Marriage is hard

Today’s sermon at church was on marriage. It was so good! Before Anne’s accident, Eric and I sailed through marriage relatively easily…after the accident, however, marriage has been tough. If not for the powerful work of God in our hearts, I don’t know that we would have made it. But 5+ years later, I’m humbled and thankful for God’s gracious restorative work in our marriage. We laugh together again. That’s huge!

A few years ago, I wrote a guest post about marriage on a friend’s blog. I’m re-posting it today to celebrate God’s work in our individual lives to grieve, forgive, sacrifice and re-connect after Anne’s tragedy. Hope you enjoy it :)


What Makes Marriage So Hard?

Originally posted on Renee-Robinson.com on July 22, 2014

I’m sitting on a balcony, listening to waves crash against the sand, and I breathe in gratefulness. My husband of 17 years is beside me. We left one kid at camp and the other two with grandparents. Alone. We are finally alone at the beach.

17 years ago we were naive best friends starting a new life together. Life was simple. Now we are battle-worn best friends struggling to raise our little family. We’re weary, but we’re together.

Marriage. Who knew it could be so hard?

It got harder when our daughter was almost killed in a car accident. And marriage remains hard as we deal with the strain of caring for a daughter with a traumatic brain injury.

But yesterday, I almost ruined this trip. This trip that we’ve been looking forward to for months. This trip that took three spreadsheets to outline the caretaking schedule for our disabled daughter. We so need this trip.

What did I almost do? I almost let my anger force me to start a fight with my husband that would have taken days to recover from. But thankfully, God intervened.

It all started when my husband made a simple comment at lunch in which he defended an old family friend. I’m ashamed to say that I struggle to show kindness to this person. In many ways, I’m jealous of her seemingly easier life. My husband’s words picked at a sinful scab in my heart. Jealousy, covetousness, ungraciousness. Those are my ugly sins.

Instead of shining the light on my dark heart, I turned my critical spotlight on my husband. It’s easy to make up lies in your head when you don’t want to face your own sin. “How could he defend her?” I thought. “He should defend me! He just doesn’t understand how hard my life is compared to hers.” Ugly. My heart can be so ugly.

I retreated to my room and felt the anger well up through my stomach past my hard heart and clench its fists around my throat. I had turned fiercely angry.

“Oh God,” I prayed. “Please don’t let me ruin this trip. Please don’t let me lash out and hurt my husband. Please make the anger GO AWAY.” I tried to carry on as if nothing was wrong, but the anger only intensified and threatened to come out in a wave of poisoned words.

I retreated again. “Oh God. Please, please, please take this anger away. Please God. Please.” And I crumpled helpless to my knees and waited. And the change began.

God graciously, with such tenderness and compassion, opened my eyes to my jealous heart. The problem was me. Not my husband.

God’s tender conviction led me to my deep need for grace. “Oh God – please change me. Help me to be gracious toward this woman whom I envy. Give me your love for her. She’s just a mom – trying her best – just like me.”

Just like me. She’s just like me. A mom, struggling with sin – but trying her best – just like me.

And waves of forgiveness washed my anger away. I was free. His Grace had filled the crevices that just minutes ago were simmering with anger.

My husband came to me later, embracing me and whispering how he was sorry for being insensitive. God had worked in him too – separately – apart from me. God didn’t need me to change him. God is big enough for the both of us.

God saved our trip. Just as He’s saved our marriage over and over again as we fight to stay connected since our daughter’s accident.

He works in us in spite of our tragedy, in spite of our weariness. He makes us more humble, more dependent, more in love with Himself and with each other.

Who knew marriage could be so hard? And painful? And beautiful.

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Shared Suffering

“What doesn’t tear you apart will make you stronger.” I think I’ve read something like that once…

There’s nothing quite so sublime as to share suffering with another. Eric is the only person this side of heaven who understands the pain of the last 5+years. It is a shared suffering.

There was a time that the pain of Anne’s brain injury was so intense that it could not be shared but only endured. But now, as time and experience have numbed the sharp pain of loss, we have regained the capacity to carry one another’s burdens. This sharing of burdens is a door into deeper “oneness.” For Eric is the only one who knows the depth of loss and indescribable joy.

If shared suffering is our glue, then God is our rock. We stand on his sovereignty. We trust that all that led us to this present – the accident, the suffering, Anne’s recovery, and her new life – are all part of God’s perfect plan, not just for Anne, but for our whole family.

Somehow, we believe the accident saved us from ourselves – that God is using Anne’s brain injury and recovery to change the course of our lives for the better – even Anne’s life! For as hard as it is for her to live with a brain injury, for all the ridicule that she receives from her peers or the frustration she endures at not being able to control her own body, we trust that she is closer to Jesus because of it. And so are we – Eric, me, Canon and Kate – we are closer to Jesus. And we are grateful.

Years from now when Canon and Kate are gone, Eric and I will still have Anne. Sweet Anne. She is our glue. But we stand on our rock. Thank you Jesus.

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The fight for our marriage

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I took this picture in church this morning (when I should have been listening to the prayer!) It absolutely melts my heart. Eric is the best of the best. I’m so thankful to be married to him… But our marriage has been severely tested since the accident…

I now understand why so many marriages crumble after tragedy – especially if the tragedy concerns your children. The grief is so heavy that it can take all of your energy just to get through the day. There is rarely emotional energy left over to connect with your spouse.

The problem is compounded by the fact that everyone grieves differently. Yes, I know most people go through the five stages of grief, but people go through the stages at different rates. The wife might be stuck in denial while the husband is in the anger phase. One spouse might get to acceptance quickly while the other stays in depression for years.

Meanwhile the marriage suffers because it just takes so much more effort than it used to – and who has that much energy? It’s definitely easier to give up than to fight to sustain the marriage.

But I married someone who refuses to give up. My grief after Anne’s accident was so thick at times that it would have been easy to give up, but Eric was committed to pursue me, and God gave us the grace to fight.

Now that we’ve been through our darkest days and come out on the other side together, I figured it was time to celebrate! So for Eric’s birthday, I gave him 12 pre-planned date nights* – one for each month of the next year. Every date is different. Some are extravagant and others are just simple nights at home – but every reservation has been pre-made and pre-paid, so we have no excuse… we must go!

Eric's birthday present

Eric’s birthday present

Our first date was last night. We went to the Atlanta Fish Market and then to the Aquarium. Eric said afterwards that it was rejuvenating, and that was my hope…. that as we take time to have fun together, this will give us energy to manage our little family – because parenting is harder now. Well… Everything is harder now. But that just makes life richer :)

Here’s to a great year, and the fight for a great marriage!

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*And by the way… I stole the “date-night” idea from a friend’s Pinterest Board. Here’s the original link :)