The week before our wedding was, well, far from the fairy tale.
Tensions were already tight as my family bared the intense pressure cooker of a wedding.
The Mother-of-the-Bride was sick, missing one of my showers hosted by her best friends. My Grandfather was in the hospital. My chairman-of-deacons Daddy was hosing down church flames of controversy. Michael was in a car accident on his way to my hometown.
And I was a brat.
Much of my wedding day is a blur. Dog-eared edges of faded photographs—snapshots of a memory. Out of order, jumbled together as I grasp one moment and then another.
Beautiful moments. Imperfect moments.
Attempting liquid eyeliner for the first time and my baby sister coming to the rescue. My bridesmaids—my dearest sister-friends—gorgeous and wearing horrid shoes they still remain bitter about.
My Aunt’s veil. My Grandma’s handkerchief. The impatient limo driver. White roses and a late-90s hairstyle. Selfishly telling Dad he couldn’t cry. The comforting faces of family and the sweetness of vows on my lips.
An ice sculpture I demanded and never saw. A piece of chocolate wedding cake I dreamed of and never tasted. Friends from far-away places I never hugged.
But one memory? One picture clear and true?
Prince Charming taking my face in gentle hands as he kissed his bride.
From the beginning of our marriage, Michael and I faced hardship.
The week we returned from our honeymoon, my new husband discovered he wasn’t offered a job we believed he already had. I was a missionary for a year only making a couple hundred a month—a month.
As we drove from my parent’s home four hours north to our new beginning, my car’s engine blew up. Literally. Sold it for parts while my husband’s car remained in the shop from the pre-wedding accident.
Eight days into marriage with no income and no transportation. We were living the dream. Yep.
Michael’s car eventually did make it out of the shop, and he was able to secure a job teaching out of his subject area by late September. But financial worries are something we’ve understood since day one.
My Grandfather tragically died after falling from a bike in November. We faced death together that first year.
My groom, the PE teacher, slipped on wet grass during a softball game one evening and tore his ACL. Surgery, rehab, and two flights of stairs held our first spring together.
There were sweet times too, but they were away tempered with the difficult.
Yet, I’m grateful.
I’m grateful because from the very first edges of our marriage Michael and I had to choose the holding tight. To grip each other and refuse the letting go.
We didn’t survive because we met halfway. We came through because we chose to meet all the way—together. Every step.
We’ve argued. We’ve stared at silence with our lips held tight, refusing to utter the first apology. When we did speak, hateful, bitter words sometimes bubbled up from our hearts tumbling out of our mouths.
Mistakes still follow us around, snapping at our heels.
How has our marriage lasted 17 years? And how can the relationships you’re in now stand strong in the battles life flings our way?
By understanding we’re never safe.
Because no marriage is safe.
Safe from temptation. Safe from argument. Safe from hurt. And how long can anyone face danger without a defense?
The first shield? Standing firm in the vow.
Then you fight harder than hell for the marriage you have, the one right now. Harder than hell because hell’s laughing like mad to see you struggle—to see you crumble.
And facing hell? That requires the Jesus who’s already defeated the master of the dark pits. The Jesus who claimed victory with arms stretched bloody across splintered wood.
But even with Jesus the battle isn’t easy. Because no one survives a fight-to-the-death clash without scars and broken pieces. And no fight for marriage is won with just Jesus swinging His sword.
No. Michael and I must fight too. Both. With our Jesus. If only one of us stands firm, we will waiver, and we just may fall. So with everything in us, we battle—together. Even when we may not want to. Because that happens too.
Our love, our life, our marriage has always been a choice. We chose to say yes August 1st, 1998. We must continue to choose our yes.
Prince Charming and I? We were never promised perfect. It doesn’t exist.
But the imperfectly perfect?
That’s a fairy tale worth fighting for.