Nathan is Best Man material.

I say this because he has been in two weddings so far, and has been the Best Man in each.  He’s also the Best Man for a wedding this upcoming June. So, Best Man x 3. He’s not the type to have a thousand acquaintances; he has a few meaningful friendships, and they are truly valued and invested in.

Lately, we’ve been talking about his upcoming Best Man speech. Ezra, the groom, was the Best Man at our wedding, and his speech was approximately two sentences long. Followed by my sister’s Maid of Honor speech, that was maybe a minute long, and included a terribly embarrassing story. (We’re looking at YOU, Ezra and Lexie- THE PAYBACK IS NEAR. Smiles, hugs, xoxo)

Nathan is like REALLY funny. Not that obvious, loud, looking for attention funny, but the quiet, quick witted kind that always leaves me rolling in laughter. It’s the best. And he’s also so, so eloquent and great with the words. As you can imagine, I’m really looking forward to his speech.

As we joked about what to include, I paused for a moment and changed the tone. “The thing is,” I said, “It’s hard for me to not look at newlyweds and want to yell out, ‘FRIEND. WATCH OUT. MARRIAGE IS HARD. DON’T BELIEVE THOSE ROSE COLORED GLASSES! THEY ARE LIARS! PREPARE YOURSELVES!!!!” and we both laughed. Marriage IS hard. We’ve fought through more battles than I ever hoped to on our big day- sitting there listening to all our well wishes and encouragements. Don’t get me wrong here- I don’t want to sound like a bitter old hag, but if you’re married, I know you know what I’m talking about.

Our conversation began to shift to reflection. We reflected on our years of walking out our vows in ways we never hoped we would. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. All of these beautiful sentiments, that now have a deep sense of beauty and pain, somehow all mixed together.

We boiled it down to this truth: instead of wishing newlyweds a “joyful life”, we actually wish for them struggles and pain.  That sounds like REALLY TERRIBLE, right? I know, friend. But hear me out. There is something oh so beautiful about being broken with someone. And in the forming of a new union- two becoming one- being broken together enables you to change, form anew, and become one in a way that’s impossible without the breaking.

It’s no secret that your spouse is going to change over the course of your life together- that’s just a fact.  And you’re going to change too. The struggle comes when our reality refuses to match up with our expectations. And there couples sit on their wedding day: full of expectant hope. Hopeful that they made the right choice, hopeful that their life won’t turn out like Aunt Susan’s and Uncle Bob’s, hopeful that this day will see them through. All the anticipation, the build up, the freaking hard work to put a wedding together- and ahhh. Finally. “We’re married and we made it!”

I truly wish it was easy like that.

The breaking for us began on the second night of our honeymoon. And eight years later, I’m not sure that it’s over. As each expectation we had for our life slowly began to crumble, we broke a little more. When I had a life threatening bout of c.diff, we broke again. When we struggled with secondary infertility, I thought every piece was shattered and we couldn’t possibly break further. I was wrong. Miscarriage was shattering. And now here we stand, in a pile of shattered pieces of dreams and hopes and misplaced expectations.

And I gotta tell you, friend, we’ve never been stronger or more in love.

Nathan came home from dinner with a friend the other night. That friend’s in-law’s had miscarried in the past, and it almost tore their marriage apart. (Which, by the way, is not uncommon, and I’m not judging them for it. And if that has been your story, friend, don’t write me off here, our breakings all come in different ways.) As he was telling me about this conversation, he just paused, standing close to me.

“I can’t imagine losing both Judah AND you.” he said in a soft voice. I took his hand. “I know, babe. It’s strange, maybe, but I’ve never felt closer to you than we we lost our babe.” “Same.” he replied, as we sat in silence for a few moments.

And then we talked about how that wouldn’t have been our story if it had happened to us when we were walking through secondary infertility. That season caused an anger in me like nothing else. And it made Nathan feel so out of control, so helpless. We were both dealing with it in such different ways, and those different ways caused deep rifts that threatened to end us. If we had lost a baby during that time? I would be telling you such a different story, my friend.

