The Road Not Taken–a Marriage Metaphor

Autumn Path

Recently a group of young parents asked me and my husband, “How do you keep your marriage strong–especially in the second decade?”  This followed closely behind the question, “How did you teach your kids financial responsibility?”  It’s so cute that they thought we did either of those things very well.

I’m an English major, thus weird about things such as actually liking literature.  I even enjoy reading poetry too.  Are poets even a thing anymore?  They used to be the soul of the culture.  Now, I guess we have Lady Gaga, so…  For an English major I can sure get off topic quickly.

Anyway, one of my all time favorites is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.  You can scroll past if you’re gagging.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 
Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same, 
And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back. 
I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…That is the problem.  At least when it comes to marriage.

We have had some rocky patches in the past 22 years, to be sure. But when discussing our marriage, the metaphor I used was walking on a path.  When our marriage is happy and close we are walking on the same path.  We are facing one life together, with the same goals and challenges, hand in hand.

But there are times we have found ourselves walking on two paths.  Parallel paths, mind you–both trying to get to the same place (Happy Future), both pointed in the same direction.  But there’s enough distance between us that we aren’t quite unified. There’s a hedge or a ditch or maybe even a barbed-wire fence in between.

So it is easier to remain separate.  And it’s also very easy to justify staying a bit disjointed because after all, we are both going in the same direction (Happy Future!).  Hopefully somewhere down the lane there will be a break in the hedge, a miraculous bridge over the ditch, or a gate in the fence and we can reunite then. Don’t you think your marriage is too important to hope it’ll get fixed on your next anniversary getaway, Valentine’s Day or church marriage conference?  Plus it’s too painful, day in and day out to settle for holding hands over a barbed wire fence.  Your shoulder starts to cramp up and then there’s the barbs.

But trouble really sets in when we discover that our paths have now begun to diverge in this yellow wood of life. His path has turned toward work, deadlines, finances, volunteering, meetings, stress, and more responsibilities than he has time in the day to fulfill.  And “perhaps” my path has curved in the direction of my concerns: the kids, the kids’ schedules, the kids’ futures, the kids’ relationships, the kids’ health, buying the kids’ food, cooking the kids’ meals…

I actually firmly believe that obsessing like that over the kids is not a healthy way to be a mom, so that was a bit of an exaggeration. But maybe that’s what some other moms are doing?  What I really obsess over is what happens next in the Harry Potter series I’m finally reading. And when the temperature is going to break 70 degrees.

Nevertheless, my husband is not the parent primarily concerned with the kids’ stuff and he’s certainly not in the leastwise concerned about Hogwarts.  And I’m not really “up on” syntax, data mining, legacy codes or system analysis.  So I don’t particularly like his path.  He doesn’t have the luxury to hop over to mine.  Because money.

If we continue down our individual ways for long, it becomes increasingly difficult to merge.   You can’t even see each other after a while!  You aren’t heading toward Happy Future any longer. Then what?

There are really only two options and neither one is convenient. And both are time consuming.  And really difficult. And chances are you got into this mess because when the yellow wood of life got super busy and super stressful it was simply more convenient and faster and easier to stop investing in your marriage and lazily let your paths diverge.

But at this point, this far apart, the only two options for your marriage are:

Option 1. Grab your axe and start hacking your way toward each other through the woods.  This involves thorns and scratches and an axe, so I highly discourage this option.

Option 2. Retreat. Go back (maybe way back) to where your paths diverged.  Humbly meet back there, find out (through talking!) what made you start going it alone. Probably this will involve a date night. Maybe a series of date nights. Maybe a few evenings up past midnight talking on the couch.  But it’s crucial.

Why?  In our marriage we are motivated to do this work for a lot of big reasons. But also because we remember how much easier and happier life is together. Think about the challenges that would have been unbearable without each other.  Become determined to stay close from now on.  We don’t want a mediocre marriage. And neither do you.

And the one thing that helps prevent us from diverging in the future is having something in common.  It’s really easy after a while to discover that the only thing you share any more is the kids. And also a bathroom. But what about the things you love in life?  Find something you can love together. Every couple is different.  Maybe it will involve reading or exercise or hobbies or travel or volunteering or taking a class or binge-watching Netflix. Whatever works for you–don’t let yourselves stop having something to look forward to doing together.  And put it on the calendar if you have to.

