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In which [love looks like] a real marriage

There haven’t been too many marriage books or sermons that sound like what we have together.  But that’s okay – we don’t mind that. We’re used to being a bit out of step with what every one tells us to do.

It’s been nearly thirteen years since we fell in love, slow-dancing and kissing on the backroads of Tulsa, two teenagers crazy in love. Nearly eleven years since I ran down a chapel’s tiled aisle to you and nothing in our life looks the way that we thought it would or should because it’s all better than that, our dreams were too small, weren’t they? 
You make me laugh and you make me think hard and new, your eyes follow only me when we walk through a crowded room, we can have entire conversations using just our eyebrows and the corner of my mouth, we laugh about how tired we are sometimes. We have gone to the high places and the low places, crossed the deserts, gained and lost and still we are dancing. 
You have forgiven me when I could not forgive myself for how I had hurt you. I have held you up when you were sinking in the mires, praying joy into you. We are not perfect and sometimes, oh, I know we infuriate each other but there is that bone-deep knowing that we, this, all of it, is meant to be.  
So this is what we do, we make each other better at being ourselves, better at being like Jesus, we slow-dance, my head on your heart, your breath in my hair, your hands on my wider-than-they-used-to-be hips, our feet slower perhaps because we’re moving together.
Sometimes the questions people ask or judgments they imply can make us chuckle, don’t they, my darling? 
Well, who is in charge here?
We are.
Yes, but if push comes to shove, who is the leader
We are.

But then who is the spiritual head of your home?
Only Jesus.
It’s a slow-dance still, isn’t it, my luv? You lead and I lead, we are both following His music, no hierarchy here. We move together, one body, all for intimacy and beauty, the dance of lovers that know every curve and lean into the unknown parts with full trust in the hands they hold. 
I trust you completely, with every bit of our life, not because I must, not because any book commands it, not because God told me to submit, but because you earned it by loving me. And the thing that amazes some people is that you feel the same way for me, honoured among women, we submit to each other because we follow Him, we both practice playing second fiddle. 
When it comes to the end, we both bear the responsibility for this love affair, for our family, for the work that we are both called to do and the love we are meant to spill out to show the God we know as Love. 
You follow when I step out to a new place and I know when to slide into your new turn as a shadow and you lead us both through but usually, it’s just us, always us, trusting each other’s heart for the other, moving seamlessly, together. 
It’s our embrace masquerading as a dance, our real marriage, accomplishing only loving as a picture of grace drawing near.
I write sometimes about what love looks like for us
Edited to add: Yes, I admit it. This is my clumsy response to a rather cringe-inducing book coming out. Reviewed by my friend, Rachel, here.

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love, love looks like, marriage, submission, women
  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

    This!  This is exactly what I want and pray for.

  • Jen

    This is what I hope for with a husband.

  • http://www.blackcoffeereflections.com/ Tim Ghali

    Beautiful.

  • http://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/ Donna Earnhardt

    I am sharing this with my hubby right now! He will love it.

  • http://sarahaskins.com Sarah Askins

    Amen, sister friend, amen!

  • TheFamilyMath

    I think this is a beautiful description of marriage, and I think there are also some really great parallels with the church.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Always….

  • Sara Nesbitt

    This is what my husband and I share together.  Sometimes I have to initiate things, sometimes he does, but always we’re doing it together.  There is no visible human head to our marriage; we are two perfectly complementary partners in life and ministry.

  • http://www.kimvanbrunt.com/honestly-adoption-the-blog/ Kim Van Brunt

    “usually it’s just us, always us…”

    yes, yes, yes. When we were young and impressionable (we married when I was barely 19), we tried with all our might to follow the man-is-leader stuff, but we had to leave it behind because it was immediately and comically obvious that it made no sense in the context of our love for one another. Now, we both lead, we both follow, and it’s beautiful. Like this post.

    (BTW, you’ve inspired me to pick up some Madeline L’Engle for my *rest* time this year — Rest is my One Word for 2012.)

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Oh, so glad! What a beautiful word for your year, Kim – Madeline will be a good companion for that journey. she meant a lot o me in my year of Enough.

  • Tami Terry Martin

    So many times I have tried to explain this to others…this oneness, this union that is marriage. They just dont’ get it. Thanks so much for a beautiful, poetic statement about the beauty of mutuality.

  • http://sittinthereoncapitolhil.blogspot.com/ Hilary Sherratt

    This is so beautiful! It reminds me of what my parents talk about in their love story. I so hope that this is my story too, someday. 

