I expected marriage to be a wonderfully dramatic landscape. There would be beautiful peaks to conquer and relaxing ocean views. It would look spectacular. It wouldn’t be boring at all. My marriage would be full of wonderful images that would look gorgeous in a photo album.
Indeed, parts of my marriage have been like that, with major events, some beautiful peaks, difficult valleys, coursing rapids, and slow hikes. But if you’ve been married more than a couple months, you know that a lot of marriage isn’t the dramatic as much as it’s the everyday. Marriage happens on a landscape that often consists of a daily or weekly routine.
Even if your marriage looks dramatic to others, figuring out how to make things work flattens some of the drama. While some changes are dramatic, others happen more slowly. As one life season flows into another, you suddenly recognize that while the landscape is basically the same, some things are different than they used to be.
After I’d been married about six weeks, I realized that even the dramatic nature of figuring out married sex wasn’t enough to overshadow the everydayness of so much of our marriage.
I didn’t expect marriage to be so boring. We combined our incomes and had to spend time talking about bills and expenses. We talked about which TV shows we would watch. We spent time picking out dishes, forgetting that they would have to be washed every single night. We learned how to share a bathroom and wash each other’s underwear. I would wake up in the middle of the night with covers tangled in my feet. Every single day, meals were cooked and something was cleaned and we slept and sometimes we had sex, and the next day we woke up and did the same thing. Boring, boring, boring.
When would I get the beautiful view of marriage I had always imagined? Or would marriage always be so boring?
The Flat Land
When people talk about a beautiful view or landscape, they usually aren’t referring to the mostly flat farmlands of Illinois.
My husband and I were both born and raised in Illinois, with roots going back for several generations. I grew up in an area of the state that has gently rolling hills. My husband, however, grew up on a central Illinois farm on what used to be a flat prairie. His brother now farms the land and raises his family there.
Yes, it is flat—and it is in that same flatness that there is beauty. I once stood with my father-in-law, facing west and watching the thunder clouds roll in. We stood in sunshine and watched the approaching storm, full of lightning and life-giving water.
From what is now my brother-in-law’s farm, I see the grain bins on other farms. I can see glimpses of other small farming communities. I see grain elevators that are part of the process that feeds so many.
After planting is done in the spring, I look out on the fields covered with the soft green of new life and see the hopes and prayers for a good growing season.
By mid-summer, I’ve seen the corn reaching for the sun. I’ve seen soybeans that have been deprived of water and I’ve been reminded that although the crops aren’t looking so good, next year there will be another growing season.
With no hills, mountains, or trees to block the view, I’ve been able to see miles and miles away under a sky that makes me bow down in awe of God’s greatness.
With prairies and farms in the states to the west, the wind blows unimpeded by obstacles. In the winter, this often means dangerous drifting snow. On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, it means that we fly kites high and strong.
In the winter and in the before-planting-time of spring, I see the fields that are building strength and absorbing moisture in preparation for planting. I see fields that are used by teenage boys to play in and get muddy.
We went to the farm this weekend to spend Easter with my husband’s family, just as we do every year. I looked out across the fields, as I always do. That farm has been part of my life and part of me for nearly three decades. When I look at the fields now, I also see all the times I’ve seen them before. I’ve known this flat land for more than half my life, and I see the thunderstorms and the rains and the winds and the kites and the muddy teenagers and the little cousins who are now grown.
I still see the building my husband and I used to walk behind and kiss where no one could see us. We thought no one would guess what we were up to. The building’s been gone for a few years, but it is part of the beauty of the landscape I see. My nieces’ swing set that has been built in its place is also part of the landscape I see. Now is layered over yesterday.
One season rolls into another on the farm. One year grows into another. The flat landscape holds within it all the season and all the years. Layer after layer, I look out and see it all.
all the layers
Our 23rd anniversary is early next week, and I think about how flat and boring some of marriage looked early on. I see the everydayness now, too—the cooking and cleaning and laundry and bills and water softener salt and mowing and snow blowing and watching the same TV rerun at the same time every day and decisions and pets and young adult kids and vehicles and the fence that needs to be repaired.
Over the years, I’ve learned to see the beauty in the flat landscape I saw in my marriage.
I’ve seen glimpses of the other marriages that connect to us and are part of how we live out our faith. I’ve seen the soft new life full of hopes and prayers for a season of our lives. I’ve seen the deprived times and the reaching for the Son. I’ve seen the reminders that much of life is a season, with another one to come. I’ve seen the ways we’ve touched others and how that touch has extended far beyond the confines of our own life. We’ve faced dangerous winds, and we’ve learned how to ride some of those winds high and strong. We’ve seen play and preparation.
In the mundane and everyday routines of our shared life, I’ve been able to look out and up to a plan for us and me that makes me bow down in awe of God’s greatness.
This marriage has been part of my life and me for quite a while. When I look out at the flat landscape of the every day, I also see all the years we’ve already shared on this landscape. I see the growing and the season. I see the parts of our life that are no longer there right behind the things that are there now.
Yes, there is a lot of marriage that is on a flat landscape—and it is in that same flatness that there is beauty.
The flat terrain doesn’t have an obvious beauty. You have to look for it. But when you do, you’ll see that the beauty around you goes for miles and miles and miles.