Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Love is always too much. (to chris)

It was our first date in a good long while and we enjoyed it: eating "fush and chups" in the grass by the lake, then dangling our legs off the dock, smiling and remembering and talking about nonsense and not trying to solve any of our problems, not trying to reconcile any of our differences.  Just being together under the same sun that's always been there, before we knew of each other, before even our parents had met.

Dr. Kelley Flanagan, whose blog you love, writes about the dangers of escalation, in It Takes Two to Tango (But it Only Takes One to Love).  Whether it's the "you yell first, I yell louder" of negative escalation, or the "you do something nice, I do something nicer" of positive (but equally unhealthy) escalation, the truth is

"When our behavior in marriage is dependent or contingent upon what has been done to us—regardless of whether that behavior is positive or negative—it results in the destruction of relationship."  [Flanagan]

The past few months have brought on the pressures of money, visa stress and uncertainty of the future, two toddlers who are delightfully destructive and the messy house they help create, lack of sleep (we could write a book on this) and preparing for two months in SE Asia with those wakeful, messy toddler-people.  It's been tough, I know it has. 
We've found ourselves escalating in ways that have surprised us, becoming people we didn't want to be or maybe just seeing who we really are: keeping tallies on sleep-ins, arguing about night-wakings, frustrations about money spent and bills to pay and intimacy and whose days are more tiring–not feeling heard or understood, not feeling cared for or valued enough.  Maybe it's because we can't vent to the bureaucracy or the virtual bank teller or our children that we've been spewing it out on each other.  This is not how we want to be. 

Blame it on stress but that's not going away anytime soon.  It's just the normal pressures of life, not even long-term sickness or a troubled child.  This is just what the world spins round on and there's no hunkering down for the end of the storm. It's fairly calm waters, the ocean just happens to be a risky place.  Some stress is because of lifestyle choices we've made, some because of babies we've made and some because of our inherent priorities, but there's no looking forward to an easier time.  Children make your hair grey and your bones tired, money is elusive for most of us and there are so many things in life that will keep us up at night.  

Remember the old story we told ourselves again and again when we were dating, when we were planning to marry?  How when God's people were living as refugees in Babylon, when they were traumatized and scared, fearing future days of possible extinction, when they were in that place they didn't want to be in - the prophet Jeremiah told them to build a house, plant gardens and eat the produce; get married and give birth to children and give those children in marriage when they grow.  When everything in you says keep your boxes packed and be ready to run,  you hang curtains instead, you throw seeds out in the garden, maybe even plant olive trees.  Isn't getting married one of the scariest things we've done, one of our craziest confessions of hope, thinking maybe Love is possible, even here?  So many people we admire have divorced recently - it's foolish to think we can do this.  And the vulnerability of having children, of having real live humans so terrifyingly dependent on us… what were we thinking?

We've not suffered like actual refugees and most likely we never will.  In some ways that old story will never be ours, it belongs to much of the world, people who experience the hardships of life very differently than us.  But somehow, and maybe that's the miracle of story God-breathed, it is our story and it's meant to be.  Vulnerability is implicit in healthy humanity and choosing that story (and for us it's a choice) we are choosing the way of God with His people.  Risk is daily, there's no blueprint to follow, we try to make good choices and hope we are.

How do we walk this road well?  How can we recognize this vulnerability (which is heightened by children and visas and upcoming travel) as a gift straight from God, an invitation to release the stress we think we have to manage.  To let it be drawn back to sea like the tide going out, hands wide open and dust blowing away.  If I can't love the one person in the world I've actually chosen to be with, what can I expect from anyone else?  What hope do I have for nations torn by war, families torn by violence or unfaithfulness, relationships broken by bitterness and regret.  This is important, the stuff that makes us.  The position of our hearts towards each other, the words spoken and not, the forgiveness released,  justice and mercy arriving - it may seem like the daily grind but it's holy, it's sacrament, it's quiet confessions of good future and hope.

I want to reclaim it with you, put our roots back down where they've been dug up in anger, dug up in fear.  It's okay if you're scared.  I am too.  We can do this together, sinking or swimming, we'll create space right here for each other, with room for the world.  

Remember the poem that Nathan read at our wedding, the words from Wendell Berry that we wanted to never forget?

"Our bond is no little economy based on the exchange
of my love and work for yours, so much for so much
of an expendable fund. We don't know what its limits are--
that puts us in the dark. We are more together
than we know, how else could we keep on discovering
we are more together than we thought?...

... Like the water
of a deep stream, love is always too much. We
did not make it. Though we drink till we burst
we cannot have it all, or want it all.
In its abundance it survives our thirst.
In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill, and sleep, while it
flows through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us, except we keep returning
to its rich waters thirsty. We enter,
willing to die, into the commonwealth of its joy...."

Let us drink again of that deep stream of love, always too much, always strangely out of place, with so much potential to disarm, to baptize, to make new.  Let's release our roots down deep again and be bold in our planting, always growing our expectancy.  

Let's drink in the dark from the stream that is love, always enough, always too much.


  1. O Becca, I was once where you are now, only with 4 babies - and we did divorce after 9 years. It's odd but the one thing I regret most is exactly what you've described here - instead of battling over whose day was hardest, I wish I'd have simply said, "Lover, I don't know how you manage to get up before dawn, work with cold metal and grease all day and then come home to a frazzled wife. You hold the baby while I finish dinner, do the dishes, help get the kids ready for bed and then rub my back until I fall asleep. You are amazing and I appreciate all that you do for us." I feel this would have made all the difference! I think our men need to know they are truly needed and appreciated, and then they will quite simply serve us to the end of time. Hindsight is 20/20. xox

    1. thank you so much for your honest words ... as we are almost four years into marriage i realize more and more how fragile it is, that none of us are immune to divorce and marriage is really, really hard sometimes (and that's without us walking through any major crises yet). i want to learn from people who have gone before us - thank you for sharing! -b