Andrew Peterson is one of my favorite newly discovered artists. He has a penchant for thought-provoking lyrics, a gift for honesty, and a good ear for melody. He reminds me of Rich Mullins, and that can only be a good thing.
One of the songs off his new album (which is on my Christmas wish list) speaks as truly and powerfully about marriage as any I have ever heard. Listen to the song, read the lyrics, and watch the video, then join me for some thoughts on the far side of the lyrics.
Dancing in the Minefields
I was nineteen, you were twenty-one
The year we got engaged
Everyone said we were much too young
But we did it anyway
We bought our rings for forty each
From a pawn shop down the road
We made our vows and took the leap
Now fifteen years ago
We went dancing in the minefields
We went sailing in the storm
And it was harder than we dreamed
But I believe that's what the promise is for
"I do" are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end
But to lose your life for another I've heard
Is a good place to begin
'Cause the only way to find your life
Is to lay your own life down
And I believe it's an easy price
For the life that we have found
And we're dancing in the minefields
We're sailing in the storm
This is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that's what the promise is for
So when I lose my way, find me
When I loose love's chains, bind me
At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days
When I forget my name, remind me
'Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man
So there's nothing left to fear
So I'll walk with you in the shadowlands
Till the shadows disappear
'Cause he promised not to leave us
And his promises are true
So in the face of all this chaos, baby,
I can dance with you
Why does this speak so strongly to me? I suspect there are a number of reasons, but most of all that I identify very strongly with many of the sentiments expressed. The details are a little different, but in many ways these lyrics could have been written about my marriage. I was 21 and Jaimie was 19 when we got engaged, and we paid a bit more for our rings, and we've been married a little over 1 year instead of 15. But we have been dancing in the minefields. We have sailed, already, into the teeth of a frightening storm.
Marriage is both harder and better than I ever could have dreamt. We have not struggled as much as many couples do with basic marriage issues—communication, squabbles over where to squeeze the toothpaste, etc.—but we have faced trials darker and harder than either of us ever expected to. Depression is a fearful thing, and to walk through it, or to watch your beloved as walk through it, is more difficult than I can express.
At times in the last year, Jaimie has struggled to pull out just one tremulous smile in an evening.
I fell in love with the most joyous, life-loving woman I had ever met. That's still who she is; circumstances can't revoke God's creative decision. But how hard has it been for this most joyous of women to walk through days when she can hardly smile? My heart has broken for her.
At times, I have been selfish. I have struggled to love her with the self-sacrificial love of Christ. I have let her down, put my own interests first, been unwilling to see our circumstances through her eyes. The long and short of it is: I am a sinner, through and through, saved each day only by the superlative grace of God.
The song speaks to me because it captures the bittersweet glory of marriage. We go dancing in the minefields, daring to have joy when any moment everything could come crashing down. We delight in the thrill of sailing though the storm could sweep us away at any moment. We live our lives with passion for God because, whatever the risk, we know that the reward he has given us in each other is worth the pains that come. It is harder than we could have imagined when we began—and that is why, as I wrote a few months ago, marriage is about commitment, not excitement. Yes, marriage can be fun, and yes it is a source of great excitement. At times. Often, we remember the promise we made and remain with each other because, whatever the travails of the moment, keeping that promise is better than anything we could ever find in breaking it.
And when we hold fast that commitment, we gain a view that we could never have if we fled when the shadows came. Storms are fearsome, terrible things—but there is beauty in them: the crash of thunder in all its majesty, the lightning that turns the black of night into the brightness of day itself, the crashing power of the waves and wind: the majesty of God made known in part.
We walk in Christ, and so when the shadowlands come, we can walk on, holding each other's hand all the more tightly perhaps, confident that whatever comes to pass, we shall walk out the other side still in his grace, still faithful to each other, still loving each other with everything we can give of our still-sinful selves. We come out the other side loving each other more, not less, because the trial sharpens us and pushes us to rely on God who loved us first.
I hate the storm, sometimes—but I am grateful for it. I plan to just keep dancing in minefields with the most beautiful woman I know. God willing, we'll dance another 60 years or more.