes and the unidentifiable stuff that kind of accumulates in those corners that you never seem to get to.
And now it’s just you and him. And you’re used to giving to each other, and it’s comfortable. The peace and the silence and the quiet is comfortable and easy and . . . it’s too easy. You’ve struggled all those years, to find the silence, to find the places that allow growth, healing, and peace. And now it’s here. But we’re so used to the cacophony of life that it feels wrong and the giving of the other is an affront and a guilt because aren’t you supposed to be giving to them? (And after all those years of giving to him, isn’t it time he gave to you? Oh, and selfishness is still a problem!) And how can you die to self when he’s busy dying to you? And where did the excitement go, anyway?
But we’re older now, and we’ve slowed down, and looking back, the giving is there, the dying to self is still there, because you’re still struggling to not be selfish and to find new and better ways to give, heal, and grow. And everyday you have to relearn that repentance is a lifestyle, not a single decision and that dying to self never ends, because you die to self to find yourself. And in marriage, both selves are always broken and changing, and that changes how you change, which is definitely a rinse and repeat cycle. Just because we’re getting old doesn’t mean we’re finally getting perfect. We can’t slow down now. We can’t rest on what few laurels we’ve manage to accumulate over the years because now we have to be wise and know things because we’re old. Older. And what we know is that his humility, his deference to you is not an affront. It’s not to appease the witch you are at your worst. It’s to honor the icon of Christ that you are just as you’ve always been trying to honor the icon of Christ that is him.
And the excitement is not in the body, but in the knowing of each other and the rhythms and patterns and little togethernesses: of not truly sleeping until the weight comes onto the bed next to you, hearing his breath slow and deepen into sleep, seeing the cat on the blanket- covered hip in the dim dawn light. It’s in turning to each other every single week and exchanging the peace at Liturgy because it puts paid to the frustrations of the week and of the comfort that while communion is to be one with God, it’s also to be one with him again too. It’s in hearing the car in the driveway or his foot on the stairs and realizing your heart still jumps and thrills to the sound of him and the silence becomes quiet because he’s home. We are one again. We are one, and it’s not the same without him, even for only a few hours. Cherish those moments. They are bittersweet because each new day means there are fewer moments left to cherish. The more you do it, the harder it gets because when you do it long enough, you realize it’s going to end.
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