I'm at a place in life where the "how's married life?" question is common. Most of the answers I hear are either pretty generic or really polarizing. There is the naive "everything is great, life is a honeymoon" answer, and then there's the "marriage is the hardest, the ole' ball and chain is my fate" answer. If we're honest, though, reality is somewhere in the middle. Marriage is the best and the worst. It's a context to experience deep and meaningful love, yet it's a stage for exposing your own shortcomings and flaws.
I recently sat beside the piano in my parents' house and listened to my Mom play a song she had been learning. When she finished, she smiled and commented that my Dad had to bear with her as she learned it. She explained that in their small house, even in another room he would have to listen to her mess up, start over, and repeat certain parts. It didn't hit me until I was driving home, but in that brief moment of her talking about learning the song, I understood something profound about marriage.
All throughout our lives, we will either be the spouse at the piano or the spouse in the other room. We will either listen to the mess-ups or be the one messing up. We can choose to smile and be patient, knowing that a song is being formed, or we can get as far away from the noise as possible, missing the most vital moments of our growth.
The song gets better with time. The ability to improvise, to write new parts, and to be creative emerges. But you have to mess up along the way. It's how we learn or create anything worthwhile. The choice we have is to stay, even when the piano itself desperately needs to be tuned or repaired.
I know I need more grace in all of my relationships. We are each sitting at a proverbial piano, trying our best to make sense of the sheet music in front of us, longing to hear a song arise from our efforts.