So take The Road Not Taken by so many hurting couples.  Investing in your marriage may seem inconvenient, time consuming and difficult at first.  But it beats the axe.  When you’ve gotten back on the same path: forgive, hug, hold hands and get a move on. Happy Future is waiting for you.

Kiev Mall

Look! Here our shared path recently led us to an underground mall in Kiev, Ukraine!

Ukraine Trip 3 (Photo Dump)

2016-01-14 at 18-39-46This is where I dump 135 photos from the third and final trip to Ukraine. Jeremy left on January 10, 2016 and returned with our two new sons on January 21, 2016.

I will caption the photos as best I can.  I hope these will give you a flavor of the nation of Ukraine and also some insight into what life there was like for the boys.

Arriving in Kiev:

Day 1, reuniting with the boys and beginning paperwork…

Sights of rural Ukraine:

The orphanage: Welcome lunch, signing out Thomas into Jeremy’s custody:

Back in Kiev for more paperwork…

Another day…

Back at the Apartment…

Time to move Alex out of his apartment.

More out and about in Kiev:

Medical clinic and signing Alexander out of school.

A highlight of the trip:  Going to church with Alexander and Thomas

Back at the apartment again:

Medical Clinic again–and an unexpected familiar face.

Farewell Party:  The pastor of Grace Church (Alexei) and many of the people who have ministered to the boys throughout their stay at the orphanage came to say goodbye at this wonderful party. (Everyone wore plaid–because that’s so American!  So sweet.) Good friends.

American Embassy. Shopping mall.  Goodbye dinner at Oxana’s house.

Last night in Ukraine–Off to the waterpark!

Flying to America!

So, by God’s grace, that is how we took two orphaned brothers from the other side of the world and brought them to our family.

As the Lord Himself promised in Hosea 2:23:

“I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one. I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ ”

 

My favorite: God’s Promises

My 12-year-old daughter recently informed me that she was going to read through the whole Bible, start to finish.  Now maybe a Christian mom like me should have done a happy dance and praised her for this lofty goal. Instead I found myself offering words of caution…in fact, trying to talk her out of it.

Hey–I want to encourage my kids to set spiritual goals that will end in success.  So a daily plan that breaks up some of the blah of the Old Testament with some Psalms and New Testament passages seemed, to me, more doable.  But she was insistent and I remained concerned.

The reason is, I’m in the middle of that goal myself.  Just finished Day 253 out of 365 in my Bible app daily reading plan.  But I’m “stuck” in Ezekiel.  Just as I was stuck in the books of Jeremiah and Leviticus and Numbers and others.  There’s just pretty big chunks of what you wouldn’t  call “Happy Texts.”

It can get boring.  It can get bloody.  And in the case of most of the book of Ezekiel, in the modern context of our chaotic world, it can get terrifying.

God is going to judge Israel for her sins. And then God is going to judge the whole freaking world for their sins.  And he uses bloodthirsty people to do his bidding and bring about this judgment.  Not the most encouraging start to my day lately.

But this morning, just like that, it got awesome.  Happy-Text-in-the-middle-of-all-that-bloodshed-awesome.

Then they will know that I am the LORD.

Then they will know that I am the LORD.

God wants to be known for who He is: loving, compassionate, and very, very, very holy.  Do you know that in the book of Ezekiel the phrase, “Then they will know that I am the LORD” appears 43 times?  All that He is accomplishing in world events, terrifying as it may be, is done to cause people to know Him as LORD. He wants to forgive us and save us and to be known by us. But as the rest of the book of Ezekiel shows, we will never earn it or even ever want it.  So, he will just have to do it himself.

Promises in Ezekiel

Promises in Ezekiel

“I will sprinkle clean water on you; and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36:25-28 NIV.

Oh my heart breaks at the lengths to which He will go just to be known by us.  And my typically-stony heart breaks at the realization that I am just as likely to turn to all my idols to save me today as the people in Ezekiel that God will judge in wrath.  “Prone to wander. Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

But thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. Who has given me a new heart and a new spirit and has cleansed me through His Son’s sacrifice.  No more condemnation.  No more fear of wrath. Forever and forever. That’s a promise I can cling to no matter what the nightly news is.

And now hopefully I will remember to encourage my daughter to look for the threads of God’s holiness and grace throughout her upcoming reading about skin diseases and army censuses and slaughter.  And those glimpses into God’s promises may see her through to accomplishing her goal after all.