The Real Truth about Happily Ever Afters

9:55 AMHeather

Dear Children,

As we drove around the other day and you all requested track 5 on Casting Crown's new Thrive CD, I was pleased.  And I listened to the three of you singing along and enjoying the song.  It made me marvel.  Because Broken Together is a picture of the real truth about happily ever afters. And it's important to me that you know the truth.

The song continued, with the truth of how marriage is about deciding to be broken.  Together.  With shattered dreams and the realization that no two spouses can actually always complete one another.  It's too big a job to require of the one whom you thought would always sweep you off your feet.  

With Valentine's Day upon us and a barrage of images and myths about romance in a grand Hollywood style, I wanted to take time to write you this letter.  To make it clear.  To dispel any myths and just be real with you.  So many illusions are created in our fast paced media driven world.  Both within the church and outside of it. We say that God has the one for you.  We paint a picture of an answer to all your problems.  The most perfect wonderful girl or guy just for you.  We make it seem like red roses and romance and happy happy joy joy all centered in Christ with complete everlasting peace.

But it's not like that.  In fact, to be honest, I would be lying if I told you that marriage is even a guarantee.  I don't know what the Lord has planned for you.  And I don't want you to waste the gifts and talents and days of young adulthood thinking that if you are not in a covenant relationship than you are less than.  Because it just isn't true.  So don't put your dreams and hopes on a shelf waiting for some romance to fulfill you.  That job--fulfillment--is Christ's alone. (Even after you are married!  Some days your spouse might even drain you)

You are full and whole and complete in Him.  And it has nothing to do with your relationship status.  And for the record, I think the term "gift of singleness" is for the birds.  Most of the dear friends I have who have not married struggle and wrestle and pray for the Prince Charming or Princess Charming that they think is way overdue.  To call it a gift to be single feels like a slap in the face to them.  So, let's just stop using that term, okay?  Let's just focus on one thing as you grow and mature.  Live abundantly.  Right wherever you are, root yourself in the Word.  Be honest and genuine and authentic about all your fears and struggles.  And know that Your God is big enough to handle all your frustration.  So feel free to duke it out with Him, day after day.

Back to romance.  Listen, there may be someone who takes your breath away.  They may cause butterflies in your stomach.  And especially in the beginning, you may feel as though you are living the dream with roses and rainbows.  Infatuation and the newness of love can have that effect.  But if you build your future on that alone, you will be sorely disappointed.  Because feelings change and circumstances change.  The wedding may be glorious and wonderful.  Then a sunny honeymoon. And then, you'll have the rest of your life.  

I want to be so real with you guys.  Here's what your happily ever after will not be.  It will not be constant harmony, sweet kisses, happy hugs, and a thrill every time you are together.  It might be for awhile, yes.  But those things will fade.  It will not be something akin to every Disney princess movie or some grand romance with white horses and birds chirping and animals singing.  It will not be like The Bachelor where you ride off into the sunset on an elephant in Thailand.  (Theoretically speaking, of course.  I mean, IF I were to ever have watched that episode).  There may be flashes that remind you of these magical moments.  And enjoy them!  Soak them in.  But do not stake your happiness on these moments expecting them to always be the case.

Here's what happily ever after really is.  The nitty gritty.  It's the first time you get the stomach bug as a married couple.  And it's gross.  But your husband holds your hair back while you vomit.  It's the choice and decision to find a way toward resolution when you disagree.  Because you will. Disagree, I mean.  But also find resolution. It's the determination to stick to the covenant promise you made before God and that congregation, till death do us part.  It's the times you take a deep breath and calm down before you speak your mind after you've been hurt or wounded.  It's the conversations about how to fight fair and not go to bed mad or not yell but to talk things through.  It's the will power to walk away and agree to come back together to talk after you've both cooled down.  

It's the sobbing tears together after a miscarriage.  Or the grieving infertility.  Or other lost dreams.  It's sharing a snotty ugly cry with one another, handing tissue to your beloved.  It's the million and one things every day that involve the decision to lay down your life and your agenda for the sake of your spouse and your marriage.  

And it's hard work.  

Yet gloriously rewarding beyond anything I can describe.  Listen, I speak from experience here.  Your dad swept me off my feet.  Or rather, pulled me out of my pit of grief when we first met.  He brought me roses and planned surprise dates and had his pledge class serenade me.  He proposed in grand fashion and on our wedding day I felt like a princess.  It was butterflies and pure bliss.

And over our now twenty-three years together, it has grown into a rock that I can count on, no matter what.  The infatuation has faded into an enduring deep lasting love.  It feels different.  It looks different.  And I wouldn't trade it for anything. I wouldn't go back if I could.

We have built years of memories--good and bad.  But together.  Your dad is there, in all of them.  Holding my hand.  Agreeing to disagree.  We've learned to laugh at ourselves and our failings.  Yes--the whole family now laughs at the famous lasagna duping of our early dating.  We've learned not to take things too seriously.  To find the common ground.  To appreciate the endurance over the early crazy love.  To pray together.  To stand on God's promises together.  To worship together, even when it feels like a sacrifice because our hearts are so broken by life's hardships. 

I used to think my happily ever after with your dad was a fairy tale.  But Cinderella has house work to do and Prince Charming has a family for whom he works to provide.  There's laundry and financial strains and bills to pay and hard things to work through.  And my ideal of happily ever after has caught up with reality.  Happily ever after is sipping a cup of tea together after you kids have gone to bed.  Too exhausted from the day to talk.  But just content to be in each other's company.

And I would never want to lead you astray.  This is the truth of it.  Broken.  Together.  Sing at the top of your lungs, kids.  Because it's a beautiful ever after to pursue.  Broken.  Together. 

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