A new friend and I recently chatted about the difference in our marriages because I married a man with a disability, and she did not. Yet more than 20 years later, her groom became disabled. We commented how the death of dreams is tougher in her situation because she didn’t expect disability.
The more I thought about that I came to a new understanding of my own self. If asked, I would reply that I did not encounter the death of dreams because I knew disability was a part of our marriage. Until these last few weeks. I now see that while the situation and expectations were different, the outcome is similar.
Jerry and I spent hours on our dates and through our engagement dreaming about how we would minister together, serve together and continue to travel for ministry, as we both did when we were single. We talked about how his life would be easier. By me helping him with his care needs he would gain an hour or two every day. I could assist him to do physical therapy exercises, again extending his functional abilities. We dreamed of me camping with friends and traveling on international mission trips. The pictures we created in our heads were beautiful, fully accessible and without any bumps in the road. Not to mention completely achievable.
Honestly, our marriage is beautiful. But my definition of beauty has changed. Acknowledging and dealing with bumps, and sometimes downright huge obstacles, contributes to my new view of beauty. It is a rugged rather than pristine beauty today.
Working and ministering together? Yes, we have done that about half of the nearly 24 years we have been married. It has been exciting, memorable, fulfilling, an area of struggle at times as we uncovered some sense of competition. The reality has not looked much like those dreams we shared during our engagement. As Jerry is fond of saying, “The best part of working together is we’re together all the time. The hardest part of working together is we’re together all the time.”
Assisting with personal care and therapy routines? Little did we know that it wouldn’t be too many years into our marriage before I too would have therapy exercises to keep my body functional to help him! If we both did all the therapies recommended for our various body parts it would take the full day! We had to pick and choose. Helping him with his routine impacted my previously free and flexible schedule. Not to mention the toll it took on my own body.
Traveling? We have been able to do a significant amount of travel around the United States, and brief ventures to some islands accessible by cruising. Such a source of joy. As for international missions trips for me, I am grateful for the experiences I had when I was single. In recent years I believe God is telling me this is not my time for international travel. I have pushed back and fought against that (with God, not Jerry). But God has held pretty firm. My place, my job, my primary ministry is to/with my husband.
Conversations about the pace we can continue to travel have been frequent in recent weeks. We are still talking through what we gain from that versus what it takes out of both of us now that we are nearing the next big decade of life.
I hope you hear my heart in this. I am not looking for sympathy. It has been healthy for me to acknowledge that I too have experienced the death of some dreams. But perhaps some of those dreams, were simply that – dreams. What God has granted us in place of those is a stronger appreciation and love for one another, a deeper understanding of what is important in life, and a gratitude for the time and opportunities we have.
What about you? How has God taken what may have been the death of one or more of your dreams and traded it for a new kind of beauty? I really want to hear your stories. For those who post a reply by Friday September 6 I will choose one random commenter to receive a free copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive, Live Happy. You’ll read a story from me in there. So start typing . . . .