Marriage Letter: On Health And Wholeness

Today, Amber and I are resetting the Marriage Letters series. Read here, then follow over to her blog for her Marriage Letter.

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Dear Amber,

To be healthy and whole—what does it mean? Is it an achievable thing?

You were barely a woman when we met, a teenage girl throwing off wild, untamable sparks. A free-spirit of the can’t-nobody-stop-me-now sort, you fell for the do-right rule-boy afraid of any shadow of rebellion. You were unbound by orthodoxy, I was bound hand and foot to Christian legalism, and in hot passion we decided the only remedy for our lovesickness was to join these two kinds of disfunction in holy matrimony.

On a warm November afternoon, we made our vows in the church on the lake. You wore a slender sleeveless dress and curled your obstinate hair. You walked the aisle and the cloud of witnesses watched as we made our future promise, “in sickness and in health.”

Two made one, this was the birth of a new life. In all our hubris, we believed that we were created healthy and whole. In our hubris, we believed ourselves invincible in that moment—us versus the world and who would stop us? Isn’t it true, though, that chinks in any armor are often hidden until the battle begins?

Marriage tests armor, and ours is no exception. There was the church run amok, the years of over-worked emotional disconnection, and the insanity of bringing three children into the world in three years. Then there was the faltering health of Titus, the uncertainty of it all, the way I took to the bottle, the way you took to the dark. Each time, chinks in the armor were exposed, and the one flesh of marriage was cut deep.

Though we still bear scars (is there a plastic surgeon for the married soul?), though we sometimes limp in our marriage waltz, we’ve found this to be true—there’s a Spirit who always manages to meet us, to bind fresh wounds, and to bring us into the greater health and wholeness.

Of course, marital healing isn’t all pie-in-the-sky mysticism and supernatural transcendence of tricky predicaments. It’s not all long-suffering perseverance and pulling yourselves up by the collective bootstraps, either.

Healing is a pictureless puzzle, but I suppose we’ve found the corner pieces. It starts with confession—so says St. James, and we’ve found this to be true. “Confess your sins one to another so that you may be healed.” It’s an uncomfortable truism, an alarming disarming that induces the sort of anxiety associated with pubic-nudity. (Yes, really.) Confession brings sickness to the doctor’s light, brings hope for the healing of wounded marriage vows.

We’ve learned, too, that sometimes we’re not equipped to bind up each other’s spiritual and emotional wounds. (We have our limits, after all.) Along the way, we’ve found good doctors who are well acquainted with the soul-healing arts. Ministers, therapist, counselors—they’ve bound our wounds a time or two. Sometimes the healing has been Good-Samaritan free; other times we’ve paid to lie face up on the proverbial leather couch. Either way, there’s no shame in admitting the need for either soul or noggin doctoring.

I suppose that brings me to crux of this letter. We took on a new resolution this year—becoming healthy and whole. The way I see it, the pursuit of a healthy and whole marriage is an extension of our wedding vows—in sickness and in health. On occasion we’re soul sick, but we stick with it, agree to pursue the wholeness of full health.

So this year, I promise to walk toward that confessional healing of old St. James, and to rely on the spiritual counselors and noggin doctors if necessary. What’s more, I promise no judgement should you need to confess, and promise no stigmatization should you need help from your own noggin doctors.

Who knows how 2015 will turn. For everything there is a season, and this might be a year of great joy, or tremendous healing laughter. There’s always a chance it could break the other way, though. Either way, I resolve to help you do what it takes to find health and wholeness, and to remain in it. And being that the good folks on this-here internet are reading this letter, some of whom comprise our family and local community, I suspect there’s a little built-in accountability. (Lord, have mercy.)

Yes, there is a season (turn, turn, turn). But no matter what that season brings, let’s push into health and wholeness together. Deal?

Loving you while limping,

Seth

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Now, follow me to Amber’s blog for her Marriage Letter. Read there to see how you can participate in this series.

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In this month’s Tiny Letter (my monthly newsletter), I’m discussing the idea of resting  within church practices. There, I’m speaking candidly about some recent changes in the Haines’ household, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Sign up to read along!

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  • David Hendren

    This is an awesome letter. It inspires me to be a better husband. Thanks for being an example for Kalli and I.

  • Deal.

    “Two made one, this was the birth of a new life.” It’s crazy to me how life keeps coming.

  • wow, those are some healthy and whole words right there. why is it the very thing i need (confession/authenticity) is the thing i am most afraid of? i need not take for granted the gift of a safe husband to practice with-and actually begin.