I’ve known Kory for almost 22 years.
It started in the summer of 1994 when my cousin, who was dating a friend of Kory’s at the time, thought it would be fun to set us up on a blind date. I was a sophomore, coming home from OU for a few weeks before flying to Guadalajara, Mexico for an 8 week exchange program. And Kory had just finished his first year of seminary. Neither of us was dating anyone at the time, and my cousin thought it would be fun if we could all hang out.
Four really fun group dates later, I knew I liked him. But I wanted to get to know him better. So I took matters into my own hands and asked if we could go out alone. Without “the group.”
Kory said yes.
He took me to a beautiful spot on the north end of our hometown for a picnic. And knowing it was my birthday, he did some research through my cousin to make my favorite dessert.
The rest is history.
He’s been my boyfriend for half my life. And last week, he turned 45.
The funny thing is that from kindergarten to 6th grade when my family moved across town, Kory and I lived on opposite ends of the same street. The street Kory’s parents still live on today. We had the same 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Green, 3 years apart, my grandparents attended the same church as his family, and his Aunt Sarah babysat my little sister and me.
We had all this common ground and shared so much of each other’s spaces in life, but we didn’t know each other. Nearly 22 years later, we still have all this common ground and more. And we still share so much space.
We live in the same house.
Share the same kids.
Go to the same church.
Attend the same small group.
Have the same friends.
And share many of the same passions and interests.
But we continue to find ourselves in a season of life and ministry that has us interacting much like the Queen’s Guards at Windsor Castle.
One of us stands post at home, while the other is away. And then we meet at the kitchen door just long enough to hand over the keys to the castle and switch roles.
And it’s not a great set up for good communication, intimacy, and connection, that’s for sure. But it’s where God has us right now, and we’re trying to make it work.
That’s why Date Night is critical.
So on Thursday, in honor of Kory’s birthday, we kicked off what we hope will be a very long streak of every-other-Thursday date nights. This is something we’ve faithfully done for years, but something that’s gotten lost in all our crazy the last six months.
It was nice.
Really, really nice.
And thank God we did it.
Because two days later?
We had a really, really hard day.
What began as a typical “status update” about finances and recurring annual expenses like HOA bills, homeowner’s insurance premiums, and property taxes turned into a full-blown State of the Union.
We talked about everything.
Which is good.
But it’s also tough.
Because in the midst of that conversation, we both had to own some things that have been flowing in the undercurrent of our relationship for a while now. (I won’t speak for Kory, but I’ll make my own confession.)
I had to acknowledge that, as hard as I’m trying, and as far as I’ve come, I still feel very out of place in this “new” life we’ve been living for the last 2 1/2 years.
I’m lost professionally.
I’m lost at our school.
I’m lost in our church.
I’m lost in God’s calling upon my life to serve.
And I’ve lost all vision for my future.
I’m all poured out.
I’m operating at a deficit.
And I’m complacent. About so many things that used to bring me joy.
And because this place I find myself in began with our move across town to embrace a new calling in ministry, I had to convince Kory that I don’t blame him and that I don’t view the decisions we’ve made over the last three years as mistakes.
But just because they aren’t mistakes, doesn’t mean they aren’t a struggle for me.
Life is just hard right now.
And I’m treading water.
Against this backdrop, I also had to own the fact that all the sacrifices we’ve made to be where we are and to contribute in the ways we feel God leading us to contribute are bitter pills to swallow.
Because sacrifice is hard when it feels like sacrifice.
And when it doesn’t? Well…it begs the question, doesn’t it?
It was a tough, honest, emotional conversation. One that needed to occur. But one that completely spent both of us.
It ended well. But it could have gone the other way.
And I’m not saying I can prove the direct correlation between our date night two days’ prior and the way we were able to bring this conversation around.
But I will say this.
When we operate at a surplus in our marriage relationship, though the tough days are still tough, they’re also manageable. Because we have an anchor of friendship, and love, and intimacy to keep us from drifting too far. To keep us from going places we shouldn’t go. And to keep us from giving up.
But when we’re operating at a deficit, the opposite can be true. Our marital bank accounts are empty. And there’s nothing for us to withdraw to fund a resolution. There’s nothing to reign us in. There’s nothing to help us establish appropriate boundaries.
To remind us what binds us.
And to encourage us to stay the course to a way forward.
Operating at a marital deficit is dangerous. But it happens to the best of us. Slowly at first, the busyness of life begins to take over, and subtly, it oozes into every nook and cranny we used to save for each other. Before we know it, it has completely taken over, and it’s been months since we spent any time connecting through conversation and intimacy.
And then we find ourselves in that place.
Where marriage isn’t relational.
It’s a task.
Date night is armor against the deficit. And the more we do it, the better armed we are to handle the tough places in ways that are grace-filled and life-giving. So if you found yourself in the “no date night” zone in 2015, would you consider switching lanes?
It doesn’t have to be complicated.
It doesn’t have to be expensive.
But it does have to include several hours set aside for just the two of you. No kids allowed.
So if finances won’t allow you to hire a sitter on a regular basis, cut some other things out. Or find some friends who also dream about date night but can’t seem to make it a reality and offer to sit twice per month for them if they will sit twice per month for you. Or check out some area churches or organizations for a kids’ night out program. Our church offers Epic Saturday, a once-monthly kids night out program, for the fraction of the cost of a babysitter. Others do the same.
Just put your creative thinking cap on and find a solution.
You have the time.
And you have the resources.
It’s just a matter of priority.
So won’t you join us in our quest to stay connected in 2016? Won’t you join us as we try to shirk the Queen’s Guards’ paraphernalia we’ve been wearing and to guard our hearts for one another instead?
It will be life-changing.