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See these shelves? Aren’t they pretty? My very handy husband built these for me a couple of months ago. He also built me one in the kitchen. I keep olive oil, sea salt, and nature’s seasoning on it. Romantic, I know.

David and I had a fight about these shelves. I had been wanting them built for awhile, but I didn’t understand how complicated it was going to be (plaster walls! wall studs! batteries! leveling! etc!). Then, one Sunday afternoon, David started building them. I was really excited. But the plaster was not working with him and there were leveling issues.  He was frustrated and there were sighs & dangit!s and finally “I think I’m going to need to finish this later.” I got upset, went to take a shower, and kind of did that thing where I’m not mean and slamming things but I’m not very friendly either.

Finally, in typical calm David fashion, he sat down beside me on the bed and asked me what was wrong. We squibbled back & forth for awhile & finally David said, “Ruth Ann, why does it make you so upset that I got frustrated about the shelves?” So I said (totally serious) “well, it really hurts my feelings because the shelves are making you mad. and you’re making the shelves for me. if you didn’t marry me you wouldn’t have to be building the shelves. so marrying me is making you mad & that makes me really upset.”

I know. The logic is impeccable. Even typing it out makes me kind of embarrassed. But I meant and felt every single part of it. David just looked and me… and said (gently) “Ruth Ann, that doesn’t make any sense. Why are you so upset about this?” & then we talked, for a long time, about the things deep down inside of me, about how I feel like anything that could possibly be my fault is, about how badly I want to make people happy, about why.

People ask, “How’s married life?” all the time. And it’s hard to answer that question. Because sometimes married life is simple, like having a nice, male roommate. Other times it’s like an incredibly intense, productive therapy session. Sometimes it’s like eating pizza and watching a movie, the next day it’s making big financial decisions or praying for a hurting family member together. I think that’s what has surprised me the most about marriage: utterly benign experiences and moments of great meaning often dwell side by side. One minute you’re fussing about shelves and the next you’re confessing the deep dark needs of your soul–or something like that, anyway.

You see, I thought marriage was going to be Filled To the Brim With Importance, all the time. And that’s because most things you read make it seem like every minute in your marriage will be packed with life altering decisions or huge fights or incredibly romantic moments. And sometimes it’s like that. But there’s a lot of mundane. There’s a lot of grocery shopping. I need to get an oil change soon. My life was filled with lots of fairly routine things before I got married and it still is. But I’m starting to appreciate the budget balancing, the meal planning, the lunch packing, the bathroom cleaning… it’s these little bits and pieces of team work that build the kind of intimacy that leads to vulnerability.

And that’s the thing–the moments of great meaning, those times when we feel incredibly connected, the things that stick us together like glue: almost all of those moments start with one of us being vulnerable. With David stopping being mad long enough to say “Hey, what’s the matter?”, with me choosing to acknowledge the things that are wrong inside of me instead of saying “why can’t you just build these shelves?!”, with one of us saying “hey, I’m really upset about this and I’m not sure why…”

I’m thankful for vulnerability, for the mundane and meaningful, for the benign and beautiful and really really bad…. all of it is being worked for good, because God is gracious. We are grateful.

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2 Responses to shelves

  1. Ruth Ann, you always had such a way with words. What you write about marriage is so true. Moments of great importance and depth can be side by side with the mundane every day. And like you said, it is the willingness to be vulnerable that leads to so many of those great moments and conversations. Not to mention the willingness to stop and ask “hey, tell me what’s really going on.” Anyway, I realize that I’m not adding anything new to what you’ve already said, but I saw this linked to your Facebook page and found myself agreeing as I read. So more or less, this is a long wordy comment to say “yes, I agree!” :)

  2. chaeli says:

    Ruth Ann, this is just lovely and transparent. thank you for sharing your life with others in such a generous way.

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