About this series: We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name. So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.
Underneath a capricious prairie sky, we drive east along the Trans-Canada Highway.
The autumn sun is behind us. It pours out all it has left, in yellow and gold, and turns this concrete highway into a river of fire. But today as we drive home from Thanksgiving, we remember how to feel safe in the wispiness of clouds, remaining open to receive whatever comes our way, even as a dark and steely weight walks across the prairie and sets off whispers of a looming storm.
In the far distance, some of the clouds have already collapsed into thin strands. They hang over the barren fields like frozen tears.
A train hums along beside us and we eventually pass it. The colourful cars stand out against the sky which has turned strange and smoky grey. Ella Fitzgerald's "Solitude" comes on the radio. "Dear Lord above, send back my love."
Her prayer wobbles through the speakers.
"Are you looking for a rainbow, too?" asks Toby. She doesn't look at me. My wife simply leans forward in her seat, into the promise.
Our youngest is sleeping in the backseat. Our oldest sits behind me, musing over the infinite questions which a five-year-old mind can already harbour. Meanwhile, I'm wrestling with just one question: what can I say about marriage?
I don't know. But I do look up into the sky and see how love dances. And how love also moves along, beside me, drawn by the tracks of a purposeful journey.
When love moves you in so many directions, marriage becomes a daily practice in the art of vision.
Eight years ago, when Toby and I first met each other online, we were living in separate countries. Within days, though, we both began seeing rainbows. And now we've been watching them unfold ever since. Because we both continue to believe that our greatest promises will show up, even during our darkest moments.
Before anything else, marriage is an act of believing.
And then seeing.
But love believes first -- and then chooses to seek and find a promise in any sky.
Sometimes I'm guilty of focusing on the grey. I wallow into a despairing chair of solitude. But I cannot sit there for too long because God has shown me the richness of colour, how His promises can light up a sky.
As well as two beautiful eyes.
My wife has brilliance. Her colours touch me with the weight of heaven. Her heart serves as a kind of prism, refracting everything which passes through it. I learn to see her in a new way. I learn to see myself in a new way. And I learn to see -- and understand -- God in a new way.
Love always believes there is something beautiful waiting to be seen. Once you commit yourself to actively looking for the promise, you are bound to behold glory.
Regardless of how long the highway looks today. Or how capricious the sky.
Tips for intentionality:
1. Begin looking (not demanding) for a quality in your spouse that you don't currently see.
2. Find something specific and concrete (your own rainbow) that you and your spouse can begin looking for, something you can celebrate together throughout the coming days and months.
3. Sit down together and describe a dream. If either of you feel any tension or old hurt surrounding it, then begin today by simply giving words to the dream -- without the pressure of expectations or timelines. They'll come in time, after you first nurture the vision.
Matthew Kreider is a husband, father, writer and professional rainbow spotter. After 13 years of teaching high school students in Northern Indiana, he and his wife finally decided to pack up the house and move to Canada, where they were greeted by a rainbow at the border. Matthew is also a contributing writer for Tweetspeak Poetry. You can read more of him here on his blog, Matthew Kreider.