A wise person told us early on that marriage was like a mansion with many rooms. That we have unlimited possibilities for doing life in these rooms…for sleeping…for enjoying time together…for sharing a meal…for preparing a meal…even for getting cleaned up.
But he also warned that we often would go into a room together and find it uncomfortable. That our tendency would be to leave that room and shut the door.
Eventually, that big mansion with many rooms would have lots of closed doors and we would be trying to do all our living together in one area. Even if it was a room like a kitchen, where you can do lots of living, you find yourself not being able to do everything you want and need. You look around and see all the closed doors…and often decide the mansion isn’t really worth living in anymore.
Maybe a different mansion…
The truth is the very rooms that are uncomfortable are the ones in which we should spend more time. He told us that, too. But we didn’t listen, and we didn’t live that way. Despite this great picture and strong advice, we systematically shut door, after door, after door. We turned away from the tough conversations, sometimes slamming the door but often just quietly closing it and moving away.
As we look back, we see that we thought either it didn’t really matter, that room behind the closed door. Or it wasn’t worth it. Or there was no way we could be in that room together. But whatever the reason, we did just what we were warned not to do.
We did lots and lots of living in the few rooms that were left. To anyone on the outside, it might even have appeared that we were living in the whole house. We entertained and loved Jesus. We prayed and paid bills. We went on vacation and bought furniture. We went to school plays and dance recitals and cheered our kiddos on in sports. We went to graduations and college orientations and funerals of friends.
But in reality, there was very little space we were sharing. We were living parallel lives, but not connected lives. Then we crashed. It was a real option to just close up the whole house and move on. We seriously thought about it, made moves in that direction, and saw it as a viable option. It was a variety of reasons that we walked back in the mansion together…ah, but that’s for another post.
It was really hard to go back and open the doors, but that is what we did. Room by room, we approached them together and turned the handles. Sometimes one of us walked in first and spent some time before the other joined, but eventually we both could be in every room together. Today, we have an enormous mansion and in some miraculous way, it seems to be expanding. We learned a new language to be able to go into, and stay, and enjoy, those spaces that before had represented pain and disconnection. We had to learn to demand safety and be safety for each other. We had to shed our own backstories and instead, put on vulnerability.
The payoff is a marriage, a relationship, that is nearly indescribable. Our lives are not parallel, they are not divergent and zig-zaggy. Instead they are deeply bound and co-existent. Instead of being limiting, this mingling of our one-ness has resulted in utter freedom of possibilities.
The marriage we have now, the one that we all can have and that we all crave deep in our spirits, is worth the price we paid. The price of going back in. Opening the doors and letting love in.