It didn’t hit me on our wedding day. Not when I hurriedly wrote my vows that morning, or when I slipped my dress on, or when I saw him for the first time. Not even when we had our first kiss as man and wife, or when we scampered up the mountain together and laughed as a thunderstorm threatened to drown out our joy.
It didn’t hit me as we flew to Mexico for our much-anticipated honeymoon, or when we sipped our fourth Mai Tai admiring the Caribbean, or even when we finally arrived back home in Seattle two weeks after we said I Do.
When normal life hit, we thought we were well prepared for that infamous first hard year of marriage. Since we were spared the distractions of planning a huge wedding, Nick and I were able to spend our five-month engagement getting to know one another deeper, traveling together, and going through marriage books and rigorous pre-marital counseling. We asked every single married couple we came across “What advice can you give us?” We wanted to be as prepared as we possibly could.
Exactly three weeks after I shed tears of ecstatic joy on my wedding day, soaking up every moment and living in the romance, our wedding video was released. We had hired our good friend Janssen to follow us around as we climbed up and down a mountain on our big day, and he did an absolutely incredible job with the video.
I sat in my living room and watched it over and over, like any bride does, but the expected tears didn’t come. Instead, I stared in complete disbelief as I watched myself get married. Finally, the truth hit me like a ton of bricks in the face:
I am a wife now, a Mrs. I made a commitment that I will forever uphold because I have to. What a sobering and rather unromantic thought.
It’s weird that the reality of marriage didn’t hit me until I watched our wedding video, but for some reason that’s when it sunk. Something shifted deep inside me that day. All of a sudden I wasn’t sure if I liked the idea of losing my identity. Loving unconditionally, despite my mood swings and, dare I say it, emotions. I don’t mean that I wanted to give up on marriage or leave Nick – very little of this had anything to do with him. I was fighting myself, both running towards Jesus and away. I still wanted to be Laura Lawson with all the best perks of being Laura Visconti. I was losing my past identity and losing it fast. I felt pinned down, forcing myself to say and do the right things, but inwardly rebelling against all of it. I didn’t want to be led spiritually; hadn’t I done a decently good job of that my whole life without another man constantly suggesting we pray together?
I was beginning to truly understand what it means when Scripture says we need to die to ourselves daily, and I wasn’t sure I liked it.
More than anything, I’m learning I am incredibly, unabashedly, shamelessly selfish.
Marriage exposes you to yourself. You have this person (this flawed person might I add) always around who brings out both the absolute best and the absolute worst in you. You have to learn to apologize without pointing out how they were also partially wrong, an almost impossible feat for me. You learn you are more flawed than you ever thought possible. Little, tiny secrets that were previously all too easy to conceal get pushed into the limelight. Thought patterns have to change. Motivations get exposed. Hell, your very selfishness has to be shed and fast, otherwise you’re going to hurt the person you love the most over and over and over.
After awhile, I got sick of hearing myself apologize for the same things time and time again. Nick’s patience was tested more than it needed to be – have I mentioned how great he is? He loved me through my difficult transition. He loved me when I needed it most, and when I was most unlovable.
Marriage is simultaneously extremely difficult and extremely amazing. I highly recommend it.
The answer to all of this is Jesus, of course. It took a couple weeks of kicking and screaming for me to come around, but I began to realize it’s a choice. To follow Jesus is to truly make your life about other people, most importantly your spouse, and put yourself last. It’s not about a list of rights and wrongs and gender roles, it’s just simply submitting. Out of love. Every single moment of every single day for the rest of your life. I’m only two months in and I know I still have a very long ways to go indeed – everyone keeps telling me, “Just wait until you have kids!” – but I’m glad to know the answer for now, and for forever, is Jesus. I can’t stress this enough: following him is a choice. The power to love is within your grasp. Question your heart and your motives. I have to constantly be in communion with the Holy Spirit, repenting of my selfishness and asking for a heart change.
And slowly but surely, I am learning and, by the grace of God, establishing a new normal.