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In which {love looks like} the room to change

You’ve been away for a week now, and I miss you so much more than I expected. I say “expected” because we both know what it’s like in this house: how busy, how loud, how full, oh, these days. I mean, I knew we would miss you but we have school and preschool, get-togethers, family, friends, church, work, life still happening. Surely I’ll be too busy for longings. Two nights in, I was standing in our closet, with my eyes closed, smelling your clothes. I did all the laundry, and I cried because I missed your gigantic jeans with the frayed hems filling up our old washing machine. I haven’t cooked a real meal all week, we’re subsisting on grilled cheese and pancakes, I guess you’re the one for whom I cook.

This week, I’ve been remembering the years of spiritual disunity between us, particularly around community and church, calling and vocations. Maybe it’s because you’re back in Texas, with our beloved friends-like-family, and the Great State was the scene of one existential crisis after another for me (or maybe I was just too hot, we all know how grouchy I can be when I’m sweaty). So I remembered how burned out and broken I was ten years ago, then, you joined me seven years ago, and we moved, then we went different directions somehow. Remember this?

I railed against institutions and organizations, wouldn’t darken the door of a “real” church, became fluent in fault-finding and cynicism, the word “orthodoxy” made my left eye twitch, while you tacked hard the other way, steering towards seminary, conservative denominations, structures, authorities, you longed for accountability.

Many saw me, and my questions, my wonderings, my wanderings, as a liability to your calling, they felt badly for you, I was holding you back. Why couldn’t I fall in line? I know this. (I felt badly for you, too.) And others on my side couldn’t understand why you were going back into the old ways, when God was moving as a fresh wind, beyond boundaries and walls.

Even though we were so far apart on so many seemingly vital things, we were so happy, weren’t we? we were still us.

People would raise eyebrows at you: What about your calling to pastor? The years were going by. They were concerned. And you would say, I’m trusting God with that one. And then you would laugh and say, Well, I’ll just send them Sarah’s blog, and if they still want us – you always said “us” not “me” – after that, I guess we’ll know it’s a good fit.

We were moving towards each other. But it took a while. You moved, and I moved, and God was moving, and we were meeting at a thousand points in the sky. Today, we stand together, all these years later, in harmony and in step, in agreement, in unity, oneness, even in the places where we disagree (still) (yes, still).

I looked back on that season of our marriage, the season when we were so different, and I remembered you telling me that this was not going to change us. We could give each other the gift of time, and space, room to change without fear.

There wasn’t an urgency of trying to convince each other, was there? I didn’t feel the need to make you believe and think in my ways. I understood why you were there. And you gave me the same grace, didn’t you? You even gave me the extra measure, the freedom to explore my struggles and ideas and weaknesses in a public place, you were not threatened by me. And when you were faced with the choice between full-time vocational ministry or a strong marriage, you chose me. Don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Don’t think I’ll ever forget how you stay here, in a small city in Canada, for me, for our tinies, even now. Don’t think I’ll forget how we each let each other be wrong, for a long time, each.

I had a friend ask me: but how? How do you disagree so strongly on something as vital as your spirituality or your expression of faith? How do you fall away from everything you believed, and yet, yet, not fall away from each other? because don’t you have to solve all your problems before the sun goes down? don’t we have to stay at it, marriage is hard work after all, until all is resolved and everyone is singing from the same sheet of music?

Maybe. But we didn’t do it that way. The sun has set on our disagreements, many times over. We’ve gotten a lot of practice at living in the in-betweens, we figure that’s where the life happens, and we figured we wanted to love well, even, especially, here.

The sun went down, we still disagreed mightily, and we kissed in our old bed anyway.

I remember you saying it to me, over and over: meant to be, Sarah Lynn. Meant to be. We were meant to be, we built it down in the foundations of our story, and so we were safe there. We knew that if we were faithful to God, faithful to each other, that we would end up where we were meant to be all along, eventually, even now.

God gave you to me, darling, and he gave me to you, for this journey, and we figured we both had a lot to learn, and so we gave each other the room to change.

You’ve given me so many gifts but I think of one often: you just aren’t afraid. You are never afraid, you walk in such trust, and expectation, in bold gentleness. Bri, this part of our story would have looked so differently if you hadn’t been so fearless. But because you weren’t afraid, I was not afraid, and we simply rested, even danced, there, in the in-between, and we talked a lot, and we waited. The Spirit moved me, and the Spirit moved you, and we moved together always, to now. We’ll move somewhere else – literally, figuratively – someday, I imagine.

You’ll be home tonight, we made you muffins. I call sleep-in tomorrow morning. Thank you for letting me change. Thank you for changing.

 

brian, church, faith, fearless, love, love looks like, marriage

43 Responses to In which {love looks like} the room to change

  1. Jessica September 30, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Wow.

  2. amy wright September 30, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Reading your blog in the food court of my church where I have taken myself to breakfast after dropping off my own tinies at Sunday School. I am alone, because this is day two of my hubby’s five day business trip. This post moved me to tears. Love you, Sarah, for how you share your heart with your readers. So thankful for this post this morning, and thankful for you.

