If you’ve been reading this blog or went to the funeral, you’ve read or heard a lot of words about how great of a man Vance was. Every single one of them is true. Every. single. one.
But that doesn’t mean that he was perfect. He wasn’t. He was just as human as the rest of us.
I’m certainly not perfect either. I mean, like not even close. Very, very, frustratingly human.
And so, our marriage wasn’t perfect either. In fact, it was often a great mess.
We got married a couple weeks after I turned 23. At the time I thought I was so mature and grown up. Now I think I was just a baby. Awfully young to make such a huge decision as to who to spend the rest of my life with, for sure.
But I did. I chose Vance. And he chose me.
Over the years I often asked him why he would chose me. In all my insecurities and imperfections. In all my sins. All of my anger. All my impossible standards and frustration when they weren’t met. He always just told me that he loved me. That I was who God had for him. He’d had his heart broken before and really didn’t think he’d ever again find a woman he could trust with his heart.
But he did. He found me. Chose me. And loved me through all of those imperfections and more. Through things you probably wouldn’t even believe and things that would make you cry, laugh and nod your head. Vance was fierce in his love and he chose me to love.
But love doesn’t always mean that you live a life full of smiles and sunshine. I mean, yes, there were a lot of smiles and a whole lot of sunshine but there were plenty of tears and dark days. We fought like Spartans. Screaming, yelling, the occasional thrown object. Okay, that was mostly me doing the screaming, yelling and occasional throwing.
Vance was more passive aggressive than confrontational. He didn’t necessarily take me head-on, he just didn’t answer me and then did whatever he wanted.
You might be surprised by this, but I did not always respond well to that. I know, right? But seriously, it could drive me nuts.
And I know I drove him nuts.
Often. All the freaking time. Because we were different human beings who came at things from different perspectives. Life was not perfect. Sometimes I wouldn’t have even called it good. We fought over kids, money, all the sets of in-laws, him not tying his shoelaces and which way the hangers in the closet should face. All the regular stuff and all the quirky stuff.
I thought about leaving. Or kicking him out.
I know he thought about giving up, too.
I’m a yeller. Always have been. Vance was not. But every once in a while, I’d cross a line and he’d very loudly let me know it. There were a few big fights that ended with screaming, doors slamming and eventually one of us driving off angry.
Those were the worst. The waiting to see if he would come back. The waiting to calm down and see things clearly before I could come home.
He always came back. I always came home.
And that made all the difference.
It wasn’t always pretty. If Vance had lived another twenty years, I know we would have had a million more knock-down drag-outs. But I also know that we would have made it through every single one of them.
Because love – marriage – it’s not about butterflies and roses. As my friend Casey put it, it’s about trudging through the shit storm together. About choosing each other when you’re neck-deep and angry. Forgiving when it’s so freaking hard. Staying when culture tells you to just walk away.
Charlie Peacock wrote a song in 1990 called “Almost Thew It All Away.” The album came out almost a decade before we got married. I had the words memorized in high school because The Secret of Time was one of my favorite CDs ever. That old song on Track 5 probably describes my marriage better than any other. The chorus goes like this:
“We never gave up. We never gave in. We didn’t say, “No, I can’t take any more of this.” You never gave up on me. You never gave in. You refused to believe that love had come to an end.“
That’s what love is. Refusing to give up. Patience at the end of your rope. Kindness when you just want to throw jabs. Not keeping track of all his wrongs in a little black notebook. Celebrating each others’ victories, not being jealous of them. Not saying “I told you so” when your beloved messes up. Not being rude or selfish but putting another person above yourself. Love stays. (See I Corinthians 13.)
That’s the only kind of love worth having.