When Daniel was in seminary I would often look longingly at the future and say to myself "when he graduates, then we will have a normal married life." Now that seminary is over, and life is still as busy as ever, I find myself saying "when he is full time at the church, then we will have a normal married life." In my mind, a normal married life is defined as free evenings and weekends and a good dose of quality time together. In my worst moments, I have complete meltdowns that this will never happen and our marriage is doomed to failure because we are missing the quality time all the marriage books say is necessary for a healthy marriage. In my best moments, I still long for a better season, one where we can blissfully enjoy our time together without the pressures of life squeezing in around us.
But as I've reflected recently about our 3 1/2 years together, I have started to think that maybe my dream of endless evenings on the couch and weekend outings is a little far fetched. Maybe my perspective is a little askew. I've talked on this blog before about my tendency to make rest my savior, and the unrealistic expectations I brought to this marriage. In the past few months I have started to think that my constant looking towards the future (while good sometimes) is only feeding my appetite for rest and comfort being my ultimate savior.
When I got married I thought (and hoped) we would work our 9 to 5 jobs and then have the rest of our time to play. Seminary was the wrench in that plan. But after seminary I thought surely life would be more free. And while it is different, it's still busy. My husband is a bi-vocational pastor, and his second vocation requires him to travel nearly every week. Couple that with church responsibilities and we are a busy bunch. And now we are about to throw two precious boys into this mix. As time has gone on I've begun to think that this life we live is not necessarily the "new normal", but the normal we were intended to experience all along.
Married couples need quality time, don't get me wrong. But the reality is, for myself especially, that my initial expectation of quality time could hardly be defined as sustainable over the long haul. And I imagine that's the case for many of my friends as well. Husbands work hard outside of the home, sometimes at multiple jobs or for crazy, long hours. Wives work, too. If there are children, both parents might work outside of the home or the mom might work hard in the home. In nearly every case, among my dearest friends and family, life is just straight-up busy, and not for unrealistic reasons. Life is hard. And it costs money. On top of that, as Christians, we are called to work hard in this life. And while we find our ultimate rest in Christ, we still live in a fallen world that makes even the most joyous endeavors (marriage and family) fall short of what we hope for and what God intended. The fact that my husband and I don't spend as much time together as we like, or even sleep in the same bed for seven consecutive nights, is a reminder that his world is not all there is. But it's also a reminder that a better world is coming.
So what are we to do if our expectations for quality time are not met? If your husband travels frequently, soak up the times he is home. If you have 4 kids under the age of 6 and you can't remember the last time you had quality anything, take advantage of the little moments you have for rest and time together. If you are in school, hold on for the breaks and holidays. If your husband is a bi-vocational pastor, be thankful for the time he does have when he is not working to provide for his family or preparing to provide spiritually for his sheep. It's hard, I know. But just because your life looks different than you thought it would, or the way our culture portrays it should be, doesn't mean your marriage is failing. Like I said, a new and better day is coming. Until then, I'm praying I can be thankful for the one God has given me right now. And I'll be the first to admit, it's not always easy to do. But by his grace I hope that my response this year is better than the last.