    • Sarah Bessey September 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

      (A food court?! Wow!) Praying for you as you love well in these days, Amy. And thankful for you, too.

  3. Emily Wierenga September 30, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    We’ve gotten a lot of practice at living in the in-betweens, we figure
    that’s where the life happens, and we figured we wanted to love well,
    even, especially, here.

    love this beautiful sarah.

  4. hopejem September 30, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    Oh Sarah, After 20 years with the same affiliation, one year of dry valley discouragement we tried denomination life with my feed making double burrows in the dirt. It has been a crazy, dizzying ride. I’ve allowed the messages of the past weigh in on my actions and all along the patience of the one meant for me has allowed me room to grow.
    Thank you for this. Thank you for your boldness and for loving your Brian through it all. This is not only what love looks like, this is what a beautiful marriage looks like. xo

  5. Amanda M. September 30, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    This is so beautiful. Painful, redemptive and beautiful.

  6. Annie | annieathome.com September 30, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    Such beauty here.

  7. Alise Wright September 30, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    Yup. The in-between places are okay. They don’t have to be as scary as some people want them to be.

    • Sarah Bessey September 30, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

      Right on. You’ve always spoken so well to this stuff, Alise.

  8. Kamille September 30, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    Yes! We are faithful to the covenant & God meets us amidst the disagreements. This self-giving love is what it’s all about. Thank you for inviting us into your story.

    PS…I cook for Ben too.

    • Sarah Bessey September 30, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

      Amen. (And glad I’m not alone in that cooking thing….although even when he’s here, you have me beat by a country mile in that department!)

  9. Linda Stoll September 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Yes … trust me after 36 years of marriage. Every union has its valleys, its discoveries, the letting go, the embracings. And when all is said and done, there can be a sweet peace as we allow each other the delight of truly being ourselves, the freedom to explore our giftings and the respective calls on our lives. And through it all, grow together into who we are in the next season. And continue to dream big dreams as one flesh … even if we’re different as day and night.

  10. smoothstones September 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    This made me cry. Marriage is so hard, I think, even when God hath put together. My man and I need to work harder at finding peace in those places where we differ.

  11. Tara_pohlkottepress September 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    oh, yes. here it is. that scandalous and delicious thing called love told in simple truths that are spoken in wide open spaces that allow one to just “be” while being loved well. your marriage inspires me. thank you.

  12. Maya Resnikoff September 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    Spirituality is so individual… Even within the same formal boundaries, we can differ a lot. My husband and I do, in surprising ways, given our formal affiliations (he’s Orthodox, I’m Conservative, and yet often the differences are backwards of what you’d expect from that).

  13. Monique Christiane September 30, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Absolutely perfect, Sarah. I have never heard someone express this kind of story before, but it is mine (and my husband’s). Exactly. Thank you for putting words to this profound and miraculous experience of loving and growing despite the sometimes-insane differences. Amen.

  14. Nacole Simmons September 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    Oh. my. goodness, Sarah, it’s like your were writing my heart –(my father was a pastor)– and we have experienced the same. I have railed against all the things that caused hurt for me. My husband dove head-long into conservative denomination and it’s hard for me to swallow, yet I do it because I know God put him here to wisely lead, and I’m finding comfort in the safety of all of it. I’m not to the place you are–yet. Thank you for putting voice to these emotions that I’ve been dealing with for the past several years–one day, one day–there will be a moment that I find a way to voice it and pour it all out. So nice to meet you, Sarah, and blessings to you. {My anniversary was yesterday, so this came at a really good time–and we’ve had a lot of practice with in-betweens too}.

  15. Erin Burke September 30, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    beautiful. I’ve often felt critiqued for marrying “young” because people assume we still have so much changing to do (which we may…). But it is so wonderful to hear someone affirm that people can change within a marriage, because while I know this is true, it’s not often said.

  16. Miles O'Neal September 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    Unity always comes from relationship, from the heart, not from simply agreeing on everything. Beautifully out.

    • Miles O'Neal September 30, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

      Shared this blog on my FB page; I think you made some new fans.

  17. Leanne Penny September 30, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    This brought tears, because we’ve been there and we are sort of there now. We want out of ministry but we want… work.

    We feel like it’s bleeding us dry yet we know that we can’t allow it to.

    Thank you for this, it just added salve to the healing we have found this weekend as we loved together at a family wedding and remember all the beautiful celebration seasons, where we started and that the path ahead is indeed beautiful past the brambles.

  18. Amanda Williams September 30, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    This gives me a new boldness, a new hope and resolve. My husband and I, our foundation is strong; we “coast” some, I call it. But coasting is not growing. Coasting is just coasting. Thank you for laying it all out for us to see, for the gentle challenge of your words.

  19. Sandy Jones Fox September 30, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    I love your love, Sarah.

  20. Heather September 30, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    Sarah,
    I know you missed him, but thanks for sharing Brian with us!
    Love you, Heather

  21. James Prescott October 1, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    This is amazing. As a single guy, reading this shows me the kind of marriage I want to have. It embodies the best of marriage. I almost feel rude reading it and commenting on it – it is so intimate, so tender and so honest. It makes all my daydreams and frustrations about marriage or being single look irrelevant and childish – which to be honest, they probably are. It shows me how ill-prepared I am for marriage, though I guess no one is ever fully prepared.

