How To Start Your Story Well
Part I: Coming Home
You’re back from your honeymoon, glowing with that newlywed smugness of two people who have shared what no one else ever will— that look that says you’ve a secret you’re bursting to tell. You have no idea how happy your happiness makes me.
These are good days. Rich with discovery, bright with hope for the future. You’ve found each other, loved each other, sorted through the questions, worked through barriers, and now you’re writing history.
What story will you tell?
Thirty-six years ago, your dad and I were right where you are: just enough money to pay the bills if nothing went wrong, a pretty little place to call home, family and friends in abundance, and a job at a church that demanded time with a voraciousness that left us with no margin.
And we made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. Our first year was one long, heated hurt feeling on my part… and one long, heated frustration on your dad’s. Though to be fully transparent, in between the hurt feelings and frustrations we managed to cram in a whole lot of passionate, life-giving lovemaking.
And maybe that is why I am writing these letters to the two of you. Because I want more for you. I hope you’ll write a better first chapter to your story than we did. I hope you’ll look back on this year and remember the passion with a minimal amount of frustration and hurt feelings.
To my idealistic surprise, being a good person was not enough to have a good marriage. I tried so hard to be good, and so did your dad. But there was so much we didn’t know then, lessons we’ve learned the hard way. Lessons I want to pass on to you. Today I’ll give you just a few.
How To Start Your Story Well:
1. Take time
For most of us, that first year of marriage is like learning to navigate a new world while blindfolded. We end up bumping into things. And people. And each other. All those resultant bruises act as attention getting signs to get us to slow down, to proceed cautiously, to pay attention. Once you’ve learned where the sharp edges are, you’ll be able to breeze through most days without so much as a bump.
I wish we had purposed to take our first year slow. To do less. To expect less.
To just be… with each other… alone.
We should have spent more time paying close attention to each other, making room for the differences that rubbed wrong, allowing space to study each other, to know each other.
I think you will struggle with the same. You both love people, have a gazillion friends, have iPhones that won’t quit buzzing, and more plans that any two people could possibly accomplish.
And that’s good, great, healthy. But can you just put it all on hold for a bit? Expect less of yourselves? Expect less of each other? Just for this first year?
Because paying close attention to each other takes time at first. If you’re not careful you’ll misinterpret each other, take things too personally, get your feelings hurt and your nose pushed out of joint. Or you’ll stumble blindly forward, clueless to the damage your heedlessness is inflicting on the one you love more than life itself.
To that end, I have a second piece of advice…
2. Check in
When we were first married, many of our misunderstandings happened as a result of un-communiction.
We were up late most nights, a requirement of a pastor at a megachurch in the 70’s. Being busy was proof of value— or so we believed. We’d fall into bed too tired to talk, then be up and out the door for work with barely a chance to think, let alone converse.
We saved most of our communication for our one day off together… and ended up arguing our way through that day, knowing we’d have no time to resolve it during the week, knowing that if we didn’t get the hurt cleaned up now, it would only get worse.
Not exactly a tasty recipe for a healthy relationship.
Out of that failure, we began to see the need for a daily time of connection. Not a long, how are you feeling about life kind of conversation, but just a few moments to go over schedules, know how to pray for each other, look each other in the eye, value each other’s time, and accommodate each other’s reality.
We take each other’s temperatures: Is he stressed about that meeting? Feeling pressured by her to-do list? Should I back off my expectations?
In those few minutes we keep Paul’s advice to his friends in Ephesus in mind:
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,
entreat you to walk in a manner
worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
showing forbearance to one another in love,
being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Ephesians 4:1-3 NASB
I have more to say on this matter of beginning your story well but I think maybe that’s enough to chew on for now.
I hope you will spend some time together this week talking about practical ways to slow down your schedule in order to take the time to know each other, and carve out a time to connect every day so that you’ll work together in this new reality. It won’t happen by accident. You’ll have to be intentional about starting your story slower and with a greater understanding of each other. But, oh it’s worth it!
I’ll be back next week with part 2 of How To Start Your Story Well.
From my heart,
P.S. For those who are reading:
Have you figured out how to do this? What rhythm is working for you? Your ideas will help strengthen the relationships of others who are trying to get it right.