Sanctification Machine. Marriage Counseling Mobile. The Ultimate Compatibility Test. The name is a work in progress. Either way, you get the idea. Tes and I lived in a 1986 VW hippy van together for a three week road trip from Colorado, up to North Dakota, west to Seattle, and back home again for a grand total of 4,697 miles. It was a very long, emotionally draining, relationship testing trip.
Marriage in general has been a huge eye opener for both of us as we get front row seats to our own sinful hearts, as well as each other’s. Tes and I have very different personalities and ways of doing things. I would say I’m a pretty care-free, fly by the seat of my pants kind of guy. Whereas Tes is able to relax and enjoy the ride far more when she knows the start, finish, and all the stopping points a week or more in advance. She is also far more organized and clean than I, but I’m learning. We are confronted daily with different frustrations and trials to fight about, cool off, apologize, promise to be better, and probably fight about again the next day. This personality dichotomy was aggravated all the more living in that small space for three weeks.
The process of sanctification in marriage is exhausting enough when you’re living a normal life at home where you can get a little space to cool off. Our van was roughly 80 square feet. That doesn’t afford any room to get a little space. I would say it was a good few years of sanctification concentrated into those three weeks. We had some great conversations. We had some epic explosions. We had some of everything in between.
I now have a new appreciation for the love that God has for his children. It is constant, unchanging, and unconditional. These are words and concepts that I have heard my whole life, but it’s not until you’re forced to try and live out that kind of love that you realize how incredible it is and how far we fall short.
During the trip, we were mostly just tired of it. But looking back, I think we both appreciate and love each other more now. I know it sounds strange how all that fighting and stress could actually lead to liking your spouse more, but it’s all about our foundation and our response.
Our foundation is Christ, and our goal is to become a little more like him every day. While we rarely have that at the forefront of our minds when I leave all the cabinets open and towels on the floor or we disagree on exactly what it was that we agreed upon a few hours ago, that goal of sanctification is always our foundation. Because of that, we can try to respond by “falling forward” as Gary Thomas counsels in Sacred Marriage. We are both very sinful human beings. We fail each other and fall flat on our faces every day. But in doing so, we can try to fall forward – towards each other and towards Christ. We can stand up again in humility, apologize and ask forgiveness. These are the opportunities for sanctification. When we get to practice love, forgiveness, patience and humility on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
I believe that pursuing another human being in marriage is far and away, the hardest thing any of us will ever do. I know that’s certainly true for me. I hope that this glimpse into our lives might be encouraging to some who feel alone in this struggle, and a reality check for others who are cycling through relationship after relationship looking for that perfect soul mate who will make this relationship thing easy. We’re all sinners. We’re all broken. All you can do is try to fall forward.