    Thank you for sharing this most intimate moment with us, and being so vulnerable. I will read this again and again, to remind myself of what marriage should be, and can be. Thanks again.

  22. Karis October 1, 2012 at 5:20 am #

    I love all of your posts, but this one is especially meaningful to me. I am a missionary wife and married to an (awesome) man who has big dreams for God. I’m starting to ask some tough questions that don’t necessarily align with the conservative crowd (of other missionaries) that surrounds us. I feel like I can’t talk about these things with anyone because they might start to question my husband’s position and influence … and I would become a “liability” to him.

    Anyway, your words made me feel not so lonely in it all.

  23. JessicaSchafer October 1, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    “There wasn’t an urgency of trying to convince each other, was there?
    I didn’t feel the need to make you believe and think in my ways. I
    understood why you were there. And you gave me the same grace, didn’t
    you?”

    So well said. This is the bedrock of my marriage–giving each other freedom and space and trusting that the changes to our faith don’t have to change our love.

  24. James Prescott October 1, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    Reading the post again just makes me wonder about the mystery, the beauty and wonder of marriage. How finding the person to spend your life with is such a precious gift, how messily beautiful marriage can be. It is a reminder that it’s beauty can be found even in the struggles, the conflicts, the mess which inveitably comes because we are all imperfect people. It shows me marriage is a journey of two people walking side by side, doing life together, through the ups and downs. It paints a clear picture of a successful marriage involving hard work and real committment.

    Give me a marriage more like this than the Hollywood fantasy any day. This is the type of marriage that lasts a lifetime. Sorry if this all embarrasses you Sarah – just thank you for allowing us into your world a little bit. The photo is beautiful as well, it captures the essence of the post perfectly.

    Thanks for sharing this, I know I will read this a lot more in times to come.

  25. Ed_Cyzewski October 1, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    There is so much truth here that a marriage is a thousand times more powerful than church affiliation or theology. I can’t put it into words, but I could feel that in this post.

    My wife married me when I was in seminary, I know she was a small town, home church girl who had no interest whatsoever in becoming a pastor’s wife. It was like she knew me well enough to know we’d find a place to make it all work together. She had so much faith in God during that season, and as I struggled with church, she was the perfect person to walk with through that difficult season.

  26. Helen Burns October 1, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    So beautiful Sarah…totally made me cry with this. Thanks for pushing through toward God, toward each other, toward your future. There are so many on the other side of your heart and voice who need to know what you have been learning together. Life is a journey not just from here to there, but from who we are to who we are becoming. I love you Sarah Bessey and am so very thankful for you. xoxoxo

  27. Adriel Booker October 1, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    Gosh, I love this Sarah. Thank you for writing and giving as you do.

  28. Kacie October 1, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    I’m in Texas. My husband sounds like yours. When I expressed my questions, people were concerned. Was I mad that Isaac was at Dallas Theological Seminary? Oh no. I love that he studies and thinks, and I can question and push and we can discuss and I trust him. I’m not the “fall in line and agree” type, but oh, we have fun discussing because ultimately in the end it really matters to both of us, and it fuels us. I loved this post.

  29. Beth October 1, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    Sarah, This is one of the most beautiful pieces on marriage that I’ve read in a long time. As an unmarried girl with many married friends in places of in-between, changing towards and away from each other, breaking and occasionally rebuilding, I often wonder if it’s possible to have exactly what you wrote about. Thanks for encouraging me not to give up hope for them or for my own possible future.

  30. Jennifer Upton October 1, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    Two points stuck out to me in this stunning post to what I call “Covenant Love.” Firstly the word “choice” which has become in my covenant a word that rocks me deep, deeper than the word “love” ever could. To be chosen is a beauty and I am so glad he chose you, than you chose one another and still continue to. Second, was the expression of the safe place you and your husband have created. The place to fall into together irregardless of the points you don’t agree on. I too love this because tho our stories read different, (my marriage learning the value of choosing one another each day and the value of creating a safe place to fall into together deep, has come after our marriage bed was defiled) I live what you speak of. I love that you have shared this with us Sarah. I pray many marriages read and feel the heartbeat within your words. Such a gift…

  31. To Think Is To Create October 2, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    It strikes me how hugely important not living in fear is. In marriage, life, all of it. Loved this babe. <3

  32. Shannon G. October 4, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    I miss you guys so much. When I think about where you’ve been, what you’ve gone through and how even in times of messy spirituality you two have always portrayed grace and strength and honor to one another -I am so encouraged. SO missed and SO thankful for your blog. I love yall -Shannon

  33. Jenn LeBow October 5, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    This is my complete favorite post about marriage ever. If we ever meet, we can share stories. So much love in freedom & vice versa.

  34. Kristen October 31, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    Thank you Sarah! I’m on the cusp of something similar right now and this was very helpful to read. Love you!

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