Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m so excited to share today’s blog post with you because it’s not written by me! I’m giving you a man’s perspective on life, love, and marriage with a guest blog from Nick Rhodes. Nick’s blog is Matter’s of a Man’s Heart – Thoughts on Life, Adversity, and Overcoming
Who We Are Today – Embracing Maturity in Marriage
In youth, we desire adulting. In age, we desire youth. In both, we miss out on what we have because our focus is on the have-nots instead of living with a present heart.
As much can be said for marriage, where our focus can sometimes drift from the couple we’ve become to a place of who we once were in the naive land of puppy love.
We miss out on what we have by focusing on what we had.
It’s not entirely our faults. Everything we planned becomes overshadowed by the things no one told us about. The rule book on marriage is lost in the mail right along with the ones on parenting. Life becomes one big mess of figure-it-out interruptions and we easily get caught up in the wishful thinking of our yesterdays.
There are toys on the floor, pans in the sink, and our debts seem to be in competition with our waistlines to see who can get bigger faster.
Exhaustion has trumped out sleep. We’ve not had a peaceful vacation in years – no money for one; no time for one; and if we do take one, we’re now full-time entertainers and babysitters of our own flock.
Seemingly gone are the days of quiet time and spontaneous decisions. No more lying in bed ‘til high noon. No more last minute trips to brunch and a movie. Ten minutes to get out the door has now become an hour.
There was a time when money flowed in the direction of restaurants, theme parks, shopping trips to the Outlet malls, and weekend visits to anywhere the dart landed. Now it flows to replacing sippy cups and other stuff that comes in umpteen parts and attacks ankles.
We are older. We are tired. We are parents struggling across the finish line every night. And, unconsciously, we are striving to get back to the glory days of full pockets and clear minds.
I’ve lost count on how many times we’ve mumbled “we’re getting there,” or “we’ll be back to the old us soon enough.”
This is an ode to hope if there’s ever been one – as though family life has imprisoned our youthful selves.
I envision us sitting in our cells, scratching tick marks on the wall, counting down the days to our release back to the land of youth – that place where magical unicorns known as sleep and sanity exists. In every home, there is folded laundry and clean dishes. And not clean dishes because we cleaned them, but clean dishes because we don’t use them. Dishes are for people who don’t have time or money to go elsewhere and have someone else cook for them.
This land of youth, where student loans and cell phone bills have yet to overwhelm us; long before the mortgage and car payments show up because we forced ourselves to grow up. Bills come in, bills go out, and stress is at an all-time low in this magical land.
The only thing on the floor is carpet – no smooshed slime in the toes; no building blocks to threaten your life. The only color on the wall is the paint you chose, and not the arsenal of paints, crayons, and markers that mark their illiterate territory like a dog marks a fire hydrant.
This land of youth rest right at the end of every rainbow – right next to the leprechaun and his pot of gold. And if you’re reading this because you want to know how to get there . . . I’m sorry, but you can’t.
Honestly, it drives me crazy to think or hear about who my wife and I once were and that we’re fighting some imaginary battle to reclaim yesterday. I’m just as content and happy being who we are . . . not who we were.
I’m exhausted from being a dad . . . and God only knows how tired my wife is from being a mom! But there’s war-torn value in being as great of parents as we are; knowing that our love and efforts will be extended to our future generations.
I hate seeing bills pile up with no end in sight. I’ll even take them out of the envelopes just to make the pile look smaller, but there they still sit, right atop the fridge.
But in those bills are the cost of having the life we have. Medical bills resulting from having my beautiful girls. Car payments to lug our family around on adventures. Enough insurance to save us from everything but the second coming.
It’s part of being an adult and doesn’t need to be viewed as a means to regret who we’ve become.
Dishes in the sink represent home cooked meals at the end of long days. Sometimes, often times, they just might represent a whole week’s worth.
So what if we could charge our piles of laundry rent. Dirty play clothes mean my kids are taking advantage of the glorious outdoors and not stuck in front of a TV. Piles of gym clothes mean we’re trying – for the love of God, we’re trying – to stay as in shape as our aging bodies can do.
Crayons and paint on the wall, however annoying to clean up, might just be the sign of creative little artists who knew no harm. A dirty playroom is a symbol of fun and laughter. Maybe spilled snacks and juice cups have more to do with being carefree than being careless.
Are we actually mad at our loud little home-wrecking minions or are we just jealous?
And then, most importantly, who we’ve become in marriage . . .
It’s easy to look back on being immature out-going bar-hoppers and think of those as fun times – but there’s no character in that; no growth; no trials to build us as people.
Back then, every day was a youthful opportunity to change our minds about one another and choose opposite paths.
There’s something to be said about years of loyalty, commitment, and facing down relationship challenges – the criticisms and compromises that come with. There’s maturity that comes to us as individuals, but there’s a special sort of maturity that comes in marriage.
And if you work at it unselfishly, the marriage becomes greater than the individual. You’ll find a synergy that can make you both unstoppable.
Honor is earned when you help your spouse battle the throes of life – careers, parenting, stress, and perhaps even addictions or mental illness.
There are experiences and life events that will shape you into being the best version of yourself – as a person, parent, spouse, at work, or in your community – a version you couldn’t find on your own.
Life is full of stones unturned, but as the unturning begins, we become great people.
As tested and tired as I am on most days, I can’t see replacing who I am now with who I once was just because life was easier. The harder our lives seem can sometimes be a compliment to our strength.
So, “no thank you” my dear, random, youth-seeking, frustrated thoughts. I’ll pass on seeking out yesterday.
No more tick marks on the wall awaiting my release. Where I’m going is a matter of embracing who I’ve become and in no way whatsoever will I rush this season of my life.
Time and raising children will do that soon enough!
Face your days and this season of your life with gratitude. Still, pay off your debts, lose those pounds, and strive to become a better you. Kick the toys under the couch and wash the dishes before the guests arrive. But in no way regret the hurdles and headaches that today brings.
Embrace the process of life and love what you have today.
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