There are long days. The days where you wake up full of your own self, your own thoughts, your own worries – and there is the other person, the one whom you love, awaiting you.
And you brush your teeth and think about what clothes to wear and what work needs to be done that day, and you think you’ll fall behind if you don’t spend every ounce of yourself in your new work, in school, in all the big bold things God brought you here to do.
And you’ll eat your yogurt and say something you don’t even think twice about, which is the problem, of course, that you didn’t even think about it, and then you are caught, not just by this person whom you love – no, you are caught too by that description of Jesus from Philippians 2 –
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited;
but emptied himself
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death –
even death on a cross.”
And it goes on, this kenotic hymn of such clarifying, terrifying beauty, you know that moment you hear something you keep wishing you wouldn’t hear? Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2.4-8 above, then 12-13)
Most of the time, my husband goes first in the self-emptying.
I am grateful that marriage is a self-emptying work. One that I fail at, more often than I can accurately describe. Because the work isn’t a trick of convention or a sudden blaze of glory. It is smallness made holy, an unbecoming of so much of what we grow accustomed to being – caught in our own worlds, however beautiful they are, however good, however purposeful. We grow used to our largeness, the hero-of-our-own-life-ness, the safety of being wrapped up in ourselves.
And then we are charged to work out our salvation, to self-empty, to loosen our grasp of the secure circular thoughts and to love one another. To love another.
My husband so often goes first. So often, he asks the first question, calls out for me, insists on knowing what’s behind the sigh or the half smile or the look-away or the hopeful side glance. And in the long days, when even your two-months-of-gratitude post is late, that calling out is an aching kind of love.
I don’t know if gratitude can truly capture it, how it makes me see him, see myself, how often I forget that we live and move in tandem with each other, how it is such work, such hard, gratifying, knees in the dirt work, to love each other.
He reminds me to cherish the work that is love.
The longest days, when it takes self-emptying, you sense that you are at the very beginning of the work. You eat your yogurt and you hear God tell you again –
This work of love is the coming alive of you.
To have this mindset, as was in Christ Jesus,
to empty, to become small again, to remember
the terrifying and beautiful fear and trembling,
and God, who works in us.