• ashirk@gmail.com
  • Kijabe, Kenya
on 20 years. . .

on 20 years. . .

I ran into a former RVA student the other day, dressed in sharp black scrubs, having just come from shadowing Arianna at the hospital. She had graduated from college, started medical school, and was back in Kijabe for a visit. She said that a key part of her journey into medicine was talking to Arianna and getting to know our girls. The only doctors she knew were male, and she didn’t know if it was possible to be a wife, mother, and doctor at the same time. . .until she met Arianna.

“Is it possible?” is a common question from newlywed Kenyan doctors as well. Many young couples have turned up at our Kijabe kitchen table to ask us how marriage works when the wife is a doctor and the husband has some other work. Most of the husbands have had jobs with some flexibility, like IT or insurance, similar to what our lifestyle has been like for the past 15 years. In these cases, we’ve been able to offer a bit of insight. But the best advice we can give is simply an example that somehow it is possible. . .lots of conversations, lots of growing and trying and failing, lots of extending grace.

Today is our 20th wedding anniversary . . .it seems impossible that we are here – like we got married just yesterday but also that it has been nearly 1/2 our lives.

Our friends asked for some thoughts/advice on marriage – what does twenty years look like? Marrying Arianna was the best decision of my life, hands down. She has been an incredible example to me on how to live – how to be a friend, parent, sibling – how to love people well – how to be faithful and daring – how to walk through life with God.

I find myself writing in paradox as we have experienced so much joy together, but have also walked through hard relationship seasons with people we love. No one can give you a road map through periods of pain. You will discover your own way.

That being said, here are my thoughts:

Marry a person moving in the same direction as you. Choose them, but don’t choose them at the expense of yourself. At times, you must put their needs first, but this doesn’t require you to sacrifice all of yourself. Love is paradox.

Don’t go to Home Depot to buy bread. There are some needs your spouse can’t fill. Other burdens they can learn to bear with time. Learn the difference. Be patient. Be kind.

Journey together. You are not who you were, and not yet who you will be. You are in flux.

Define your emotions. Seek to name what is occurring inside of you, not to excuse your actions, but to articulate your needs and better understand the needs of your person.

See the past, present, and future in your partner. Behold what is beautiful, notice it, treasure it. Behold what is ugly and choose the right times to confront it. Ignore what is not beneficial. Don’t dwell on stupid things. Your partner will become who you believe he/she can be.

Love is art, not science, yet science can inform art. Habits matter, rhythms matter, intentions matter. So does spontaneity. Create a script, but abandon it from time to time.

Seek to know yourself, knowing you can never be fully known. How could you then expect your lover to know you? Communicate often and give much grace.

Fight with kindness.

Return to each other.

Hold hands.

Watch sunsets and binge-watch your favorite shows.

Show PDA.

Share old stories even as you write new ones.

Here’s to 20 more years. . . and all the lessons we have yet to learn. . .