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I start this post not with a story about marriage, but with a vulnerable story about parenting.
I do have a point about marriage, though, so hang in there with me.
I've felt humbled lately. And by lately, I mean the past three years.
You see, our youngest child has struggles. I wish I could say they were "run-of-the-mill strong-willed child" type of struggles, but I'm long beyond naivety of that shade.
He is 7, but from the time he was about 3, his defiance has been beyond challenging. It took 3 years to potty train him (and even now it is questionable if he truly is completely trained in that regard. That, however, is the least of our worries).
All of kindergarten last year and all of first grade this year, he has told us he hates school -- to the point there are days when he would try to pull the fire alarm in the school if he is not restrained.
He is awkward socially -- a prime candidate to be bullied, or to possibly be a bully someday.
Keep in mind, this is a kid being parented by good parents. Oh, we are not perfect (who is?), but as far as homes to be born into, this kid scored the jackpot.
He has two parents who love and respect each other, he has stability of a full tummy, a safe home, a warm bed and foundational Christian values.
We regularly pray for him and with him. We encourage him, laugh with him and listen to him.
We are his advocates in every possible way a kid like him could have an advocate.
He has structure and discipline. We are involved in his life, aware of his schoolwork and present in countless ways.
He has an extended family who loves him. He gets to do many of the activities typical of childhood... swim lessons, day camps at the zoo, baseball, fun family outings, holiday traditions and so forth.
And yet, his behavior is incredibly unpredictable. He is by every definition I could imagine, a tormented soul.
He can be delightfully kind and profoundly tender one moment; and have a complete lack of empathy and self-control the next. Incredibly volatile behavior.
We've been to counselors and child psychologists. We've had him tested for Asperger's. We've ruled out ADHD and a slew of other conditions that would offer us textbook answers to his erratic behavior. Lately he is telling us he wants to harm himself. Can you even imagine what that does to our hearts? We find ourselves second-guessing, "Is it just a manipulative ploy? Or is it a sign of more pain to come?"
He is 7, people. 7.
What is my point and what on earth does this have to do with marriage?
Well, sometimes all the good parenting in the world is no guarantee that the struggles aren't going to be intense with a child. Nature? Nurture? If someone walked in our shoes for 48 hours, their philosophical banter would vanish into thin air.
Such is true with marriage.
In some marriages, you can have one spouse who is doing all the "right" things... all the "textbook" things... all the things that clearly reflect God's heart and design for marriage.
And yet, the struggles continue.
There are no guarantees.
Now, I know that walking in the direction of health and righteousness, whether it be as a parent or as a spouse, certainly ups the odds that things will turn out nicely.
After all, I regularly write with such tone on this blog... that it is better to walk in the direction of health than to resort to destructive ungodly behavior. And often, heading in the direction of health does indeed open up the floodgates of unbelievable blessings.
All that being said, I just want to write a post of affirmation to those of you out there who are desperately and prayerfully trying to improve your marriage, all to no avail.
Nothing tangible that indicates a stable marriage is reflected in your life now -- or on the horizon, as far as you can see.
Two steps forward is inevitably crushed by three or four steps back.
Things aren't getting better. They may even be getting worse. A lot worse.
If that describes you, I pray you allow such tragic sadness to drive you toward the Savior.
As a parent in the midst of a heart-wrenching journey, I find that the Savior's arms are all that are getting me through. Seriously.
I have to trust that someday, all of this will make sense to me. I'd prefer that "someday" be sooner than later, but maybe it all won't get better... at least not this side of heaven. I have no choice but to prepare my heart that my "someday" with my son may not come in the way I long for it to come.
I try to lean toward optimism. But honestly... lately... I'm just leaning on the Lord.
He is consolation that the world has yet to give me. My hope is indeed in Him.
Where is your hope if things in your marriage don't get better?
Copyright 2012, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.