  • Jemelene

    Oh Sarah, I am in the middle of writing about where we should spend our time seeking the answers for marriage, child rearing and the complexities of life. Thank you for proving my point! Although there are folks out there who are wise teachers and counselors, if they contradict God’s Word, their wisdom is just earthly thoughts and a complete jumble in my head that I don’t have time to unravel.

    As we seek an intimate relationship with our Creator, we will understand how to love the one we have chosen to be with. As we receive true love from our Saviour, we will be more interested in giving love to our family than seeking love from them. It sounds to me like you and that man you adore are more than comfortable with that!Thank you again for revealing your heart. Every time you do you make me wish I lived next door.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

    Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times, yes.

    Even in my mixed faith marriage, this. What makes my marriage real is Love. Love leads us. Our beliefs about what the source of love is may be different, but we agree that the words in Corinthians are how we want to live with one another, and that is enough to lead us.

  • http://www.runwiththebiggirls.com/ Julie Shreve

    This.  This is all I could ever hope and pray for.  So good.

  • Tam

    So, is it terrible if I print this and sign my name to it and give it to my husband for our anniversary? :) Okay, I’ll tell him you wrote it, not me. It’s beautiful, Sarah, and it articulates something very special and very important in this crazy world and in this crazy Kingdom. Thank you for sharing it.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Ha! Now that would be funny. (And thank you. xo)

      • Tamryn Weber

        We actually are printing it and putting it on our wall – with your name and website too

  • http://twitter.com/katiengibson Katie Noah Gibson

    Wonderful. My husband and I are growing into this, and it’s all love, all hope, all grace. Hard times, yes, but so much goodness.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      We’re all always growing into it, aren’t we? I like the way you explained that, Katie.

  • http://twitter.com/howbeautiful Charlotte

    This gives me hope that having an egalitarian marriage is possible. Thank you.

  • http://diligentleaves.wordpress.com/ Bristol

     I love how courageously you write. And I especially love the way you wrap up deep truths in your own story. Thanks for sharing your heart and your relationship with us!

  • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com/ Sarah Moon

    Beautiful. This is what I think of when I think of real marriage. I long for this for my future marriage with my fiance. 

  • http://www.edcyzewski.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    THAT is a better story about a real marriage. Beautiful. I love this paragraph:

    “You follow when I step out to a new place and I know when to slide into your new turn as a shadow and you lead us both through but usually, it’s just us, always us, trusting each other’s heart for the other, moving seamlessly, together. ”

    You got me thinking… when two become one, how can one person distinguish himself or herself as the “leader”? If two have truly become one, then it’s impossible for one to stand out. 

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I have felt truly challenged this past year to just start telling the better story, to critique things I disagree with by showing something truer. The old “show me, don’t tell me” rule is staying close. And yes, two become one etc. … exactly.

  • Shannon N Gallegos

    This is how I know it to be! This is beautiful and holy! I want this for every marriage out there!

  • Heather

    Hi, my name is Heather! Please email me when you can, I have a question
    about your blog!

     

    HeatherVonSJ[at]gmail[dot]com

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

    This is beautiful, and I’m so glad I recognise it… (a lot more than most christian books on marriage)

    thanks!

  • http://projectmonline.com/ Kathleen Quiring

    My favourite part? “I trust you completely … not because I must,
    not because any book commands it, not because God told me to submit, but
    because you earned it by loving me. ” Exactly. I serve and submit to my husband not because someone told me I should, but because I trust him and because I know that he will always be quick to serve and submit to my needs, too.

  • Vicki

    Beautiful.

  • http://acquiringbalance.blogspot.com/ Kmarie

    This is my marriage too. It is so comforting to know there are others out there:) 
    It’s a beautiful way to be. Sacred.

  • Guest

    Thank you so much for sharing this.  It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read and I pray that someday I will be blessed enough to have a relationship like this. 

  • Daniloudoan

    so thankful to have this when sadly, so many don’t

  • aprilmarratto

    I pray this kind of love finds me one day…

  • http://twitter.com/drjenshewmaker Jennifer Shewmaker

    Sarah, my husband and I have been married for 18 years and have 3 children. As I read quotes from the book that you’re responding to, I shuddered. As I read your description above, I say, “yes!” this is the beautiful oneness that we are given. My husband and I are partners, and above all is God, unifying us in a way that doesn’t lead to “push come to shove, who’s in charge” moments. Really, even after 18 years of marriage and 22 years of being a couple. Thank you for sharing this.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I know – that question always makes me wonder, too. And it makes me sad.

