Tag Archives: Marriage

Through a Glass Darkly. A Love Letter On A Strange Anniversary

November eighteenth.  On this day nine years ago I married my husband.  On this day one year ago, separated by half the globe, we lost our fifth child at 21 weeks.  Mike was on a long flight when I called from the car outside the doctor’s office.  So I told an officer at the flight desk.  It was 3am before he called me back.  I sat on the floor in a corner of the dining room in a hushed house full of visitors and we talked for hours.  We cried.  We planned.  We even managed to laugh a few times because that’s how we are.  I don’t recall much about the conversation but I do remember saying “why did it have to be our anniversary? This is what we will remember every year.”

Here we are a year later.  We could not foresee that night what pains lay ahead, that we would lose another child within the same year.  Yet I feel differently about it now than I had expected, in some ways the opposite.  Now it seems apt, even right, to remember these two anniversaries together.  This last year has been a terrible one I would never choose to live.  But it has been an utterly remarkable and amazing year of marriage.  I don’t know that it can be put into words, but here is my attempt:

For the first eight years our marriage was pretty much ideal.  We two walked through lovely grassland.  The air was a little hazy, so you couldn’t see that far ahead; but the grass smelled sweet, the breeze was pleasant, and there were wild flowers everywhere.  We walked on, hand in hand, chatting desultorily, no particular direction in mind, no hurry to be anywhere.  Certainly there were trials.  Sometimes we would grow thirsty long before a stream.  Sometimes our legs would ache or blisters would spring up on our feet and we would have to sit and rest.  There were sharp stones and little gopher holes to watch out for.  Sometimes the sun would beat down too strongly, and sometimes the scenery seemed too monotonous.  Still it was a lovely journey with the pleasantest companion.

And then one day we awoke and inexplicably there was a mountain before us.  Somehow we never saw it coming.  Yet there it was, the top shrouded from view.  The only way was up.  There wasn’t a choice.  So we started to climb.  How disorienting it was at first to find ourselves in this new landscape!  The wind blew icy, cutting to the skin.  We sank up to our waists in snow, slipped and slid backwards.  Rocks bit into our hands as we struggled to pull ourselves from one precarious hold to the next.  We barely spoke; every bit of oxygen in the thin air was needed for the climb.  Our breath billowed out in clouds. Over time it became second nature to communicate instead through gestures and eye contact, anticipating each other’s needs.  Sometimes I became so tired I wanted to sit and rest but this wasn’t like back in the meadow.  You couldn’t stop to rest.  You would freeze where you fell.  You would never get up again.  So Michael would carry me.  When I saw that he couldn’t bear the weight any longer I would climb again, and rearrange the packs to take a heavier share of the load.  Occasionally a plateau would open up and we could breathe more slowly, let our heart rates fall, relax our vigilance a little.  Still the summit was nowhere in sight.  We had to reach it.  We had to.

Then, so slowly it took a long time to notice, the weather began to clear.  Through the thinning cloud we made out what might just be the summit. Best not to mention it at first.  But yes, there it was, definitely a peak.  Our footsteps quickened.  Until one day we clambered up on to the top and looked out at the world beyond.

What a view! For the first time in nine years you can see far, far off to the horizon.  Ahead of us stands a world rich with diversity.  I see deserts, canyons, mountains that dwarf our little peak, cascading rivers, sparkling lakes, beautiful fields and cool forests.  And away in the distance, shimmering faintly, the sea.

Suffering has changed us.  Our legs and lungs are stronger.  We work together with new ease.  Not only that but from our position up here we can see the possibilities, the richness of marriage as never before.  We are more genuinely aware of the potential tribulations of the journey.  It doesn’t look nearly so easy from here.  We don’t even know exactly how hard the way down from this perch will be!  It looks rather precarious I think.  But oh! It is all so breathtakingly, terrifyingly, awesomely, beautiful.  We know the pride of bravery in the face of trouble.  We know the sweet humiliation of being aided through weakness, of being carried.  We know the heart swelling fulfillment of love in bearing the other.  Trial and respite, success and failure, suffering and delight, all of it, all of it is glorious.  All of it lies ahead.  It’s almost time to start moving again.  We just have to remember where the ocean lies, and keep going until we reach the shore, hand in hand.

St. Paul writes:

Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known.

