we are often taught that marriage makes your dreams come true. happily ever after becomes an expectation placed upon God and your spouse - you know your spouse, the one who met all of the criteria on your dream husband checklist? was it just me that made one of those things in high school youth group?!! often, a few months in, or maybe even during the wedding planning you realize, hmmm, this isn't actually the perfect i planned on.
but really, it's okay. because there's something better than perfect. and it's called brokenness. because it's there where you meet the One who fixes all the pieces, puts them back together, turns the ash heap into beauty, and in the end, whether in this life or the next, promises to make all things new (2 Cor. 5:17).
in high school, i started dreaming + praying about my life's plans, where i'd go to college, when i'd meet my prince charming, and who he would be. i ended up at a local christian college, studying political science, and working part-time at our church. it was there i'd meet the boy, Kelly. : ) he asked me to coffee and i said yes with lots of butterflies. he was the worship leader at church and all i could think about was "what if he asks me to pray for our coffee or something? how could i pray in front of a pastor?!" so lame, so very true. after coffee, i could tell he really liked me. i really liked him too.
four months passed and we were engaged. six months passed and we were married. it was a whirlwind romance and i wouldn't have wanted it any other way. except for the way the Lord chose to bring us together. you see, Kelly was a widower. he was married before for a few months but his wife passed away in an accident. after a childhood of brokenness (my parent's divorced when i was 5, my dad passed away of cancer when i was 9), this was not the normal i had hoped and longed for. kelly's past felt like too much to bear. people compared me to her. i was 2nd best, not the best. i was number 2, not number 1. i took criticism after criticism from random people that were supposed to support us and love us. our first year of marriage was hard; not because Kelly and i didn't get along, but because of all the comparing i let happen in my head and all of the outsider's opinions. i often wondered if he thought of her, if he was missing her while he was next to me, if he loved her more. i was grieving something i lost, something i could never have - being his one and only. i wanted to move away, get a fresh start where people would only know us as Kelly and Carissa, not Kelly and his "new wife" or "2nd wife" or "other wife" Carissa. the grief began presenting itself physically, i cried myself to sleep almost every night, i had undiagnosable seizures, couldn't drive for six months, and had multiple surgeries. the brokenness was too heavy, too weighty, too much.
somehow, after the first year, the sweet Lord gave some relief and brought healing a little each day. it was a process, though. i had to reach the bottom of the pit before He could lift me out. Kelly was reassuring, calming, and made it his life goal to make me feel secure in our marriage. he dealt with me delicately. i went to counseling, we switched churches, and little by little, things improved - God was shining His light more and more in my dark places. after 4.5 years we were blessed with our first child. this baby brought more healing than he will ever know. having a baby was something we experienced together, just us, no one else. and then seven months later we were pregnant again. life got busy and full and i barely even thought of the hard times, the pain, the grief. and that's just what happens. God comes, and even though the ash heap seems too high, too big, and like there's no way to remove it, He does. He lifts the heaviness, He replaces the ashes with beauty, He restores, and most of all, He makes it all new.
we have recently moved across the country from charleston, SC to the bay area of CA, back to where i'm from, and we have that fresh start like i always dreamt of. everyone only knows us as Kelly and Carissa. it took over nine years of marriage for this to happen, but it happened at just the right time.
the bottom line is this: no matter how broken you may feel, no matter how much pain there is, God is ready to help, He's close by, ready to save and restore... to bring you hope again, to bring you back to life. this is what the Gospel is all about. you see, marriage isn't really just about you and your spouse. it's about a broader picture, a picture of Christ and the church. Christ coming to save a broken and hopeless people.