  • Mjay

    This post brings tears to my eyes.  I lost the love of my life to heaven, suddenly, this past February.  My heart is broken into a million pieces.  The spring previous I had written in my journal about “old love versus new love” and the differences I saw and how old love was like a dance, to and fro…we were to be married 32 years this past year.  We too had a “secret language” all our own; a language we knew we shared, but I was not aware others saw it too, but upon losing him, others shared with me what they observed in us.  So many tell me “we are close, but we aren’t like the two of you”…that saddens me since I saw others through the eyes of what I had, and have learned that was a fallacy.  I am so grateful for the intimate dance of marriage that I shared with this one man who loved me like no other, and yet the deep deep pain of loving well.  Thank you so much for putting this to words.  Continue to treasure what you share.  Continue to play “second fiddle” to your own needs – it makes all the difference.  Gods blessings.  Mary Jo

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Oh, luv. Bless. Bless. Bless. Praying for you tonight and thank you, Mary Jo. 

  • dan mcm

    An image is worth 1000 words, but sometimes the words create a better image than was previously there.  Beautiful post…. 

    Been married nearly 25 years, and though I’m sure our “dancing” isn’t as flowing as the prose you just shared, it works for us. A year ago, I couldn’t have told you what a “complementarian” or an “egalitarian” was (and I still get confused, to tell you the truth), but I can tell you that our marriage is a partnership, that we both mutually submit (for the most part… we’re not perfect, ya know?)  My wife will defer the final decision to me at times because it’s more comfortable for her to do so, not because she feels obliged.

    That book that you’re referring to? The only time I ever saw a video clip of the couple together, it appeared to me that he was totally controlling of her… seeing the review by Rachel, it made sense. 

    I think I like the picture you paint better as a model to strive for….. 

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Thanks, Dan. Yes, we all find our rhythm, don’t we?

  • http://delightfilledart.wordpress.com/ Nancy

    Love this post! What a great picture of what I want our marriage to be like. I’ve really struggled with books like that. Our relationship is so NON-traditional, but so great in its own way.

  • fiona lynne

    Thank you. I needed to read this today. You paint a beautiful picture of marriage.

  • Muriel Carr

    Would love to read Brians thoughts ?

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I don’t know that that will happen, Muriel. Brian is finishing his thesis right now and isn’t likely to wade in. After all, he’s not even on Facebook! Horrors! ;-)

  • justamomandmore

    “we make each other better at being ourselves”

    love this! that’s exactly what we should be doing, always. gret post sarah!

  • http://simplyurbanliving.blogspot.com/ Rachel

    “…it’s all better than that, our dreams were too small…” -this perfectly describes how I feel about my marriage.

    A very beautiful description of love and marriage.  Thanks!

  • michelle

    Beautiful.  It brought tears to my eyes.

  • http://www.jrforasteros.com JR. Forasteros

    A couple of my friends and I have noted also that there is a distinct lack of practical, popular-level books on marriage from an egalitarian perspective.

    Until someone actually writes one of these, we’re going to continue to get books like “Real Marriage”. (My review shared the same sentiments as Rachel’s). Because the Church as a whole doesn’t DO marriage very well (shame on us).

    • Diana Trautwein

      Jack & Judy Balswick have a couple of great books on marriage and family. I highly recommend them. And they are great retreat leaders, too. Besides that, I’ve watched the last 30 or their 50 year marriage and I know they live what they teach.

      • http://www.jrforasteros.com JR. Forasteros

        Thanks, Diana! I’ll check them out.

    • http://sortacrunchy.net/ SortaCrunchy

      A great read that speaks to family life in general is Families Where Grace is in Place. I thought I was reading a parenting book when I picked it up, but it deals beautifully and powerful with marriage, too. HIGHLY recommend!

  • http://ifmeadowsspeak.blogspot.com/ tammy@if meadows speak

    Yes! yes! and amen!

  • http://twitter.com/letlovegrow love

    love this, sarah. 

  • http://bickleyhouse.wordpress.com/ Jeff Bickley

    Beautiful, just beautiful.  My wife and I, I believe, share your reality.  We are going on 27 years, with Christ as the leader.  We follow as a team.

  • Andrea

    This is absolutely beautiful!

  • Jo Royal

    Beautiful – a real breath of fresh air!!  Makes me smile – instead of the frown that has been on my face far too much of late due to the ‘other book’ and the reviews / posts read. 

  • Katie

    I’ve been married for 2 1/2 weeks now and while making a long drive last weekend I read aloud your blog posts on “what love looks for us” to my husband (typing that makes my heart twitter ;) ).  You inspire us to have the boldness to find our  own rhythm.  We are both quite non-traditional people coming from traditional backgrounds, so we find such encouragement in your words.  

