In our home, life happens around the table. It’s marked with permanent circles from hot coffee cups and large glasses of water that dribbled over the side. It’s got paint stains from that time we thought our boys should try model building. It’s got grooves permanently etched from baguettes being sliced without a cutting board.
The marks and stains show life lived here, around our table. They tell a tale of friends and family. They hold memories of both laughter and tears. The deep grooves show the tiresome wear of time and the whitish circles show heat pressed in that spot far too long, leaving it’s mark. We’ve never worried much about the look of the table top. We’re okay with it’s message, saying loud and clear that a family lives here. We’re okay with the honesty revealed about the time we weren’t careful enough and kind of messed up.
If I were talk about marriage, about our marriage, I’d say that it looks something like our table top.
Sure, at the beginning it was all shiny and new. It smelled of rich wood and the glaze on top had that perfect sheen. The edges were crisp and clean, the legs perfectly sturdy.
That first day our table was taken out of the box and assembled resembles our wedding day and the picture perfect nature of it all. The white dress, the tux, perfect makeup and endless smiles. But we all know the wedding day can’t last forever, nor should it. Because who wants to spend their life taking 7 hours to get ready and have to be all smiles all the time? Much like I don’t want to bother with a coaster under every cup, real life kicks in and some of that sheen, well, it gets worn away.
Over the years, our table has taken on a thing or two (or twenty) and just now it looks a bit worn. It shows signs of being mistreated. It bears the marks of standing the test of time and sometimes it even gets a little wobbly.
Marriage, over time, is our table today.
Why? Because marriage is hard. It’s tiring and takes work. Can we all admit that it’s exhausting to be selfless? That it’s really hard to be everything to our spouse? To meet every expectation? To remember every event and be fully present on every date night? To know that we can do all this and still we fail? Dare I add, miserably? The beauty, however, is that it doesn’t have to be. If that all sounds like way too much to bear it’s only because it is.
But there are ways to make the impossible possible. The first thing I always do is remember God’s promises in prayer. Things like, “God, give me strength to handle this.” Or, “God, You said that you would pour out your wisdom if I ask for it, so I’m asking!” Or even, “God you said that you are always with me, help me to know that truth right now.” After promises, I tend to plead for the characteristics I need. Strength and courage being the top two, often followed with a desire to live out peace and patience and kindness.
God designed us to live in community; so after prayer, I call on people. When we’re weak, we ask those who are strong to help. It’s so important that we don’t feel like we have to tread through hard times alone. There is wisdom in knowing when to ask for help. Help when we fail, help when we let our spouse down, help when we’re tempted to act or react in a unhealthy ways.
The thing about marriage is that we can’t do it perfectly, but we do have a God who cares. We can’t live in a way that satisfies our spouses’ every second of every day because we’re human and we have shortcomings, but God has told us to come to Him and He will offer guidance.
As long as I’m looking to my husband to satisfy all my longings and desires, to provide for my every need, emotionally and spiritually and even sexually or financially, he will fail. It’s just too much to ask one person. I know this because it only takes exactly one moment of looking at myself to know that I can’t do all of that perfectly for him. I will let him down time and time again.
Sometimes, I think about covering all the marks on our table with a pretty table cloth or just chucking it and getting a new one – starting over. But I know it would only be a matter of time before the cloth got stained or the new table showed nicks. So it is in marriage. Covering up the hurts or trials or signs of wear with a pretty facade does not make a marriage better. Moving on and starting over with someone new won’t either.
When we look to Jesus, the hot coffee cups don’t need to hurt quite so much and the cuts on the surface don’t need to wound so deeply. Look to Him, in all our marriage needs, and He will strengthen us despite the scars. The scars become reminders of our history together, life lived beyond the hurt, adding a unique character known as “distressed” in the furniture world, but character and growth in a marriage that stands the test of time.