A few years back, I started a new tradition of buying a white dress to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress” was my inspiration.
I could watch that show all day, can’t you? There’s something fascinating about a bride-to-be searching for and finding her wedding attire. Here’s a photo from my final fitting in 1983.
My annual ritual offers me the same warmth and joy I felt that day, and provides fresh anticipation for Joe, who had this view as I descended the aisle 34 years ago
But after all these years of marriage, I would be remiss if I failed to convey that marriage is more than joy and white dresses. It’s pain and distresses too. Joe will concur.
When we say yes to marriage, we say yes to disappointment and struggle.
We say yes to conflict and confusion.
Fantasies dissolve as we confront our spouse’s failure to love us well. In some ways, these flaws depict the nakedness that comes with marriage too: the naked truth about how sinful we are. The baring of selfishness or mental illness that only our spouses know.
This doesn’t mean marriage is not worth it. I do not advocate for co-habitation over the life-long covenant God uses to describe His love for His church.
Neither do I advocate for marriage over singleness. Jesus was single and so was Paul. The church should do more to emphasize to single people that independence offers joy and freedom through service to God and others.
My point is, marriage is neither all great or all terrible. It is both, like all of life.
It’s a mix of happiness and sorrow. It’s ups and downs. Success and failure.
But one thing my white dress tradition has achieved for me is a desire to keep it going. It’s not that I spend a ton of money or time finding a dress. With an August anniversary date, I’m typically rummaging through sales racks for the random white dresses still available at the end of summer. When I look at these photos from 2013, 2014, and 2016, all the dresses are very similar!
Nevertheless, I love the symbolism of presenting myself to my husband again each year, even when our relationship has not been optimal. We are learning that to have our sinful selves exposed is required for a healthy relationship, a test of fidelity, and an opportunity for shame to give way to acceptance.
This year, we even put off our anniversary celebration on purpose, knowing that the pressure we were enduring needed to subside first.
I’m glad we waited. And I’m glad we continue to work through our struggles.
I encourage you to do the same. No matter when you were married, you said yes to distress. Own it. Seek a counselor or prayer partners to help support you through the hard times. Maintain your marriage with the same zeal you maintain your home and car.
Marriage requires this basic care, and it means loving your spouse one grueling day at a time.
Days lead to years.
And years lead to lasting love.
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother, and will be joined to his wife. And they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both without clothes and were not ashamed.