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Well, happy wedding, Katie! Congratulations! Praying as you embark on your new life together. It’s hard and good.

  • Jon and Tam Weber

    Beautiful.  Refreshing.  You have a gift with words – thank you for sharing this, and for touching our own hearts as we relate to you in our view of marriage

  • http://pastormarkhaines.wordpress.com/ Mark Haines

    My parents modeled this kind of marriage for me.  God has blessed my wife and I with a  marriage where Jesus is the head of the house for 33 years and counting.  May the Lord bless you two with a long life of growing love together.  Thanks for this post.

  • http://justabitofsilliness.blogspot.com/ Sillydoodah

    Yes. Love this. Shared it with my husband. We’re still relative newlyweds, but I see our marriage in this description. Thank you for writing down such a beautiful picture of what marriage can be.

  • Emily Wierenga

    i love this, and you.

  • http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/ mguyton

    Beautiful post! I wrote something similar about my journey with my wife. We’re both pastors. Right now she’s staying home with our boys. The only time I act bossy towards her is making sure she doesn’t forget her call. We have had many arguments when we’ve had to make decisions, but I could not imagine a scenario in which I (or she) would try to say, “This is my final decision.” That’s just such a foreign concept to everything I understand about relationship. Anyway, here’s what I wrote about our story: http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/why-gender-hierarchy-makes-no-biblical-sense-to-me/

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Thanks, Morgan – great post.Thanks for sharing it.

  • Simon

    Beautiful

  • andrew whitehouse

    This is the husband I strive to be.

  • http://muddlespipsandsqueaks.blogspot.com/ Jean

    Thank you so much!     I’ve also been reading reviews of Real Marriage and this is what I was feeling about my relationship with my husband – only I couldn’t find the words to say it.   Isn’t it amazing how God takes two broken people and allows them to dance with joy?

  • http://little-willa-lamb.blogspot.com Amy Willa

    This is exactly what I desire and pray for in our marriage <3 What a beautiful post!

  • Beck

    I appreciate some aspects of your comments but I must disagree on the following. From personal experience, a husband and wife can enjoy wonderful unity and mutual trust while still believing that a wife must submit to her husband as the church does to Christ.  I don’t have my head stuck in the sand nor am I a doormat or inferior to my husband.  Our marriage in practicality may not play out much differently than yours, rather this is a foundational issue. I’m concerned that your readers may be led astray by beautiful and emotionally evocative language towards a wrong interpretation of scripture. I know you disagree with me but my conscience would not allow me to pass this by without saying something.

    • Tamryn Weber

      Yes, marriage is painted in scripture as a husband sacrificing and a wife submitting – both ways of relating to one another call for the laying down of ourselves, and the loving and giving of ourselves.  We are also called to submit to one another in general.  

      Here are some thoughts of mine… I am still learning.. when will we not?

      Headship (and body-ship, which is not always addressed and emphasized) is something that has really challenged me.  In my study of it, I have been struck by the fact that it is a metaphor (head and body = full, life, complete, unified, body), and that it is not the same as authority, leadership, or savior.  When looking at the passages: “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God,” it is also interesting to note the order – it is not heirarchial.  One thing that has been impressed on me is the picture of unity presented by this metaphor – of head and body.  I am also struck by how this further shows how divorce is such a sad thing – the severing of a head from a body is such a horrible thing, and without the two joined, there is no life.  The end example of Christ and God is a picture of perfect unity, while with Christ and man, Christ is perfect and draws us into His unity by sanctifying us, and continuing to transform us.  With a husband and wife – we are both imperfect, and in need of Christ for salvation and transformation – for us to come into unity.  It is amazing that this relationship is considered the closest example of unity like Christ and God represent.  Another through – the “head” is a masculine term, and the body reference is feminine in translation – so interestingly, Christ is referred to in both senses.  In this I see a picture of vulnerability in the body that needs the protection (word choice?) of the head.  Christ was God on earth, in humanity, as a baby, as a human, and in need of God’s protection/covering.  For obvious reasons, we are more vulnerable than Christ, and as we see in studying men and women, we can see how women are generally physically weaker even in their makeup.I don’t have all of the answers about this, but as I am challenged in what it means to be the head, and the body, in relationship to the metaphor shown in the Bible.  My love and awe for God has grown.  My husband, and my marriage has grown.  Unity has grown, and so has life. 

