Before and Afters

Garage clean out.

Winter is the time that I start to feel smothered and trapped by the cold temperatures and short days. These feelings of angst often result in my semi-annual house detox! I temporarily lose any sense of sentimentality and am consumed by the need for breathing room. 

The other day, my husband took on an organizing project in a section of our garage that had accumulated many of his “to do” projects and lose materials. Kudos to him because he happily started it on his own.  Unfortunately, it took me two days to finally take notice of the end result myself.  I immediately thought; I wish there would have been a “before” picture, because it was such a dramatic change!

Marriage is a transformative journey similar to a construction project.  Over a lifetime, it is a compilation of before and afters.  I heard a phrase a couple years ago called “the art of deconstructing”.  That isn’t something you naturally think of when it comes to building a marriage.  You don’t think of deconstruction or demolition, we usually only think of building. We often focus only on the “after” pictures ready to move onto the next project without stopping to see the process. We forget to examine the details from before that once were not so beautiful and have now been re-done. We also fail to remember the hard work and beauty that got us to that point. We neglect that moment of rest-filled gratitude and sense of accomplishment or completion.  We forget to be thankful to our spouse, ourselves and especially our Maker for the miraculous work that has taken place.  Small or large – transformative work is ALWAYS a miracle. 

These “pictures” at different stages represent many of the hard decisions that were made, the labor and sweat of breaking down walls and the perseverance of building new ones.  They represent the paralyzing feelings of hoping it will turn out as you envision when you have to make a decision. Those painful moments of clean out where everything has to be removed or “deconstructed” because you need a blank canvas.  It seems empty and uncertain, but some things will be brought back into the new picture and some things will have to go.  Both partners have the difficult task of deciding what will stay and what they have to let go of for the sake of the new outcome.  If only one is willing to sacrifice, then the end project will be incomplete, confusing and not brought to its full potential. It may even be just another one of those long drawn out “unfinished” rooms if we each aren’t willing to let go of the old.

The art of loving our spouse through all the beauty and ugliness takes constant practice.  Allowing flexibility to be built in us is painful when we often want our own way or desperately seek to be understood.  We sometimes must fight the urge to run or bail out from the change – because ultimately we are running from the change we need in ourselves. 

Some marriages are painful because sometimes only one person heeds the call, and this results in the transformative work being done alone with their Maker and taking much longer than necessary.  Sometimes the work ceases and you end up with an abandoned constructoin site that has great historical value if it just had “a little love”.

Some people have the rare gift of a marriage that has more seasons of teamwork and shared vision than others.  It can be tempting to comppare, but we must keep our eyes on our unique journey put in place just for us. For all of us though, we each are personally invited to be changed by this unique relationship. It is an opportunity wrapped in challenges and joy. We can accept the invitation, daily, or reject it.  I have had my seasons that I chose to reject the work that needs to be done and it drug out the process as well as hurt the person I loved most.  On the other side of all the deconstruction and rebuilding comes a new person and a beautiful picture of oneness. There is so much power in perseverance and sometimes just as much power in yielding! Choosing to be present, committed and in pursuit with your spouse is truly another representation of a COURAGEOUS HUMAN. Showing up when it is painful as well as adventurous and amazing takes the greatest kind of bravery.

So, go take your before pictures and roll up your sleeves.

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