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Still Dancing

January 29, 2014

I’m doing something almost unheard of for me.  I am reading a book for a second time.  While that in itself isn’t terribly uncommon, the unusual part is that I am reading the book two months in a row.

Normally, I read books and do one of three things:  I return the book to the library, I put the book on my Half Price Books stack, or I find a home for a book on the shelf.  The first time I read Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey, I was careful not to mark in it–I took photos of the quotes I wanted to remember, just in case I decided to put it on my Half Price Books stack (because really, who wants a second hand book that’s all marked up with underlines, smiley faces, exclamation points, and hearts?).  About a third of the way through the book, I decided it was a keeper, but I still refrained from marking in it for some reason.

As I mentioned in a previous post, many of the books I’ve read this month have challenged me significantly.  After Selling Water by the River (Hipps), I decided I needed a break.  Over at SheLoves, my favorite online “magazine,” they started a book club.  Their first book is Jesus Feminist.  Why not? I thought.  I knew this book was a gentle reminder instead of an earth shatterer.  I need books of both kinds.

I’ve read some of the books Bessey references–Half the Sky (Kristoff and WuDunn), Half the Church (Custis James), and both of Rachel Held Evans books.  I’ve heard the debates for before about the need for Jesus feminists–how we should use the gifts God gave us, even if they are preaching.  What I love most about Bessey’s book isn’t her justification for equality of women in the church, although I am on board with that.  My favorite part is her description of marriage.

Let’s be honest.  None of us have perfect marriages.  We all have times we struggle and don’t communicate and connect as well.  We all bring all of our past with us into our marriages no matter what that may be.  We’re human.  There’s nothing wrong with any of that.  It’s part of it.  Part of what makes a  couple celebrating their tenth or twentieth or thirtieth or fiftieth, or even their seventeenth wedding anniversary so special is the knowledge that no marriage is perfect.  Wedding anniversaries are important to acknowledge and celebrate because it is a way of saying, “Hey, we made it through another year!  We managed to set aside ourselves enough to remain this new, somewhat-unified being.”  Anniversaries are acknowledgements of overcoming difficulties and struggles and just plain old everyday life, which sometimes isn’t easy.

I kind of expected that once my kids were this age, marriage would be easier.  Granted, my marriage has never been particularly difficult, just the normal bumps, but I for some reason, I thought the elementary school years would be lots of time for Curtis and I to sit and gaze deeply into each others’ eyes or to go out to dinner have deep theological and philosophical talks.   It hasn’t quite been that way.  While we are both sleeping better, which I thought was the culprit–my sleep depravation, we didn’t have any more time for us.  We seemed to pass each other in the driveway more often.  I would take one kid and he would stay up with the others, or vice versa.  Saturday mornings, we juggle three sports schedule, not seeing much of each other until the afternoon, when it was all done.

With work schedules and kid schedules, connecting with each other has been harder this past year than some.  We are no longer in the trenches of babies.  Our kids are easier to take care of and for the most part, we’ve got our household routines and rules down.  We learned that we must take the time and effort to talk in the evenings–to turn off the TV and close our books and check in on each other.  Like so many hard things, it’s been a good thing.  That may be why I appreciated Bessey’s words on marriage so much:

We have gone to the high places and the lowest places of each other, crossing the dry desert, drinking deep of the oasis, and we are still dancing.

My husband has forgiven me when I could not forgive myself for how I had hurt us.  I have held him up when he was sinking in the mires, praying joy right back into him at night in our bed while he was sleeping.  Sometimes–oh my–we can infuriate each other, and we’re just so different from each other; but there is bone-deep knowing that we–this marriage, all of it–are meant to be.

Bessey put into words so well what the past ten years, and the past year in particular, have been like.  There is no shame in crossing dry deserts or sinking in mires.  Both Curtis and I have done both, multiple times.  Yet we are still dancing.

We are still dancing.

In my reading this month, I also read Ann Patchett’s new book of essays, This is a Story of a Happy Marriage.  When I got to the title essay, I found one part that resonated with me as well as I thought about marriage, and our marriage in particular.  Patchett writes:

We do things differently, and very often we do, I remind that it is rarely a matter of right and wrong.  We are simply two adults who grew up in different houses far away from one another.

To extend on Bessey’s metaphor of dancing, there is no right or wrong way to dance.  Granted, others may laugh at your dance, toes may get stepped on, but there’s a lot of laughter in dancing as well.  We learn each other’s dance, and over time, create our own dance.

Back to Bessey (but the emphasis is mine):

And I know just when to slide into my turn as the shadow; but we’ve stomped on each other’s toes a time or two, been horribly out of step–oh yes.  Sometimes he leads; sometimes I lead.  It changes because our relationship is alive and organic, still developing–but it’s always us, trusting each other’s heart, trusting we hear the same music from the old piano.  We’re still learning to move seamlessly together.  If we can’t move together, then we wait, holding on, in the pause between steps.

Bessey says many other beautiful, challenging things in her book.  This second time through, I just went ahead and put a heart by chapter titles because I loved the whole chapter.  However, in this ordinary, elementary (school-aged) time I am living in now, it was the dancing I needed to be reminded of.  It was the arms around my waist, swaying that was important for me to remember.  I needed a reminder to work to be connected to Curtis, that this hard work we do in carving out space for the other to fit into, is some of the most important work I am doing now.  Otherwise we fail to hear the same music and our dance steps are terribly uncoordinated.

We are still dancing.

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(I read Jesus Feminist as part of She Loves Magazine January book club.  Check out another response to the book and the discussion over at shelovesmagazine.com)

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