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ANDREA BURKE
Rochester, NY, 14620

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A Spouse is Not the Happy Ending

Andrea Burke

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The story of how my husband and I met is a good one. It’s twisty and imperfect, but it’s one of the good ones and full of all of the little details that make a love story worth reading. We met in unlikely ways and he was the prototype of the man I didn’t even know I needed. Every reading of Pride and Prejudice did not prepare me for the real life drama that we endured. We had years of hanging out within a crowd, countless conversations where he clarified his intentions of being my friend (and that alone), years of prayer, tears and letting it go, several awkward “break-ups” of a relationship that wasn’t really a relationship, and through it all a deep friendship that seemed to anchor us both near one another more and more.

There was the conversation in a park in the rain in which I read a letter out loud to him that bared my heart and he said not a word. The raindrops splattered the ink and we sat in silence until we left and my heart felt like it cracked in two. The next day I recanted it all and asked if we could still be friends. There was the time he left for a trip to Ireland and we had decided we weren’t going to speak anymore, and he left his guitar at my house for safekeeping and I stared at it for weeks wondering what that meant. There was 3 years of wondering if I’d ever have to watch him fall in love with someone else.

And there was the August night where he invited me to actually be his, to join alongside of him in life as more than a friend. And I think I cried and lost my breath, and a few weeks later he’d spin me in his arms under star light after kissing me for the first time. There was the Christmas proposal three months later. The winter wedding. He was the guy who was waiting for the right girl and I felt like I came crashing into his world as a hot mess, a single mom, a devastated dreamer, and yet he never walked away.

He has taught me loyalty. Faithfulness. What it looks like to love someone in a steady ebb and flow sort of way. Like the ocean that is faithful to return with gifts from her depths every day, I find this is the sort of love we have. We’ve now brought another little person into this world to add to our already family of 3; a toddling 15 month old who has a million dollar smile and a penchant for falling down like he’s drunk. We’re making a home in a 100 year old farmhouse, staring at an old barn and pushing our kids in swings on ancient trees and wondering how this became our life.

And so many have said to our story (and as I’ve been so tempted to say) “You got your happy ending!” In the eyes of this life and this world, I suppose that could be true in some ways. If what we’re all aiming for is “a better story” and happy endings, I’ve found mine.

But as Jed and I recently went through my unpublished book and read chapter by chapter of all the wrong decisions that led me here, I’ve remarked again and again how the thread of hope in my story is never “but someday, my true love would come.” The thread of hope in my story is that “Someday, I’d see that Christ was calling me to Himself the whole time.”

Jed was never meant to be a happy ending, a prince charming, a knight in shining armor. The burden of being the hero to our home is too much for any man to bear. He cannot redeem my past. He cannot fix what was broken. We are no Hallmark movie. He’s a man, broken and sinful, drinking from the same cup of salvation that I am.

For if he’s my happy ending, what happens when arguments can’t be resolved, conversations go sour, or he cannot provide every want and whim I have? What happens when neither of us are able to make the other person feel that deep sense of wholeness that we so long for? What happens when we look at each other and see all of the worst and none of the best? Is he still the man who rescued the damsel in distress? Should I hang all my gratitude on the fact that he deigned to look my way and in Jane Austen fashion, slowly found that he loved me “despite the inferiority of my connections”? (He never said this, obviously. I just needed one more Austen reference for fun.)

No, I love him and will choose him every day, but he is not my happy ending.

We sat around the fire the other night and I marveled that he did choose me. What a grace to me that this man, strong and wise, decided to take all of us on an adventure that was only once a far off dream. We watched the dwindling flames and discussed the chapters that he’s reading. How they’re heavy. How they’re hard. Story after story where I took the wrong turn, made the wrong call, chose the wrong thing... a frustrating read. And then each tale echoes through time that God was still merciful. Running away with a married man, lying to people who trusted me, rejecting church discipline, cutting off relationships with family, blatant disobedience to the conviction of the Lord, seeing infidelity and destruction in my own home, walking the road of a single mom...and yet, God was still merciful.

There is no happy ending in my story that does not point to Golgotha and a garden tomb. There is no prince except the one that traded His crown for a cross. There is no rescue except for the one in which my mess was somehow covered and made new. So I think perhaps this should be etched on my tombstone. That after all the life I live, every moment with the man I love, and every step I take, good or bad, beautiful or sludge-laden, it applies: “....and God was still merciful.”

And that my friends, is a happy ending.