on 5 years, and ordinary extravagance
“Everything is different,” I sighed, as we lay in bed, awake at a too-late hour.
“It’s not just the house, and the city and the job. Everything. Even my body is different. My clothes don’t fit. I don’t recognize myself. Everything is literally completely different than it was 6 months ago.”
I rolled out of bed, rushed into the bathroom and cried.
It feels like we’ve been changing our whole marriage, almost. 5 precious years and counting, each day marked with a prayer that we can do this forever. But even when Price sometimes smiles at me and says “that’s the old Melanie I fell in love with,” I close my eyes and remember the red-headed boy in an orange button down, riding up on his red bicycle outside of that old brick building on Belmont’s campus. “He’s cute,” I thought about my new debate partner. Little did I know—or perhaps, somewhere deep inside my dreamer’s heart I did—that we would be not only each other’s partner at the podium, but 9 years later we would be each other’s everything.
And yet in those 9 years, I have been so many different iterations of Melanie that sometimes I don’t know what hat to put on in the morning. And in the 5 years since I first became a stranger to myself, when I changed my name and began to share a bed and a fridge and a life, we’ve lived in 3 different towns and dreamed a thousand different dreams. But we’ve done it together, and this mystery of two-becoming-one has made us both a little uncomfortable in our own skin, and a little more comfortable in the skin we share. I become more of a stranger to myself everyday, and isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?
This change is the pattern and practice of our marriage, where our vows are bent and stretched every day. We live a sort of ordinary extravagance, where mercies are new each morning and gratitude is echoed each night. It’s not a fairy tale, but a hard-fought fight.
When I came back to bed, empty and ashamed, he pulled me close and whispered love. “I’m completely enamored with you,” he said - and his eyes widened as he ran his hand over my bowling-ball belly. The baby wiggled. His gulf-blue eyes lit up even more.
It doesn’t matter that I cry all the time, or that none of my clothes fit. It doesn’t matter that everything is different and changing yet again, because one thing isn’t.
There is a red-headed boy that fell in love with me once, and falls in love with me a little bit more every day. His love is the same—even though I run out of love for myself approximately 100 times a day, and I break down in tears at the drop of a hat, and I scrutinize every square inch of my expanding body, and I forget what a beautiful thing is happening inside of me, one minute and heartbeat at a time. His love is steady, and it moves me along.
And I think for the first time in 5 years of marriage, I understand what it really means to be one flesh. Because deep inside my own flesh and bones sits a tiny human that is half me and half him, and that I pray has his red hair and perfect patience, that I hope has my blue eyes and spark of cynicism. My body is a stranger. My body is not my own anymore, but it’s being given over every day to this new person that we created together.
So when I get stuck on the couch because of my protruding belly or sheer exhaustion, or when I whisper “faint” and ask for a cup of juice, Price is there to pull me up with a smile or pour me a cup of my favorite Trader Joe’s grapefruit. And when I catch myself spinning a web of selfishness and lies about who I am or who I’m going to be or who I’ll never be again, he is there to smile and say—“I’ve never loved you more than I do right now.”
We’ve always debated that little passage in Ephesians 5—the call that wives are to submit to their husbands. But Price has never gotten stuck there. He dwells and debates and lives in the verses after—“husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.”
When we stood at the front of a little old church 5 years ago, and with tears spilling over onto our baby-cheeks, we paused for a song, about Christ’s love for the church.
He loves through every changing scene,
Nor aught from Him can Zion wean,
Not all the wanderings of her heart,
Can make His love for her depart.
In this strange-and-beautitful season, when our little partnership of 2 is becoming, one day at a time, a little family of 3, we are learning each day anew what it means to love through every changing scene. And I am grateful to be married to a man who is giving himself up for me each day, as I am giving myself up for our little baby, and we are together submitting each new dawn to the One who gave himself up for us so long ago.
Two become one, two become three. This is the mystery.