“Every marriage has it’s good years and bad years.
We ended on a great year.”
–Robert Duvall, as Spurgeon Tanner in Deep Impact
This quote really struck me when I first saw the movie Deep Impact in 1998, mostly because I didn’t really get it. I could only assume that he meant they got along better some years than others—that some years were fraught with discord, while others were like a honeymoon. In the early years of our marriage, I pondered this quote often…until the year 2003. Sometime late in that year of disappointed hopes, when life seemed determined to batter us with bad news on every possible front, I came to understand that quote in a new way.
We’ve had two “bad years” in our almost-twelve years of marriage. The second was 2007, which began on an emotional sucker punch with the diagnosis of Down syndrome and continued through a year of hospitalizations, overwhelming familial adjustments and grieving.
As I get farther out, though, it’s easier to see the big picture. There were many times during that year when I felt I couldn’t even draw breath between one wave of bad news and the next. Embroiled and embattled, I wanted nothing more than to wipe the entire experience off the map of my life. But 2007, despite its heartaches, contained a deluge of blessings, too—moments of heart-catching beauty, moments of such tenderness and pure joy that in retrospect, it would be ungrateful to want to wipe it off the map. And besides, how much did I learn during those months?
There are two basic ways to look at pain, suffering and hardship. One is to lose faith, to curse Heaven or fate or karma, and to get angry and bitter. The other is to cling to the Rock as a lifeline while the storm lashes your face, and in between the swells, search for what is beautiful and holy and worthy of thanks. Because there’s always a lot to be thankful for—more than there is to be depressed about. In near-death hospitalizations I discovered the blessing of medical staff who care and the power of a delicious salad to buoy the spirits through a long morning of spent listening to the sound of the hospital. I learned to appreciate the chance to enjoy fresh air on a gorgeous spring day, even in the noisiest, most traffic-congested part of town. I learned the value of Christian community and what a true blessing it is simply to have our children at home. And I learned so much more about patience and faith.
In the midst of trial and pain, it’s not easy to focus on the beautiful and holy and gratitude-worthy. But I have learned that while striving to do so may not change my heart from bitterness and resentment this instant, the efforts will bear tremendous fruit down the line. There is no fertilizer for the soul like suffering. And as long as we can cling to faith, we’ll discover that in the long run, there are no bad years. Only good years waiting to come to fruition.
Today I am grateful for ordinary life:
- Julianna’s lovely giggle
- Spiritual insights
- Two boys who adore each other
- A 1 a.m. snuggle with Julianna when the wind and rain woke her
- Cricut work waiting to be enjoyed with Alex
- A good day for toilet training
- Poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and English muffins
- A 2-year-old who is so eager to help that he goes and gets out the canisters of sugar and flour without being asked, and brings them over saying, “Beah, beah” (bread).
What are you grateful for today?