Monday, March 23, 2015

 14 years {AKA: Later On Down The Line}

-Melanie Shankle

We slipped away from the world last Friday. 

Left our responsibilities.  Left our calendars.  Left our kids.  

Sometimes you have to leave a few things behind in able to breathe a little.  As it ends up, when not interrupted by Many Little Voices,  I can talk for 2 hours straight,  hardly taking a breath.
Just ask Dave.  Dude will testify to that. 

Fourteen years can sure seem like a breath and a lifetime all at once. 

As I've reflected on the last 14 years I nearly found myself embracing a path of thinking that perhaps some of those years held wasted time.  
Wasted moments.  
Wasted on selfishness and immaturity.  
Wasted chasing after things that didn't matter and missing what it truly means to be one flesh. 

I was an entire 6 weeks out of my teens when I became a wife. 

Yep.  I knew all about it.  We would have the happiest little home.  Marriage was a beautiful thing which resulted in two people making one another so very happy.  My low self esteem would be healed by his adoration and undivided attention.  He would make me a better person and I would do the same.  Finally we would be complete,  as God had designed.  

Some truth in that above paragraph little Padawan, but very, very little. 

We took a train to the city last Friday. All the way to Chicago just for lunch, shopping, and walking around. 

Because we could.

We are so country.  Stepping off the train was like stepping into another world for us.  Us coon-catching-crazies.  In the big city.  Paying $5 for a small coffee.  Oh yeah.  Living on the edge. 

Oh the refreshment of that day though!  It was unseasonably warm.  We didn't even pack coats, and were comfortable the entire time.  

He held my hand and I made him go into Anthropology.  
We wondered about all of the tattered and tired, imploring anyone and everyone for help on nearly every corner.  
We talked about how much we wished we could hear each and every one of their stories and somehow help them all.  
I had fish tacos for the first time and laughed at his apparent dislike of my choice.  We have very different tastes in some things, and that's a-ok.  Because we are completely different people.  We see the world through our own filters, which took years to form.  Years when we didn't even know each other.  

We have different tastes and different thoughts and unique abilities.  We have different callings. Sometimes he sees the forest while I see the trees and he can pull me back a bit, "See this? See the big picture? It's going to be ok." Some times with just a sentence I can confirm  a nudging on his heart and open him up to a multiplied beauty. 

And that's where it's at. 

It's not in an imagined euphoria of this exhausting treadmill - striving to "keep each other happy". I tried that. It's not real and it's not life giving. More than trying to "keep him happy" was the expectation that he needed to continually increase the speed and incline on making me happy. I mean, that's what being married is, isn't it? 

I held his hand and walked comfortably beside him.  Right by his side.  Where I want to be forever. Our shoulders rubbed against each other every now and then and it was comfortable.  So comfortable. I remember when we were engaged and newly married - I had this irrational fear of what I naively entitled "Later On Down The Line". 

Later On Down The Line.  
In my young mind it represented change and a lull.  Excitement lost. And *gasp* being comfortable.  I had watched far too many couples become apathetic towards one another.  I had watched disrespect seep into relationships.  I saw that point when they stopped holding hands.  So some of this response to the unknown - that day when perhaps we will have been married to the point of  boredom? - that fear was not all unfounded.  I wanted to fight for something good. Admirable. 

But stealing into that thinking was the fallacy that somehow years = a diminishing of feeling.  That we would be destined to this negative Later On Down The Line.

So.  14 years.  It's kind of later on down the line, huh?  let's face it, we can hardly call ourselves newlyweds anymore. 

And if I could go back to my young-barely-out-of-my-teens self, here's what I would say.

"It's beautiful. You won't believe me, so you'll have to live each moment.  Let moments build into memories and you'll see.  Comfortable is beautiful.  While the breathless of the unknown is gone, you'll never wish for that back.  The glittering moments of nervous heart palpitations give way to a solid foundation,
to a knowing beyond anything this side of heaven,
to a firm hand holding you up,
and battles waged, wrestling through selfishness, victories won with eyes locked in determination."

There's still plenty of mystery. Plenty!  If you want to see my husband nervous, just wait till I start talking about him being able to read my mind. Scares him to death. Because he can't.  And he doesn't complete me. And while he has been incredibly instrumental in making me a better person, it is God who has ultimately used him in the process.  Don't ever put a Creator sized job on a created human being.  Just don't. 

