It’s the eve of our twentieth wedding anniversary, and we are supposed to be celebrating in Hawaii. Instead, we are in a somewhat messy house with a new baby and three boys. I get stressed about these things. I was raised by southern women, and a messy house is, in my family, a faux pas. But this is reality, and I’m learning that instead of stressing all day and trying to clean like a madwoman, my husband (especially on this, our special day) would rather have a rested, happy wife. So I’ve been thinking about my messy house and how it really is a picture of twenty years of marriage. Why? Because love is messy!
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor.13:4-7 NKJV). It’s such a pretty-sounding verse, but we aren’t often told that even while striving to obey, love will be messy.
Sometimes the best things come from messy places.
In marriage, in parenting, in any relationship—there is mess. To become beautiful, things have to go through a process, a struggle that inevitably includes some mess. When I held my firstborn for the first time, I waited for the glow and the love and the head-over-heels feeling everyone talked about. What I got was postpartum depression, post-surgical pain, and a fussy little guy who didn’t want to snuggle or take naps. Motherhood did not feel like I thought it would. It was messy. And as my son grew, he and I both had many more challenges to face that were neither rosy nor grand. It was messy teaching him to obey. It was hard to get through the days when I was sleep-deprived with a toddler who didn’t like to sleep. I saw the real attitudes of my heart emerge during that time. They weren’t lovely or selfless.
Now my boy is a man, and we laugh and pray and have fun together. Out of the mess, because we struggled through and did not quit, came beauty. I feel like he will always come home to us, and it will be like this. We will discuss deep thoughts late at night, or we will watch comedy together and laugh. Beauty came from the mess.
Love is grace. My husband will give grace that the house isn’t spotless. I will give grace if he does not meet my romantic expectations. We give grace to our children when they get on our nerves or are learning a new skill and they inconvenience us. Without grace, it’s hard to last twenty years in any relationship. Whether that relationship is with parents, spouses, or friends, grace and forgiveness are imperative.
Love is messy work. It requires perseverance. Knowing someone intimately reveals some ugliness. If you fail to engage in the mess, fail to get in the pit with that person and love them through it, then love can become bitterness. Love requires us to do hard things. It’s the hard things that lead to beauty.
This twentieth anniversary, instead of heading to Hawaii, we’re keeping it simple. We’ll look through old photos and watch our wedding video. Hopefully we will also eat cake! We will listen to music from the ’90s and talk of God’s goodness. There is so much mess to remember, but also so much joy. We are learning that sorrow and joy are always mingled together and that love is always a choice, never just a feeling. Either of us could have walked out at any time. I am so thankful and overwhelmed with humility that we did not.
Whatever relationship is a struggle right now, whether it’s with your spouse, your child, a parent, or a dear friend—don’t give up. Stay in the mess, and keep digging until you get to the other side. Celebrate hard during the times of joy and stay close during the times of sorrow. Jesus gave us a great example of this. He knew we would betray him; he knew we would sin and break his heart, but he always stays and he always works on our behalf. Let his love be the arms that keep you in the mess and brings beauty from it.
Gina Grizzle is a wife, mama, and aspiring writer who has a passion to share her life with other women in order to encourage them to be the best they can for the kingdom. At home in East Tennessee, Gina loves to fluff her nest, squeeze her sweet kids, and read books. She blogs at ginagrizzle.blogspot.com.
Photograph © Hannah Busing, used with permission