At 39 years old and working as a Palliative Care Doctor, I know that I am young!
But 20 years ago today, I kissed the girl that I am married today.
15 years ago we said “I do” and began our lives together as husband and wife.
10 years ago our eldest son Samuel was born and I was faced with a choice to make, “do I continue living my life as a boy or a man in my marriage?”
1.5 years ago I started working together with Kylie as an independent GP Anaesthetist.
And 3 days ago, Kylie said something to me that blew my mind.
This piece is an open confession about my marriage, the most precious thing to me on this earth (which Kylie has helped me edit).
The title “Beautifully boring and elegantly simple marriage” is provocative but true and something that I wrote about earlier in the year.
On the outside our lives may seem routine, ordered and lack adventure and excitement but nothing could be further from the truth.
Hidden in plain sight through the rhythms of the week, seasons of the year and life stages over the last ten years, is a growing intimacy and oneness that comes only with deep commitment founded in the boundless grace of our God.
It is fun, it is playful. It doesn’t need fancy hotels or expensive gifts. It doesn’t need wild romantic gestures or consumer driven “love essentials”.
It is present each morning when we hug each other “hello” and kiss and pray with each other “good night”. It sits across from you at the dinner table when you are trying and failing to feed young children and next to you on the couch at night as you read silently but are physically present. It intentionally trades money for time to work half-days so you can come home earlier and have lunch together each week. It makes time for physical intimacy because the excuses of “no time” and “I’m tired” are seemingly innocent but have an insidious disconnecting effect.
But most of all we laugh, alot. There is so much humour in amongst paying off the mortgage, organising our week, dealing with our boys and living day to day. We consistently reference Friends and I relate most situations and circumstances back to Seinfeld and That 70’s Show….we laugh and smile.
As I pondered a few weeks ago,
“Is it possible for a marriage to be on some type auto-pilot?
For two people to be in-sync with each other, knowing how the other receives and feels loved and without even thinking to supply “physical touch”, “acts of service”, “words of encouragement” or spend “quality time” with their spouse?
That is the beautiful boring and elegantly simple routine of marriage.
It is built over time and forged often through tears, arguments and constant repairing, that must occur if this beautiful relationship is to grow and bear good fruit.
20 years ago today I awkwardly asked Kylie to be my girlfriend.
I was 19 years old and physically a man but psychologically and emotionally a boy.
Only 2 years earlier, I had barely passed year 12 and was smoking pot daily and the epitome of a dope-head — lazy, rude, self-centered and unfocussed.
But Kylie saw something in me and for that, I am so grateful as I reflect today.
She endured my ridiculous behaviour — I was hurtful and mean and I thoroughly regret my early years with her.
I brought much of this dysfunction into our marriage and when things worked, they were wonderful but when we hit sticking points and we approached conflict, it crashed heavily, taking a huge emotional toll on us both.
When I look back at pictures of us during time, there are some that bring an eerie feeling to the pit of my stomach.
This because I try to live an open-book life and as evidenced in my writing, it is raw and authentic, transparent and true and some of those pictures hide the pain and turmoil that was in our marriage.
It is no surprise then that ten years ago we were in trouble.
I was working long hours at a new stressful job, we had a newborn Samuel and worst of all we weren’t meaningfully talking.
We fought and weren’t being friendly as much anymore. It was okay, survivable but not truly what it could be. There was very little joking or laughing and as I reflect, I think we were unknowingly on the outside of a downward spiral.
But we received help in the form of marriage counselling. It helped us talk again and with a third party in the room, our problems had an avenue and framework to be addressed.
In the centre of it all, it was me.
I needed to change.
It wasn’t the counsellor or Kylie, nor my parents or even my closest friends that told me this.
It was the soft whisper and gentle hand of my God who never left my side. It was me who was far away and had run away from home.
I remember the moment I fell into my Father’s arms. I was at our church Men’s Breakfast meeting with my Dad and heard Paul Morrison talk about the Mighty Men’s Conference in South Africa. Never in my life had I ever encountered the full, warm and grace-filled embrace of the Father.
It wasn’t magic, it wasn’t desperation, it wasn’t hype but a true physiological supernatural encounter with the Living God that I wasn’t expecting when I accepted the invite to attend.
It was my earthly Dad who hugged me and walked beside me as I wept, overwhelmed at the forgiveness and grace I experienced.
In that moment, I heard God clearly say,
I did the one thing which God had been prompting me to do, to love, serve and honour Kylie.
I started seeking God daily, pouring over and memorising the word. I found an older married and wise Christian man to help mentor me and speak into my life. I stopped listening to the radio and music and started listening to sermons and messages on my commute to work
I prayed and asked God boldly that he would use me, to be a wonderful husband, fun-loving and patient dad and a man whose heart was soft and broke for the things that broke the Father’s heart.
As I reflect today, my marriage, my fatherhood and manhood continues to go from strength to strength despite the valleys and peaks because of how God intervened in my life and the steps he showed me to take responsibility of it.
“He saw me to the bottom and loved me to the skies” — Tim Keller
The best thing about living within a “beautifully boring and elegantly simple marriage” is that Kylie and I have recognised that we don’t need fancy things or special events to highlight our love.
Some of the most romantic and memorable times we’ve shared have been random Tuesday afternoons during the school week where we’ve had a great conversation, shared intimacy or re-organised our budget for the upcoming month!
That’s why when we do go away for our annual epic family holiday, our time together is very special and 3 days ago Kylie told me something that blew me away.
We were talking about a less than satisfactory encounter I’d had with Samuel and how I wanted to be a better dad — to love, respect and honour him.
Our conversation turned to the importance of this day (20 years since our first kiss) and I reflected on our past —in particular the way I used to treat Kylie.
Then Kylie said one of the most reassuring and encouraging things that she’s ever said to me:
“The boys know nothing about that Jonathan.
All they see and remember is how you are today — how you truly respect, love and honour me.
She was right.
What I am reflecting to my three boys today has no resemblance of my past.
Furthermore, they are catching a glimpse of what I call “the minimum standard in marriage” — No ridicule, no putting down, no demeaning of your wife, only extravagant love, servant-leadership and deep honour.
In the same way that Kylie and I are growing something beautiful for the Lord in our marriage, loving, serving and honouring Samuel, Hunter and Benjamin is what I am called to do as their Dad.
For my weakness became a portal for his power and in this I boast all the more in him and his goodness! For his best work is done in the broken and the lowly.
Thank you Kylie for doing this adventure with me.
Our times in are God’s hands, his timing is perfect and our days on this earth are numbered. Let’s crack on!
“My life, my every moment, my destiny — it is all in your hands” Psalm 31:15 (TPT)
Thank you for taking the time to read my work.
Enjoy this life and your health!
Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan