Tuesday, November 21, 2006
19 years of Marriage
Happily, it's finally cold enough in Florida to see your breath. So this morning, my husband, Michael, and I found ourselves in a warm, huddled mass at Five a.m.--the time his alarm clock rings. Ordinarily, I try to ignore it and sleep a while longer. But today, he greeted me with "Happy Anniversary" and "I'd do it all again". So would I.
19 years ago today Michael and I tied the knot. To my delight, he proposed right after college. Not believing in long engagements, he set the date for late November. We knew that at that time he would have completed his Marine officer training in Quantico, and had a few days before he had to report to artillery school in Ft. Sill. My mother had to work hard and fast to pull together our wedding by November. About 25 years earlier, my parents put my grandmother through similar stress when they gave her a week's notice. (You reap what you sow...) Both mothers performed admirably, and I'm happy to report that both weddings were beautiful, joyful celebrations.
But on this anniversary, I'm not really thinking about the proposal and the wedding day. Instead, I'm marvelling at the journey. The nineteen years -21 if you count our courtship. I'm left in awe of God's plan and provision in uniting us. Who else but God could devise such a beautiful mystery? Who else could take two people and make one, easing their aloneness while refining them?
Ideally, in marriage, we grow up and we grow together-- despite our natural tendencies. It sounds simpler than it is. Where to begin?
Initially, there was a certain need to detox from Hollywood depictions of marriage and to embrace the biblical model, instead. In the early years, we learned what we're still learning: Love is not a feeling. It's a commitment. The rapturous feelings come and go--we all love it when they're present-- but the commitment is part of the glue God uses to cleave us. It's comforting to know that Michael is still committed to me on bad days, bad hair days, and days when I'm less than loveable. I know he's comforted that I'm with him in plenty and in want,and I don't mean just money. Sometimes it's time, attention, etc.
I think we enter into the covenant thinking we're always going to be loving and loveable. But, in the daily walking out of it, we are sometimes myopic, critical, distracted, self-centered and mean; in other words, less than loveable.
Ironically, that's when we learn to love: not when it's easy and enjoyable, but when it's hardest, when we're giving and receiving grace. It's when we look back that we realize that our love deepened not because of our perfections, but because of our commitment and for the way we dealt with our mutual imperfections.
I remember being married for a pair of months, when an eager young woman who was soon to be married asked me, "What advice can you give me?" I don't know where I summoned this sagely wisdom, I can only claim divine inspiration, because "Go into marriage poised to forgive." came out of my mouth.
Both she and I stopped to consider the importance of those words! Of course we have to forgive. Spouses are only human. As our ideal of them gets replaced by the realities of selfishness and conflict, we either forgive, or keep our love from growing. It's when we're offended, and we choose to love and forgive that love blooms. Forgiveness allows for fresh starts, new growth and the strengthening and beautifying of the marital bond.
We have also learned and are learning how to stop in our tracks, think about how we're effecting the other and say things like; "I'm sorry" , "Please forgive me", "Let's just sleep on it", "Why don't we pray", "Let's discuss this a little later" and "Let's try that again".
Of course, we wouldn't know how to do that if we hadn't been for the work of Jesus Christ; who paid for our sins so that we could be forgiven. We love him because he first loved us. That principle holds true in marriage, too. We can love, because God first loved us. We can forgive, because we've experienced God's forgiveness in our own lives. Our 19 years have been, in large part, fruit of what he did on the cross. We both know that it is God who has held us together and equipped us for togetherness. Thank God that none of us have to face the flesh alone; neither ours nor our spouse's.
Our 18 year old daughter wonders which romantic way we're planning to celebrate our anniversary. This year, even though we'll probably go out to dinner, our gratitude is our celebration. We said, "I'd do it again." and we meant it. Thank You, God for what you did and are doing for us through Jesus' Christ.