Let me tell you about our romantic end to Valentine’s Day. Now, we usually keep Valentine’s pretty low-key, but around 10 pm Saturday night Matt said, “Something must have fallen in the girls’ room.” A little while later we went in to check on them before heading to bed and as soon as we opened the door we smelled that awful, sour smell that can only mean one thing. The stomach bug. So, we cleaned and stripped beds, made pallets on the floor and moved kids. At this point only Lydia was sick, so in an effort to contain it (which is basically impossible with littles who kiss and wipe and snot all the time) we moved Lottie onto the floor in our bedroom and Lydi out to the living room floor. I slept on the couch so I could hear her if she got sick again–which she did four more times. And that’s how our Valentine’s Day ended. Romantic, huh?
I went to bed that night discouraged, one because of the awful smell that was burned into my nostrils, but two because this season is so hard on marriage. I’m guessing there’s not ever a season that’s easy, but in our almost ten years of marriage this one has been the hardest. Someone little always needs something. They are part rooster and part locust. Up before the sun asking for milk and lights and a chocolate chip bar. (Which is an organic granola bar with some chocolate chips in it lest you think I feed my girls anything to buy a few more minutes of sleep. Except, yes, I would totally do that, so nevermind.) Then, they are always–and I do mean always–asking for a snack. Lottie can finish a meal where she ate all of her food plus everyone else’s at the table, tell me she’s full, and five minutes later be back in the kitchen saying, “I’m hungry, Momma.” Someone is always falling or scraping or bonking a head. Somebody needs wiped, somebody needs changed, somebody needs a snack. (Did I mention part locust?!)
And then there’s this other person. He’s a big person. He doesn’t need like they need. He doesn’t yell his requests or pull on the hem of my shirt until I respond. He doesn’t have a meltdown on the kitchen floor when his shirt gets turned inside out. He is fully capable of making dinner. (He makes some mean pancakes, y’all.) He can clean and get himself ready. There’s pretty much nothing he can’t do. He doesn’t need me like they do, and they are so needy.
Marriage is like a colander, not a bowl. If we could just pour into it and have all that time and thought and affection stay there, we’d be set. The dating years and the honeymoon could carry us right on through ’til death do us part. Couples wouldn’t drift apart, and marriages wouldn’t look more like business partnerships. But those little holes are there. And the holes are precious and desired and deeply loved. For they are our children and our jobs and our ministry, these things we literally pour ourselves into for the sake of the Kingdom and His Glory. But what about the filling of the colander? What about that primary flesh and blood relationship, the one that was given to us as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the Church? The one where God looked and said let me make a helpmate because no suitable mate was found, so He fashioned woman from man? What about the two who become one, this supernatural fusion? What does that relationship need?
There are times when your colander only has a few holes, a slow little trickle. It’s fairly easy to keep it full. Just add a little more water here and there. Then there are times when your colander has so many holes it looks like someone took a BB gun to it. That’s where we are right now. Sleep is limited because of the roosters. (Who knew the 12-week-old would be my best sleeper?) Stress is high. And little sleep plus high stress makes for cranky people. And cranky people are short and brisk and snippy with their words. They don’t have time to grab a hand or steal a kiss or share an inside joke. They are too exhausted to go through the litany of logistics to secure a babysitter, prepare dinner, pump so the baby has a bottle, write everything out so that the fourth “crucial” bedtime blanket doesn’t get overlooked thus starting a bedtime meltdown all so two people can go to dinner at a restaurant that doesn’t serve chicken fingers or mac and cheese. I could be cranky every single day if I wanted. You too, I’m sure. This is where we are right now. The space where you get to the end of the day and high-five each other because, hallelujah, everyone is still alive. (It was dodgy there for a while around 4:45 pm, but you made it.) And you just want to collapse and call it a day.
But this basin, this marriage, this sacred relationship needs to be filled. This marriage is hard, so hard, but it leaks into every other relationship, every endeavor, every mission. For nothing is coming out of those holes that wasn’t put into the colander. We need a lot of filling to counteract all those tiny holes. The moment when you hold his hand a second longer during the blessing or dance with him in the kitchen when you’re washing dishes. The random text in the middle of the day filled with thanks and encouragement. The effort of wearing real clothes and going out to eat, of listening like his words were your own. That last moment of blessed peace when you snuggle in next to him and whisper, “I love you,” right before the roosters start crowing. Those moments are tiny drops, but poured together they fill this thing called marriage.
*My favorite book for wives on marriage is Julie Gordon’s Wife School. It is a game-changer, and I can’t recommend it enough.