Our shoulders touch and I'm just grateful.  While we don't read each others minds, we have a pretty good idea what the other is thinking.  Because we have practice.  We have taken the time to ask throughout the years.  He knows  what dress I will stop to ohh and ahh over in J Crew. It's yellow - so, yeah.  He asks me to order at Starbucks in Millennium Station because he is still more comfortable in a John Deere than a coffee shop. And I know that,  it is so endearing to me. 

Sometimes I glance up at him and I still can't believe I get to spend the rest of my life by his side. 

It's so good.

Besides that fact that I love him, I really, really like him.  He's someone that I would want to get to know if I didn't already.  I'm fascinated by his intelligence and ability to figure out/fix/upgrade just about anything.

Those moments I would maybe want to discard?  - they were not wasted.  They were helping to build this foundation. We have a lot more building to do, to be sure. But God is using every single second of this covenant relationship to sanctify, to refine, to reveal himself,  to put the gospel on display to the world,  to glimpse eternity, and yes - even to bless us with happiness. 

On the train ride back to our home state, and our lodging for the night, we talked about where God might be bringing us, as a family.  We  settled into a contented relaxation and I etched the memory on my heart.  It's no secret that our lives are busy. Packed and filled to the brim. We are learning about margins and trying to make them more and more important, but there's also just reality. Life with 4 boys, work, home ownership, ministry - it's alot. We can't play hooky from life every weekend (believe me, I would if I could - and have tried to invent a way to make this happen since being back...) but that is what makes moments like these so very precious!  Dave and I don't throw the word "perfect" around much - that weekend we did. 

The next morning we spent time in prayer together (uninterrupted. I just hardly even knew what that looked like).  I had just spent time doing my make up and well, it was a good thing I did that...  because I sure did make a mess of it. 

I was undone when I heard this man, whom I have come to respect and hold in such high esteem, pray for us, our boys, our life, our hearts to always be seeking and chasing after God with abandon. 

See, years are not the equivalent of boredom or losing anything. But at some point, and only through years, something sacred happens. 

There is a bonding of hearts - but it's not what I thought it would look like in the beginning.  Key to finding a firm solidarity in our lives was a mind shift.  I needed to see Dave as primarily God's, not mine before we could reach this new level of intimacy. 

I needed to seek my Savior for my completion before I could glimpse the sacred in my relationship with Dave.  We are side by side, bonded inseparably as we seek to grow closer to Jesus daily. We are building His Kingdom together, not the kingdom of Dave and Wendi. 

Fourteen years down the line is nothing like I expected it, and so much better than I could have ever imagined it.  In our commonality of faith we have entered a closeness that is of a different realm than that which I was afraid to loose.  Even this points to The Kingdom; My thoughts and ideals had to die so that something so much better could be raised up.  

We are back in the mad rush that is our life.  There's a whole lot of "divide and conquer" - and not much alone/together time, once again.  But we give a smile and a wink and say, "I'm so glad to be doing life with you".  In texts and phone calls, and rare moments together we say it. We say that we believe we are doing what we are supposed to do and that in doing it together there is a noticeable strengthening.  We know it's fast paced and chaotic.  We especially deal with being separated as it pertains to K's care and the amount of time one of us has to stay back due to an inability to do an activity or deal with some of his challenging behavior.  

The joy is in the knowing that before time began, this was God's plan for Dave and Wendi.  He gave us this.  We take a deep breath and we dive into the deep. This week alone we have dealt with long nights,  meetings, a stomach virus that has lent itself to mountains of laundry, numerous changed plans, worshiping separately, and an ER visit.  I have battled a very stubborn Caleb by myself and wept.  

But this is the life we have been given. And doing it together glimpses Jesus. 

I can't wait for Later on Down the Line. ;) 

Love him forever. 


Arlona said...

I am so glad that you married my son. You journey well together and I am proud of you. Congratulations on your 14 years and may God grant you many more years serving Jesus together and separately. Actually, I am sure that when serving separately, you each pray for the other's ministry. Love you much! mom

Anonymous said...

This is so Good! My man and I have a similar story (going on 15 years this summer) and it's sooo true...comfort-able is a really good place to be. Thanks for sharing your story!

Andrea said...

Just beautiful!! Happy 14th! :)