I arrive home from a work meeting to the sounds of my husband and almost two-year-old son giggling and playing in the bedroom upstairs. I rush up to greet them, thankful to be home. We say hello as I try to cajole a kiss out of my busy boy. My husband nonchalantly looks at me and says, “You should see what happened in the bathroom.”
The words no one wants to hear on a Sunday afternoon. Or ever, really.
An overflowed toilet.
A broken pipe.
Why is there always cat puke?
In my head, I’m already chastising my husband for not cleaning up whatever is in the bathroom before I got home. Doesn’t he know I’m tired? Doesn’t he know I hate coming home to a mess?
I hold back the anger that is boiling under the surface. The anger that says I deserve to come home to a clean house. I sigh, brace myself, and open the door.
There is a reason they call marriage holy work. It’s the push and pull of personalities, sin, opposing desires and backgrounds. It is sanctification, personified. It chafes against everything that is natural and easy, and asks you to do and be more.
He retreats into himself when you’re begging for connection. You yell harsh words, knowing they will sting. He hasn’t showered in a couple of days, and you haven’t put on a real pair of pants in five.
They tell you that you have to love through and figure out the “quirks”—toilet paper this way or that. But they don’t tell you that you’ll be loving a broken person. Not just a quirky person. They don’t tell you that you have to heal your own broken heart. Not really. And then somehow, those two very broken people have to build a life. That right there is why a happily married couple, in year 30 or 40 or 50 is so incredibly precious.
When I look back over the span of our life together, I am often engulfed with the hard memories. Overwhelmed, not with the image of smiling faces in a photo, but the memory of the fight that happened moments before the camera click.
Simple things in our home, like our living room couch, will unexpectedly wash vivid memories over me. It was the first piece of furniture we bought when our marriage was new and naive. Now, I look at the brown microfiber and see two people sitting near each other, but with hearts that are so far apart.
I think about the smiling, laughing boy in our life—our biggest joy, our son, the blessing we don’t deserve. How somehow, in the year we barely spoke, and didn’t know if we’d make it, God saw fit to give us a surprise baby.
And then our wedding day, when it rained all day. Literally all day; it set a record for rainfall in our city. They say it’s good luck to have rain on your wedding day, and by the way the skies unloaded, we should have been the happiest couple in our town. But that luck has seemed to miss us. I wonder if we should have known that the darkness of the sky was the foreshadowing of what was to come. Months of planning our perfect day didn’t translate to a perfect life.
Seven hard years and months of major disagreement on a life decision for our family, all built the tension that finally erupted into this week. Day after day of fighting, crying, harsh words, pleading, entreating - and no closer to a resolution. Will this be the fight that finally brings us to the point of no return? Will that be the thing I said that he will never forgive?
On the Sunday after one of the hardest weeks of our marriage, I’m told that I need to see what happened in the bathroom.
What now? What could it possibly be now?
I hesitantly crack the door open.I am shocked to see shattered glass everywhere.The hardware holding the mirror broke and it crashed to the floor.
“We were playing outside and heard something crash inside,” he says.
“This just figures,” I reply. Seven years of ‘bad luck’ and a broken mirror.”
My husband, being the calm, stoic, dry humor kind of guy that he is says,” Hmm ... sounds like a country song.”
We both start laughing. But it’s one of those, I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening, there-is-nothing-to-do-but-laugh, kind of moments. Under the layers of pain, we are still there. We haven’t laughed in days. But this moment, and his smile, feels like hope.
Broken glass anywhere is not good. But the room in your home where you don’t wear any clothes and walk around bare-footed is probably the worst spot to be surprised by a shard of glass.
He gets the vacuum and I get the garbage bags. We clean up the pieces together and take turns vacuuming up the remains to make sure we don’t miss anything.
It’s really messy. We have to be careful where we step, and how we pick up each shard. There is vulnerability and a potential to get hurt. But the mess needs to be cleaned up. We cannot leave broken glass all over the floor. I get our shoes to protect our bare feet. He holds the bag and points out the pieces, reminding me to be careful. We work in tandem, as one fluid person. Helping each other, together.
Our eyes and vacuum nozzle fall on every single crevice. We find glass in places we didn’t know existed. We find glass in places we already vacuumed once.
When we’re finished, the bathroom is cleaner than it was before we started, but there are divots in the vinyl floor where the mirror struck before it shattered. Those marks will always be a part of the floor.
As we bring the garbage bags down to the garage, I can’t help but see the resemblance between this mess and our own relational mess. The hard and holy work of healing our marriage is not so different from cleaning up the shards of a shattered mirror.
My sin and selfishness hides in the parts of my heart and mind that I didn’t know existed. It hides in the parts that I thought I already cleaned up. God is doing the hard work in both of our lives to change us. He is painfully and purposefully bringing those things to light, and inviting us to tend to what‘s broken.
The scars of our hard relationship will always be a part of our hearts. But just because something is scarred doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.
The mirror incident has become a tangible reminder of who God is and how he works even amongst the most broken parts of our lives. He isn’t fixing the old mirror. He isn’t taping it back together. He isn’t just fastening on a few new pieces of hardware. He shattered what we thought love was, what marriage was, what forgiveness was. He shows us a better way.: how He radically loves and is creating something completely new.
I want to stick around to see it completed. It’s a good thing I don’t believe in bad luck.
Guest post written by Kasey Johnson. Kasey is a wife and mom to one son in her home state of New York. This is her first written piece and is just starting to dabble in this craft! She feels most comfortable during the Northeast autumn months and believes wholeheartedly in licensed, Christian counseling.