Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Fixer-Upper Marriage

I had a unique opportunity the other day. An opportunity to see current pictures of the first home that my husband and I lived in – 15 years ago. (Talk about a throw back in time!) It was vacant, had just been renovated, and it looked fantastic!

The contrast between that home’s condition “then” and “now” was so apparent that I got fixated on it took me a little while to move past the first picture. And as I envied gazed into the sight of newly-refinished hardwoods, chocolate-glazed kitchen cabinets, and a fresh coat of paint, I thought, “That’s nicer than where we live now – 15 years later!” We've digressed. There’s something wrong with this whole picture . . . (I know, such a thankful spirit, huh?)

The reality? The materials now featured in that home are nicer than that of our current home. And materials aside, there was no denying how foreign it appeared clean it was.
No clutter.
No marks on the hardwoods.
No scuffs on the paint.
(Did I mention no clutter??)

Since this happened so nostalgically just days before our 15th wedding anniversary, I couldn’t help but take a retrospective look at the couple that occupied those two homes.
Same people. Two very different points in time.

In the one home, a young (sigh) newlywed couple with pretty much all of life ahead of them. And in the other home, a couple who has struggled walked through 15 years of life together. And you know what I concluded? The way those two homes look: Pretty much the same as the marriage.

Because since we’ve been married, we’ve certainly had seasons that have looked much like the newly-renovated house. Incredibly bright days of joy that energized like rays of the sun. Times beautifully painted with vivid colors of laughter. Memories woven together in rich fabric of personal and relational growth.

But we’ve also had times when the leaves have changed their colors, and we’ve found our home in the middle of harsh, cold winters. Times when the supporting beams of life seemed to be collapsing around us. Crises that left us in survival mode – long term.
Times that changed us. And the way we look at the world.

And if our collective walls could speak, they would also attest to the interior realities:
Scuffs of impatience.
Stains of selfish choices.
Dings of disappointment.
Cracks from responses lacking grace.
The constant clutter of my expectations.

Original structure unchanged. But the risk of damage clearly revealed.
Vulnerabilities ruthlessly exposed.

The newlywed home looks altogether appealing and intact. But this marriage home often looks worn.
And then I remember. That home is vacant.
It is only spotless because nobody lives there yet.

So yes, our marriage often looks weathered, messy, and needing repairs. But those marks are evidence of our humanity. Evidence of life.
Every scuff testifies to a life lived – together.

Every crack a reminder that we desperately need God
to pull the whole thing off.

So has our marriage has been wedded bliss? Nope! It hasn't.
It’s been better.

It's been a construction site for our hearts.
A journey of surrendering our wants for God’s best.
A place where we are reminded that God is more interested in our holiness, than our happiness.
Sacred ground where we abide, grow, protect, trust, hope, and persevere.

I'm not afraid of the mess, anymore!
I'm honored to live out this truth in marriage with my husband – stains, leaks, storms, & all.


  1. Beautiful post - great analogy and so very true.

  2. True about life in general that is - :-)
    Your marriage IS beautiful inside and out.

  3. I loved this post!! It reminded me too of about 4 yrs. into our marriage: had our 1st home (an old house with no "ammenties"), childless (not by our design), & friends w/a nurse coworker who was married to a doctor ($$$). I went to her very extravagant home where she'd taken a picture out of House Beautiful to a decorator & had it re-done in her house: all white living room, exquisite! She had 3 beautiful children, she was glamorous,... and her husband was having an affair. The living room wasn't "livable" in the sense that anyone would be afraid to go in there. The cruises she took every few months (alone) didn't fulfill that longing for male companionship (she "connected" w/1 of the Italian crew members each time... this was in the beginning of the "free love" days.) And it left a lifelong impression on me that relationships were delicate & so much more important than "stuff."
    (Didn't mean to do a blog on YOUR blog!)

  4. I LOVE this post. Such a great word picture. So true. So much to digest. Thank you.

  5. "A place where we are reminded that God is more interested in our holiness, than our happiness." This is the line that hit me right between my eyes. I want to say I wish I had seen that line back in November, but God's timing is perfect. This is exactly the lesson God has been trying to teach me over the past two+ years. And I'm thankful to say I am finally *starting* to get it. :-)

    Side note: Your writing is great, Tanya. A perfect balance between poetic imagery and practical truth. I'm thankful I get to see more of your creative side :-) I'm excited to see where God takes your words.

  6. love this, "a construction site for our hearts" - so well said!

    1. thanks for that encouragement, tammy -- so glad you stopped by!

  7. Oh this is so true! My husband and I are struggling greatly right now (I'm a Christian; my husband is agnostic) and God has been trying to teach me so much about holiness. I read somewhere that marriage is designed to make us holy . . . not happy. But through holiness and becoming more like Christ, that is where we find everlasting happiness. I have a long way to go!

    Here's an article about it (based on the book Sacred Marriage):

    Blessings to you!

    1. that book is on my nighstand -- with highlights throughout. :) read it last year & loved it. and while God's priority of holiness over happiness wasn't a new concept to me (although a daily challenge in EVERY aspect of life), there was one simple statement in that book that the Lord used in a big way to dissipate my fear of the mess in marriage. so in essence, had i not read that book, i wouldn't have written this freedom-in-the-mess post.

      thanks for being open about your own struggles, jen. after i read your comment, i was challenged that i've taken for granted that my husband & i are on the same page spiritually. that must be incredibly difficult for both of you. but oh, what evidence of the Lord's powerful work in your life for you to proclaim that it's not about being happy, but holy. not about us, but Christ.

      privileged to be your sister in the journey,


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