Trust falls + sacrifices: the 2nd annual comment on marriage.
On December 10, Lane and I hit the two-year mark of marriage.
Right after I got married, people started asking me to write posts about marriage. I've had to politely decline each request with the same answer, "I know little to nothing about marriage. I'll write a post about marriage in 30 years."
I joked at my wedding and said I would write a marriage post-- just one-- every anniversary. So here it is... my 2nd annual marriage post. It’s a little late but you’ll understand why as you read on.
When I was in high school, there was this extracurricular course called Project Adventure that nearly all my classmates took. It replaced gym for a whole semester with ropes courses, outdoor excursions, and all sorts of team-building activities. I’d heard from people that there is one part of the course where you are forced to do a trust fall from a platform into the arms of your classmates while blind-folded. And that was the sole reason I never took Project Adventure as a class. I hate trust falls. I am more willing to play volleyball (which I equally hate) than to free fall into the arms of my classmates hoping they will catch me.
Maybe I’m scarred by that part in Mean Girls. Maybe I’ve long let fear be a narrator in my head. I’m not sure. But I’ve never grown to like or appreciate trust falls. Sometimes Lane and I practice and I still find it mentally impossible to will myself to fall backward. There’s something I cannot get past in my own stubborn mind: the fear that I won’t be caught.
Lane and I bought a home in December. One week before Christmas, we packed up the existence we’ve solidified through 2 years of marriage into IKEA bags and moved into our first house. Up to this point, we’d been living in an industrial loft. It’s as hipster as it sounds. Our home was a studio space— one room with no privacy— but I like to think it was a boot camp for our marriage. If you can survive in a space with no doors and a significant other for 2 years without someone ending up dead then congratulations, your marriage is pretty durable.
Now we have doors and doors are a luxury in my eyes.
When we moved into the house, I started getting messages and emails from people asking how I knew this was supposed to be our home. I think people were asking for the spiritual story behind the house (because it’s me and I find God in the mailman and trips to Target). I didn’t have anything overly spiritual to share. God didn’t pop out in the guest bathroom and confirm this was our home. I didn’t find a puddle that looked like Jesus’ face in the shower. There was no real story that I could tell in dramatic fashion. We simply walked inside, toured the home, and said, “Let’s try.”
But here’s what I will tell you had to happen in my heart for us to move forward and attempt to buy a house: I had to trust my husband. I had to trust that he had my best interest in mind. I had to believe that he was going to steer us and that I was in good hands.
Maybe that feels obvious to you. Maybe you’re a trust machine. I am not. I can emit some basic trust that you’ll set the alarm or pick up the groceries but I found the fortress walls I’d built around my heart to be pretty high. I discovered I was really great at trusting if I felt like I could hold everything together on my own. I treated trust as a backup plan.
Lane had been sending me options on Zillow for the last few months. I was begging him to stop because I was trying to work out the plan in my head where I could successfully walk out the steps of home buying. The plan included myself and Lane was an accessory. In a marriage, no partner is ever the accessory. You’re both the main pieces.
So when we found the house, I knew I had to unclench my fists. And let me tell you, I wrestled with it. I wrestled before God. I uncovered this pretty big lump in my story: I didn’t trust that my husband could take care of me. There it was again- that fear I would not be caught. Mind you, there was no evidence to back this up. He has done more than enough to take care of me throughout the entirety of our relationship— car doors, oil changes, fresh coffee, tax organization, bills paid. All of it. But, for the first time, I was stepping into a territory that felt risky and foreign to me. I was going to have to trust that he would cover me.
There’s trust and then there’s entrusting. The two are different but they are in a codependent relationship with one another.
Simply saying “I trust you” is different than handing over a part of yourself to someone else. Asking someone to take care of you and provide is different than really allowing them the chance to food on the table.
I thought I’d nailed the whole “entrusting” thing when Lane and I were dating and I asked him to babysit my beta fish. That was a big step towards “I am giving you something of mine to take care of” but it was really like a practice round because I didn’t care that much about the fish.
It’s easy to claim you trust someone. It’s harder to actually give them something to guard over, to entrust something to them. That’s risky. That means they’ve got to prove something. That means you might be disappointed or run over as a result of that big step. I’m not discounting that there are plenty of people out there who get good at trusting only to have that trust shattered into a million pieces.
But sometimes something else happens when you learn to trust fully. Sometimes a new room in your relationship can be built— one where you feel safe and known in front of each other and you’re no longer doing trust falls with your eyes wide open.
In my second year of being Mrs. Sheats, this is what I’ve learned: the old, fear-filled stories you’ve learned to carry through thick and thin must get sacrificed if you ever want to grow into better narratives.
I’m in Genesis currently because it’s January and everyone is in Genesis in January. I just read the story where God asks Abraham to take his beloved son Isaac up to the mountaintop and sacrifice him. For all the people who think the Old Testament is blase, you’re not reading it right. This is the original “Making a Murderer” happening right here.
And Abraham listens. I would have thought I was hearing voices in my head and put the kibosh on the whole thing but Abraham listens, agrees, grabs some rope and a knife, and then takes his son on a little camping trip.
Now the story ends well. And Abraham doesn’t kill his son. But God took him to the ends of himself, to the point on the mountain where it’s about to go down before he told him he didn’t have to go through with it. I’m thankful this wasn’t an exercise involved in Project Adventure.
Place the sacrifice and the weird parts of this story aside and just see this beautiful picture unfolding. I can see God in the story saying, “Do you trust me? Do you trust me?”
In my mind, he isn’t angry or mad. He isn’t abusive or cold. He’s the big Papa in the story who needs to grow us up through tight walks of trust that are uncomfortable. He wasn’t trying to be brutal in the story. He found a way to say, “Fall. Fall backward. Entrust this confusing part of the story to me. And watch what I will do.”
Sometimes you have to entrust something scary and vulnerable to grow your love for someone. Sometimes your God is too small and you need to refocus your lens on him. Sometimes you have to make a concrete step, one that doesn’t allow you to turn back, for you to learn how to trust the person who is meant to catch you.
The narrative I found working overtime in my head, the one I was forced to sacrifice in year 2 of marriage, was one where I was able to provide for myself and I didn’t need anyone to help me. I value being a brave, independent woman. I value that Lane and I are equal partners when a lot of marriages don’t reflect that. But you don’t exactly stand at an altar and bind your life to someone else’s to further prove your independence. You marry someone because you decide you want to bear the burden and shoulder the load together. You’re done with solo pony tricks and you want a “we” to cultivate.
And so I was forced to bundle up all my fears and doubts and even contorted, shallow views about God and sacrifice them. It wasn’t enough to symbolically slice them up in my head. I gave Lane the green light. I let him lead. I kept saying, “I trust you. I trust you.” And I watched him lead our family from one home into the next.
There’s so much more to this story. I’m sure I’ll unpack it throughout the year. But that’s my nugget. That’s the commentary I have for you on year 2 of marriage: entrust big, scary parts of yourself to someone else and see what they will do. Entrust the big stuff and sacrifice the expired stories that don’t look like love.
I learned there was more freedom waiting for me than I ever imagined. It was waiting there the whole time with arms spread open and wide. It required one thing of me though: the willingness to fall in spite of the fear you won’t be caught.