But we didn’t. Jesus knew. Instead, we embraced the breaking we were in, found healing and hope in Him, and it made us stronger. That season taught me a lot about hope. And it taught me that my hope was found anywhere but in Jesus. Like what in the world, right? I’ve been walking with the Lord for so long. I was in ministry for nearly a decade. I told hundreds of people to place their hope in Him. It shook me to my core. But it wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling. That shaking, the realization of misplaced hope- I had felt it before. It was the shaking I felt when we first got married. The realization that I had high expectations in things that were not actually under my domain.

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Lately, I’ve been saying “Expectations low, hopes high.” I thought it was just my inner mantra, fueling me through this season we’ve been in, until Ella recited it to me the other day. “What did you say?” I quickly responded to her- confused as to how she could even know that phrase. “Expectations low, hopes high. Isn’t that what you’ve been saying? Like I shouldn’t expect this ice cream, but I can hope for it. Expectations low, hopes high.” I just blankly stared at her. I guess I’ve been saying it out loud more than I’ve realized.

I’ve learned that expectations are not our friends. They set us up for failure or fantasy all too often, and rarely deliver. They cause strife, relationship drama, and such unnecessary pain when they aren’t met. Hope, on the other hand, hope is the anchor to our souls. But here’s the thing about hope, that I learned in all our breaking: if our hope is in anything but Jesus, it will fall and break too. And friend- ain’t nobody got time for that.

Hope in Jesus is trusting that He’ll work all things together for your good, even when what’s in front of you is bad. Hope in Jesus is trusting His timing instead of your own. Hope in Jesus is trusting that He will provide for you, even when you don’t get what you think you need. And hope in Jesus means trusting that He’ll do what He says He’s going to do.

Expectations low, hopes high.

My friend, where are your hopes today? Are they anywhere else but in His hands? Have your expectations been higher than your hopes? This one always sneaks up on me, especially in my relationships. I have all these unrealistic expectations without even knowing it. And that’s why, if I were to write a Best Man speech for Nathan, this is what I would say (after “Congrats, we love you, blah blah blah):

“I’m not going to stand here and tell you that I hope your marriage is easy or fun, because it will be both of those things sometimes. But most of the time, especially at first, you will feel like all of you is breaking, and you’ll both just stare at the pieces of yourself on the floor that you don’t quite know how to pick up and put back together. My hope for you is this: that you will pick up those pieces, both of you, and form a new self. One self that is both of you, and is built on The Rock instead of the sands of expectations. A self that is humbly put back together with hope as its glue.

I want to talk to you about metals today: gold and bronze. Pure gold is beautiful, for sure. But it’s not very strong. Bronze on the other hand, is not as pretty, and it’s made up of two soft metals: tin and copper. those two metals are pretty soft on their own, but when they are placed in a crucible over a fire, they melt together and become stronger because of it. And that gets to be you, my friends. A fire is coming– I’m not gonna stand up here and lie to you– the fire comes for all of us.  But if you’ll let it, that fire will be the catalyst for the two of you to truly become one. Don’t shy away from the fire, and certainly don’t go it alone. Together, hand in hand, walk in it, walk through it, let it burn away what it needs to, and let it bring a breaking in your life. Our natural tendency is to run FROM fire, not into it. But there is beauty in the breaking, my friend. A beauty that you can’t get any other way. A beauty that looks more like bronze than gold.

We all expect gold on our wedding day. But if we’re being honest here, the beautiful marriages are more bronze than gold. They don’t always look the way we’d think. They’re made up of two people who weren’t afraid of fire or breaking. Two people who are willing to choose each other every day. Two people who decide to keep expectations low, and hopes in Jesus high. And two people who will do the hard work it takes to pick the pieces up off the floor, and build something more beautiful than they were before.

I hope that you choose to be those two people, my friends. And I hope that you will challenge yourself to begin to see the value in the bronze instead of the gold. We are all cheering for you and praying this: that your breaking would be complete, and through it, your joy in each other greater than you could ever know.”

Maybe this is for you today, or maybe it’s for a friend. Either way, my heart is FOR you and your spouse. I’m cheering for you in the fire, and I can’t wait to see that bronze start to shine.

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