I am still very much a child.  I still see only darkly.  But my marriage to this wonderful man has allowed me to catch glimpses I never saw before.   I feel the immeasurable comfort of being really known so that I cannot even imagine the way God knows me, the way He knows my boys and holds them in His mind.  I see love’s breathtaking power  to overcome all else so that I cannot even imagine the love that is to come, a love my two sweet boys already know better than their parents.

And now there remain faith, hope, and love, these three: but the greatest of these is love.

I love you Michael.college

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On Marriage Part II: Comparisons are Odious

My last piece was about a broad description of a healthy marriage.  Today’s is about one of my top practical rules: Don’t Keep Score

Don’t keep score against other marriages.  You have no idea what goes on in somebody else’s marriage, no matter what you think you know.  Do their facebook photos look like a perfect family?  Doesn’t mean a thing.  Do they seem to bicker way more than you ever could?  None of your business.  This road can only lead to envy or pride.

Don’t keep score against your parents’ marriage.  First, see above.  You don’t know your parents marriage.  You think you do because you lived in the house with them but you STILL don’t know what went on in private.  For another thing, children are the most self centered people on the planet.  They only notice things as they apply to them and from their own perspective.  Think about the difference between road trips when you were in the back of the van and when you started sitting up front.  As children we just all magically arrived at our destination after a more or less fun adventure with all the things we needed.  As a mom it’s days of laundry and organization before and after and the sound of shrill kid voices drilling into your brain on hour eight in the car.  Getting four children in and out of a gas station bathroom solo: nightmare.  Finally, your parents have decades more experience in marriage than you.  You don’t know what their marriage looked like when they started out.  They’ve put a lot of work in since then.  You will too.  Relax.

Don’t keep score against the marriage you imagined.  I imagined getting up every morning with my spouse, sitting across the table staring deeply into each other’s eyes as we discussed the coming day, and then handing him a delicious home made lunch in a paper sack.  I did not imagine punching him in the arm after the third round of alarm/snooze to make sure he doesn’t miss getting to work.  I didn’t imagine buying him a Keurig because any other coffee making device took too much time and brain power in the morning.*  I did not imagine losing all our Tupperware in the first month of marriage because I sent it to work with him, only to find he was really just as happy to eat from the squadron kitchens.  Presumably Mike did not imagine needing to learn all about depression when he got married, or having a wife who turns mildly psychotic at 11 pm every night.  Let it go.  I didn’t imagine, I couldn’t have imagined, all the amazing things that make this work either.  It’s better than anything I could have imagined.  Messier, yes.  Certainly more of a work in progress, but definitely better.

Most importantly, don’t keep score between spouses.  Some days you feel like you are doing more than your fair share.  Some days it feels like you aren’t pulling your weight.  When we first got married we tried to make sure everything was even, equal, fair.  Now we’ve embraced the idea that marriage is all about injustice and we’re both much happier.  My husband is a terrible morning person.  It doesn’t matter what time he wakes up, he will be a bear for at least an hour.  Therefore, I do mornings.  Barring some extreme circumstance I get up every weekend and holiday morning and get the kids situated, waking him an hour or two later.  It’s really really unfair.  On the other hand, I accomplish anything I accomplish in the first half of the day.  Many days, most days, Mike gets home from a long day’s work and finds I haven’t even come up with a dinner idea.  He cheerfully gets down to cooking.  It’s completely unfair.

One of the readings we chose for our wedding was Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, including the rather controversial “wives be subject to your husbands” line.  Personally it has never bothered me one bit.  In fact, I love it, along with the lines that follow it.

22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; 33 however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

How did Christ love the church?  By laying down his very life for her.  By subjecting himself to scourging, crowning with thorns, being paraded through the streets in disgrace and being hung on cross and pierced by a spear all to open heaven to her.  So if I am trying to be subject to someone who is trying to sacrifice everything for me, it becomes a race for the bottom instead of a competition to come out on top.**   No point in score keeping then.  We’re over it.  As long as you’re ensuring everything works out evenly, there’ll be a chip on your shoulder or a cloud of guilt over your head.  If you both decide to greet every injustice by embracing it and doing what you can, things do somehow balance in terms of the big picture.  When you give up the quest for a tie, you both come out winners.  

* When we completed our marriage counselling questionnaires before our wedding there was one thing the priest pointed out as a problem “It says here she is a morning person and he is a night person.  This is going to cause trouble”.  We laughed.  We should not have laughed.

**Which really brings us straight back around to Marriage Part 1, which maybe should have been Part 2 then, but at least this way it’s in keeping with the circular theme.

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