Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Bitter Water (On Marriage Part 2)

There are days this season of my life feels like drinking bitter water. When for so long I anticipated sweetness, I am met with the bitterness of this drink that doesn't taste like I thought it would. Yet I know this too has something for me.
I'm the girl who never wanted to get married. I'm sure I did once, when my head was filled with Disney princess ideals, when I was a little girl still craving that fairy tale romance. But as I was thrust into my teen years, I decided I didn't want to get married. Because I didn't see the point of signing a little piece of paper saying that I would spend the rest of my life loving somebody when I could just spend the rest of my life loving them. Because I had seen so many marriages around me fail, and in some place inside of me that still believed in love I held marriage too high to willingly enter into something I had seen fail so many times before. Because of the negative talk I had heard about marriage, the way I had seen it played out and knowing I didn't want to enter into a union that looked like anything I'd seen played out. And because in those early teen years I was already so distrustful of love and the goodness of my own heart.
I can recall a number of occasions, even as young as 13, swearing off marriage because I had lost my belief in the goodness of love. And looking back on that now, my heart aches over the jadedness of that little girl. Looking back everything makes sense, but of course things always do in hindsight. In the middle of it all I felt alone, and like there was something wrong with me and my heart.
This engagement season for me means revisiting a lot of those girlhood thoughts. It means reopening old wounds and letting this bitter water wash them clean. Even if it stings. Even if my first instinct is to pull away in pain. Even if the healing scares me almost as much as the pain does.
I've been forced to re-evaluate what I think and believe about marriage. Because there is this man that I love more than I've ever loved anyone before and he still thinks marriage is good and that love can be trusted. He believes in standing up in front of people and celebrating love even if I don't. And if there is one thing, I'm finding, that can change my beliefs on love it is being loved right, and good.
So in planning my wedding, and in planning for my marriage, it looks a little untraditional. Because I don't feel like I fit in the world of the stereotypical bride. But I also don't fit in the world of women who have sworn off marriage anymore. I am in this rare place in the middle of not being sure what I believe about marriage but being sure that I believe in love. And that's what I want. To enter into this forever kind of love with my person.
In my quest to reshape what marriage looks like for me, I have become very protective of my ever changing views, and of my relationship itself. I need space to grow and purge and grieve old things and be excited about new things, and this changes daily as to how it looks.
I knew fairly early on that I wanted to be honest about this transitional process. I want to tell the truth, with my words and my life and my love. Mostly because I spent so long not telling the truth. I want, and am experiencing in this stage, brutal honesty. And I want my wedding, and my marriage, to be built on the same.
At the same time as I am simultaneously deconstructing and rebuilding what marriage looks like to me, I am trying not to let myself be swallowed whole by the fear. The fear that threatens to leak my unworthiness all over this relationship, that whispers to me that my heart isn't good, the one that says because I have this beautiful love I need to build higher fences. At the same time its drawing boundaries, and showing up to the hard work of my own heart and surrounding myself with so much love, because I finally believe my heart is something worth loving.
It's a tough balance, and more often than not I find myself stumbling, not so gracefully, through this hard and holy work I am being called into.
I have been reading and listening to podcasts on the Israelites lately, about their encounter with bitter water, and how what tasted bitter was ultimately meant for their healing. That's the best way I can describe this season. It feels like a season of bitter water.
In one podcast I listened to on this topic, my beautiful friend Stephanie from Jesus + Yoga talked about how we belong to each other. "Ubuntu," she said, quoting Mark Nepo, "I am because you are. You are because I am."
One morning after a particularly hard trigger that dug deep into my healing, I was listening to a talk from Gabrielle Bernstein, where she talked about this same sort of concept. She talked about how you have this deep love for this one person, and how the challenge lies in taking that deep love for this one person and spreading it to the world. The same level of love you have for your spouse, have it for that person over there. In this, there is no room for ego. And I can't say I'm there yet. I still cling to my love as this precious flame that cannot be touched.
I remember the story of a candle kept under a covering as to not be disturbed by the world and to be kept burning, while it was the covering that ended up burning the candle out.
When I think about marriage, though, I think about this. Ubuntu. I am because you are, you are because I am. This idea of belonging to each other. And then I think about this love that burns so brightly there is no room for ego. Wishful thinking, maybe. But what I'm trying to get at is I don't want love to begin and end with the two of us. I want to enter into the flow of all the love there is and was and will be. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself.
By entering into marriage, I decided, I am entering not into a legal contract or a lifelong commitment. I am entering into the flow. I am surrendering myself to love. And with everything in me I want the entry into that journey to be sacred, and intimate and beautiful. I want it to be Ubuntu.
In this engagement process, I am letting old wounds be washed clean by this bitter water. I am healing, so I can enter into the Promise Land clean. And I can feel the sacredness of it all as it happens. The purging, the washing out of old wounds, the reopening of hurts, the deep dig into negative beliefs I have about myself and love and marriage and sex and relationships. I am making space, making peace. I know this which is painful is for my healing. And it is good.