      • Beck

        I agree with the above and appreciate your thoughts. It is easy to be averse to the idea of submission but I can’t deny that the Bible uses this language in regards to marriage, as well submission to one another in general and to the governing authorities.  Without going into length, it’s oversimplifying the issue to call the marriage relationship a hierarchy or on the other hand to say that both spouses are equal in role. I am in awe of how God in his wisdom has used this metaphor to describe how our marriage relationships reflects the relationship of Christ to his people. This can be a beautiful picture of the gospel to the watching world. We flesh this out so imperfectly in our fallen humanity. This is an issue that I as well have been thinking about and been challenged by recently.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Well, at least your conscience is satisfied now. 

  • http://bluebonnetreads.wordpress.com Hannah C.

    Thank you for this post. I shared it with my husband. We feel some pressure to live a view of marriage which we don’t think works for us – this post gave me hope that there is more.

  • http://www.JanetOberholtzer.com Janet Oberholtzer

    This is beautiful! 

    We’ve been married 25 years and for about the last 12 years or so, this has been our way… and those have been the better years of our marriage, even though we went through a major trauma in that time.  Plus since we’ve adopted the no hierarchy here marriage, we’ve both made wiser decisions concerning family, money, work, etc…. because two heads are better than one.

  • Gordon Tisher

    Delightful!

  • Guest

    Makes you wonder how a Christian marriage can be “one flesh” any other way.

  • Amandaroggow

    Oh my gosh. Thank you Thank you Thank you for putting into beautiful words how my husband and I feel about our marriage and why we cringe at the whole husband as head of household idea.  You rock. 

  • http://thehomespunlife.com/ Lisa Bertolini

    “cringe-inducing book” sigh** I’ll say! You’re being so gracious about it. :) IMO, Marriage is a dance of equality showered in grace and mutual respect.

  • http://jewelsandtreasures.blogspot.com/ jewelsntreasures

    Just beautiful and I can resonate with it as this is how I feel about my relationship with my hubby!

  • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

    Your writing is so beautiful. Stunning, really. 

  • Inchristus

    Excellent! Thanks so much for sharing a beautiful rendering of what a solid biblical egalitarian relationship looks like. 

  • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

    I always love your in which love looks like posts.  SO much.  
    this time I tried to write about my real marriage, too.  
    I am no poet like yourself.  But I made an attempt!

  • Stephanie

    I read this right when you posted it (and so did Tim). Sometimes I think you’re writing about us. Our marriage is much the same – submitting, loving, serving, upholding each other. 

    Thanks for stating this out loud in your always-beautiful way. 

  • a hopeful critic

    Can someone post this to the Resurgence blog?

  • Trista Krier

    thank you for verbalizing so poetically how my husband and i have always felt but struggled to articulate to others who have questioned us as well.  this is good, and real, and honest about loving and respecting each other, and submitting to one another in love… because we want to, not because of some required structure.  amen, sister. amen.

  • mkrabill

    I am going out of town next week may i reblog this while I am gone?

  • Pingback: Reading Together – A Year of Biblical Womanhood – June: Submission « Janet K. Ray

  • Kylie McCoy

    Thank you for sharing honestly! Your words are refreshing!

  • http://www.thehomemadecreative.com/ Alena@TheHomemadeCreative

    My (and my husband’s) favorite line… “we both practice playing second fiddle.” I think we’re both lip-service complementarians, simply because of how we’ve been taught/raised, but our marriage is far more egalitarian, I think. Nick hates labels (as do I), and thinks it’s ridiculous that these conversations have to happen (he also thinks it’s ridiculous that some men won’t change diapers, do dishes, or cook meals because “they have a wife to do it”). I think it’s important to know the terms, know the labels, and know where you personally fall in them, so that when push comes to shove OUTSIDE YOUR MARRIAGE FROM OTHERS, you aren’t taken by surprise or pushed into a neatly labeled box, especially one that isn’t accurate. We’re both iconoclasts, so the thought of labels makes us a little stabby :P

    • http://www.thehomemadecreative.com/ Alena@TheHomemadeCreative

      Also, Sarah – would it be okay if I print out a slightly-edited-to-fit-us version of this, for my master bedroom? It’s gorgeous, so poetic, and fits us well. I’d be more than happy to credit you and your blog.

  • Courtney

    Sarah, this is absolutely beautiful. This is how I have often described my ideal marriage to friends…husband and wife as one flesh with Jesus as the ultimate authority. Thank you for your words.

  • http://KelseyMunger.com/ Kelsey Munger

    I’ve read this so many times but it still touches my heart; this is what I’m so lucky have too, and it’s beautiful.

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