What Did I Sign Up For? A Reflection on Marriage and Adversity.
IF YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD ME THIS IS WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR I WOULDN’T HAVE GOTTEN MARRIED
Seriously, I wouldn’t have. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t mean this in a negative way. I’m just saying if you would have told the plucky mancub standing at the altar smiling, beard blowing in the wind, what the three years of marriage would entail, he would have promptly grabbed his ball and went home. That’s right. He would have tucked his tail between his legs and made a quick exit.
In the same vein, I love being married. I love my wife and my daughter. I love our growing family. In all honesty it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. But, tbh, the mancub standing at altar had no idea what it was going to be like...and here’s the shocker...that’s actually a good thing.
The mystery is much more delicious than knowing.
Having it all planned out can be advantageous. Having expectations for how things are going to pan out or are supposed to be are all well and good, but, and here’s a quick tip for all of you soon-to-be-hitched or are in that I-really-wanna-get-married-so-bad-I-can-hardly-stand-it phase: 1. You never know what to expect. 2. What you think is reasonably foreseeable isn’t going to occur the manner in which you think it
|Here we are on our wedding day, looking hot!...|
Blissfully unaware of the road ahead.
But that’s ok. Take the plunge. If you’re about to say those vows and tie the knot, then you’re in this for life. If you believe in immortality and incorruptibility then that means 100s upon 1000s of years. Get used to it. There is no turning back. Who you were when you were dating is gone. Who you will be six months from now will be different than who you are now. The same goes for your spouse.
Enter day 6 of our union. We are driving from West Texas to the Hill Country for what is supposed to stop No. 3 of our honeymoon. It’s raining, I’m driving fast. The red and blues start flashing. I’m pulled over. The cop is threatening me and I’m in the middle of nowhere so of course my idealism kicks in and I start lecturing the cop on the finer points of constitutional law, the difference between administrative procedures and laws that apply to living persons, how since he couldn’t prove that the STRAWMAN, MATTHEW MONK wasn’t the same as the living man Matthew Monk, then he had no jurisdiction in the matter and had to let me go and if he didn’t he would be violating several of my inalienable rights and thus subject to penalties…well…he pulled me out of the car, beat me up and took me to jail. There I was, sitting in a cell while my wife dealt with the cops by herself…and I thought I was being a hero and protecting her. Then she had to shell out all of our wedding money to post bail. Moral of the story: I was still thinking like a bachelor idealist. Getting arrested didn’t bother me…but now I had someone else to think about. I spent the next year paying fines, going to anger management classes and trying to find steady work with a resisting arrest (Class B Misdemeanor) charge on my record. Let’s just say this is not the best foot to start your marriage on. I’m lucky. My wife is a trooper. She handled it all gracefully even though she should have let me have it. She should have walked out the door. Honestly I almost expected her to. But she didn't.
A little more than a month later I got one of those phone calls no one ever expects to get. I had finally landed a reasonably steady job. Stef had booked a long term gig at her job too, so things were stabilizing and we were getting things sorted out after the arrest. I woke up that morning and had a call from my friend that was made about 3 A.M. He left a message and said I needed to call him back ASAP, and I quote, “It’s that bad.” I called back. He was asleep. It was a few hours later, at church, I was in the middle of getting blasted by El Shaddai at church when my phone rang. I stepped outside. My friend said some words that didn’t make any sense. Then I saw the new article. It still didn’t make sense. But there it was in black and white. One of my best friends was in the middle of it all…
something so twisted and bizarre that it belonged in a Stephen King novel. Then the phone calls came. Hundreds of them. People asking me questions about my friend. Questions I couldn’t answer. Questions I didn’t know how to answer. Investigators. Reporters. Accusations. Assumptions. Presumptions. Emotions that there aren’t words for and words there aren’t emotions for. My wife stood with me through it all. She gave me all the space I needed to process. And let me talk her ear off to process when I knew she was tired of hearing about it all. She was there to comfort me through all of it even when I thought there was no coming back from it.
|Now we are 3 and we still got it!|
We weathered that storm. The truth came to light. Things settled. Then someone got murdered a few yards from our front door. All of the sudden our cute little ethnic neighborhood is being patrolled left and right for cops on high alert for gang-activity and narcotraffickers. Protecting my wife took on a new light. What was I thinking moving into this neighborhood in the first place? It was cheap. Close to my wife’s job and in a nice central location. (She worked on the northside while I worked on the southside.) Suddenly none of that was good enough. Suddenly we needed more money and a better place to live. Maybe the mancub was learning.
We had a plan, we had an exit strategy. Then I got laid off. No warning. A measly $200 as severance. Now we have not enough for rent and we have to vacate. Luckily we have a place to go. It was tough. We didn’t know where the $ was going to come from. But everything got taken care of. We got settled in. Some new work started. Then the best news we’d ever received happened!...Stef was pregnant!
And the day after that I got laid off again and told to vacate the premises within a week. I filed for unemployment. Our great State Programs awarded my a grand total of $0 in unemployment benefits because I'm too old/too young caucasian and male.
AND THAT WAS JUST THE FIRST YEAR...
Some friends took us in. I started job hunting. Things were looking up. I had some leads and some interviews. $ materialized out of nowhere. Then one day, in the middle of the afternoon, Stef started bleeding, bleeding a lot. We go to the ER. They tell us she’s losing the baby. Worst day of my life so far.
We don’t lose the baby. Miracle time! I start a new job. I get a promotion. I get another promotion. I get promotion number three and a company car. We have enough money to get back into our own place. We move.
Day one in our new place, Stef is cooking dinner and I thought she peed her pants, but the water keeps coming. This isn’t normal. This isn’t supposed to happen. She’s only 20weeks. We were preparing for this only…5 months down the road. We go to the ER. They tell us there’s nothing they can do. At this point it’s a coin toss. Worst day of my life. Period.
I start a new job. We’ve made it to 23 weeks. They said if we made it this far, then our little girl has the best chance of making it. I know she’s going to. It’s the strangest thing. I know my daughter already. Tough like her mom. Stubborn like her dad.
We know Olive will spend some time in the NICU. She's there for 149 days. 1 day shy of five months. She comes home on oxygen support and a feeding tube. She spends 10 hours a day hooked up to a feeding pump. Every sign of a cold, or bug is news for alarm because her immune system is underdeveloped. She made it.
We made it.
The mancub that stood at the altar over a three years ago is not the person I see in the mirror right now. And that’s ok. Like I said, if I would’ve told him what was going to happen, he would’ve ran away scared. But I’ve made it. It hasn’t been easy, yet it has been easy. The peace which has followed our little family in the midst of less than ideal circumstances is nothing short of supernatural. Surely the Lord prepares for us a feast in the midst of our enemies. The war is over.When you stand upon that altar and present yourselves as living sacrifices to God and to one another, there really is no turning back. You have entered the threshold to a brand new reality, a new world entirely. And that’s ok.