And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. Matthew 8:24
We just had our fifteenth wedding anniversary. I don’t know about you, but in our house anniversaries are celebrated with adult time, good food, and a baseball game. Weird, but true. Baseball is one of the ways we fell in love, so every year we root for the home team and snuggle with our nachos and a cold draft.
The last two years for us were particularly painful. Have you had those years? The ones that feel like they will never come to a close? The ones when you think, “If we can just get to the next year, then we can start living again, instead of simply surviving.”
These years try us and test us, not just as individuals, but as a married couple. Storms bring with them needs. When the disciples were in the boat and the wind and waves raged on, it brought out all of their inner fears and anxieties. Little stresses became huge sea monsters. Desperation took over and what were their accusations of Jesus? “We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:25)
During our painful times, we often look at our spouse and think the same thing—“We’re going to drown. This is it.” We can wholeheartedly believe in our marriage vows 100 percent; we can seek to honor God and shun the very idea of divorce, but in our dark moments we can feel completely and utterly separated from the Creator of the waves, as well as the one we call husband or wife. This separation, not even the storm itself, is oftentimes the deepest source of our fear and pain. We look at our spouse and all we see are waves and their inability or inattention to “solve” the problem, to calm the storm. We begin to pit ourselves against one each other and while divorce may not be part of our vocabulary, shutting down in the relationship is.
In times like these, I have only one piece of advice, as a therapist and as a fellow pilgrim in this weary world—hold hands, literally.
Hold on to each other and to the story He is writing for your lives together. So often we are white-knuckling the ship. Our attention is on the waves, thundering down. When we hold hands, we remember that we are one flesh. Our attention is on the relationship that matters far more. We remember that we got married for reasons other than baseball. We got married for times like this, for joy and for sorrow.
When you are holding hands, you remember that you are for, not against each other. Your body language changes, and the struggle is directed out instead of being pushed between the two of you. You can lean in to the storm and brave the wind, because the One who holds your hand gives you His strength. Holding hands may seem like a simple or even silly thing to do, but think about this: holding hands is also the perfect posture to pray together and to remember Christ, who is in the business of storms.
Deaconess Heidi Goehmann, MSW, LSW, serves as deaconess to ministry wives for Grace Place Wellness Ministries.