I got my husband out of jail today.
He works at our local hospital, an ancient building situated right in the heart of downtown in the modestly-sized Midwestern city we call home. If you’ve ever parked in the downtown of any city, you know what a mess it can be—and even though there are a couple of employee lots, there are never enough spaces for the people who work there.
As a result, hospital employees park wherever they can and play a game of musical parking spaces during the day to avoid the wrath of the parking meter maid.
Because they’ve got to work. Saving lives and all that.
You know, no biggie.
One morning a few weeks ago, my husband parked in one of those “two hour parking” spaces, started his shift, and promptly became buried underneath a heaping pile of never-ending work.
(That happens most days.)
He got so busy, in fact, that dashing outside at the end of his two hour parking limit to move his car to another space never even entered his mind.
So, he got a parking ticket.
Annoying right? But, in the big scheme of things, no big deal.
Until he forgot to pay it.
The letter came in Friday’s mail: “Failure to pay this fine within 14 days will result in a court summons,” it warned.
He hadn’t even mentioned to me that he’d gotten a ticket—because he’s busy, because it probably irked him, because I’m sure he figured he’d just take care of it when he remembered.
But this morning, I did it for him without even telling him I would.
Because in the fine print of our marriage vows, the ones we took more than a decade ago, probably without fully understanding them, it says “I promise to lighten your load.
“I promise to recognize when stress is piling up at the office, and I will work twice as hard to make our home your soft place to land.
“I promise to support you as you support our family.
“I promise to breathe quick prayers of peace for you as I’m driving our kids to school, lessons, doctor’s appointments, practices.
“I promise to listen when you’re frustrated and talk when you need to hear my passionate voice that challenges you to rise above it.
“I promise to do more than my fair share sometimes, because I know you do more than your fair share sometimes, too.”
My husband works hard—SO HARD—to provide for our family, to model a respectable work ethic for our children, to honor his marriage vows.
And I know that even when he doesn’t ask for my help, he needs it. Scratch that—especially when he doesn’t ask for my help, he needs it.
Because there’s something no one can really articulate to you when you’re young and in love, just starting out on the journey of marriage that feels hazy with romance and big, bright dreams: marriage isn’t fair.
Marriage is continually dying to self for the betterment of your spouse, choosing his happiness over yours ten times out of ten.
Marriage is realizing the knight in shining armor you promised forever to isn’t perfect—and loving him even more for it.
Marriage is paying parking tickets without expecting a “thank you.”
Some days, I shoulder the heavy load of our life—I get kids up and dressed and fed, I run all the errands, I do the cooking. And some days, I throw my hands in the air and leave it all to him.
That’s not fairness—that’s faithfulness.
So I’ll pay that parking ticket again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, if I need to—until death do us part or we run out of 20s to pay the parking fines. I’ll live the days and times that feel challenging and frustrating with just as much gratitude as I live the ones bursting with happiness and joy.
Because that’s love.
This is marriage.
And it’s worth it.