….Or What I Learned at the Gary Thomas Weekend
At the end of the Sacred Marriage weekend yesterday, we took communion. Now, I thought the last session was gonna be a bust for me. I was struggling through all my fleshy feelings about praise and worship music (they’re not so positive), and light guitar music during prayers, and feeling manipulated by all of that, not to mention trying not to let my runny noise and inability to breathe through my mouth drive me crazy. I loved all of Gary Thomas’ talks, but this one was my least favorite, and I was actually kind of starting to feel bummed about it all.
So Husband and I argued quietly about going to take our turn at the rip and dip method of serving communion to one another, and how we were going to do that, and if we should watch someone else do it first, because after all I get all nervous about communion. Andy eventually just grabbed my hand, and we finally went up and took our turn.
When I sat down I started crying a rather unpretty cry. The weekend itself had done a tremendous job of reminding me exactly why I married the wonderful man that I had. And I so needed that. We’ve been struggling lately. A lot. There hasn’t really seemed to be a way through the struggling. And so I desperately needed this chance to look at my marriage and my husband and remember why I’d gotten myself into it all in the first place. I needed to remember that as much as my insistence on finding ‘the one’ had twisted my thinking throughout high school and college, that ultimately I had married a man that I knew to be my best friend… That I’d married a man who protects me, and loves me, and ultimately would sacrifice anything for me and consider it an easy decision. All of this was taking root in my heart again, and it was good.
As I sat there after taking communion, wishing that I’d spilled a little more Jesus-juice on me, and letting the bread and grape juice dissolve in my mouth, I started seeing the first time that Andy and I had taken communion together. The night before we’d stayed up late sitting on Mom and Dad’s couch talking. It was the summer between our Sophomore and Junior years of college. We’d had a long discussion on ‘where things were going’ for our friendship. I remember speaking in terms of standing on the water’s edge, and how I wasn’t sure I was ready to even start wading in up to my ankles, and I certainly wasn’t ready to dive in to anything considered ‘more than friendship.’ And so he promised we’d just put our toes in together. Ultimately we decided that we were still friends who were staying open to what might come of our frienddship. The next morning at church we took communion at the altar, and I remember a little thrill in my stomach at the thought that this might be the first of many times being part of that sacrament together.
And then I thought of this photo I think of as defining Andy and I in the last few years. We’re sitting on some jagged-lave rock at the North Shore in Hawaii, and the water is just roiling beneath us. But we’re turned toward one another, looking out at it, and sitting solid.
My mind flitted over everything we’ve been through. That first year of marriage, and Andy going off to Basic Training…. moves, and cross-country trips… The deployments and detachments, the first 4 years of life with children…. the loss all of my grandparents, two of Andrew’s…. the loss of my Mom and the subsequent journey through intesne grief…. postpartum depression, frustration in Andy’s job, and so much time spent apart with the shots of novacaine to our hearts taking longer and longer to wear off.
I’d begged God in the shower yesterday morning to show me some encouragement. To show me what the Sacred Marriage stuff had to do with us at this point–I just wanted some encouragement that spoke to where we are….. settling into Shore Duty and discouraged because what we hoped would be a season of settling and soaking into one another, has proved instead to be one where we don’t know how to relate anymore. We’ve hurt one another. We’ve struggled not to see only the problems in our marriage and in one another. We’ve found it tremendously difficult to heal from all that I’ve already mentioned here, and to do so together.
God showed me the double images of these two communions; one where we started, and this one where we are now. He brought me through this mental journey of all we’ve been through and I heard, “Here’s your encouragement. You’re here now together. You’ve been through all of that. I’ve had my hand on you from that first moment of ripping and dipping to this one (yeah…. you really have to know my love of communion by intinction, ok?). I AM using your marriage and all that you’ve been through to draw you closer to one another and ultimately closer to me. I am fashioning you both in holiness. I’ve brought you this far… you can trust me for all the rest.”
And so he has. For Valentine’s day, I hope to fashion an ‘Ebenezer’ of sorts… to help me remember–to help us remember–that we’ve come through it all TOGETHER. I hope it will remind me that we can trust the One who works through the good and bad of our marriage for our good and for our growth. I hope it will help me to remember the incredible nature of the man I chose to spend the rest of my life with.