Eighteen years ago today, I married my husband.
And just check out these words below. I mean, how romantic can you get?!
“You have a charming smile. No woman ever gets my attention the way you have… I must confess, you are beautiful.”
“I understand you perfectly. With ten kids, you still look awesome. You really are charming…”
These words, my friend, are actually not from my husband.
They are from a random handsome Italian man who sent me a message on Facebook. He has no idea who I am. But he certainly has a way with words. And his words (mixed with words from a bunch of other unsolicited strangers as compared with words from those who know me) have caused me to meditate.
What are words, anyway?
Most of the words my husband and I have exchanged over the last two years have been circular worn-out arguments, silence, tears, exasperation, sprinkled with failed attempts at “love and respect.”
For the record, I read the book Love and Respect twice. I had two copies, even. Mainly, I figured if all those smiling network-marketing peddlers of this book just ADORED each other, lovingly holding each other’s hands as they received Communion (we are ONE, I tell you!), then surely a couple like Corey and me could do this. Right?? We’ve had that book shoved in our faces probably five times, and the last time was by a multi-millionaire (network marketing) tychoon who’s child was a complete mess and who’s “happy, beautiful wife” was probably that way because they did things separately and had tons of money (or she was a living saint).
I’m not knocking that book. It’s actually really good.
It’s just that Corey and I don’t fit any of the regular molds, where regular books about speaking respectfully, leadership roles, or telling a woman how captivating she is and a man how admired he is will even work.
We met in a place of brokenness, a place called L’Arche, where I was privileged to live among physically and mentally disabled adults for a year and a half. Corey was a Navy pilot who volunteered there from time to time….. I was recently converted back to faith, and healing from past wounds and a chaotic lifestyle….. Corey was also recently a “revert” and was single and searching.
There were plentiful singles where I lived and worked. But I, and apparently Corey, were crazy enough to be like James and John in the Gospels, and say “Hey! We can totally drink the same cup as you, Lord! Yeah! Bring it! Theology of the Body, baby, bring it! We want 10 kids, we want daily mass, and we want to love each other the way Scott Hahn explains it!! Woo hoo!!!!”
The day of our wedding was truly complete bliss. The second day of our honey moon, that blasted “cup” showed up.
We turned out to be each other’s “cup”.
And so it appears that there was no regular earthly psychological marriage book (sure, if we hadn’t offered to follow Christ to the Cross), or mousy-woman-glazed-eyed-wife married to a domineering-man-who-takes-authority-over-everything book (because that isn’t us) that we could turn to that would solve our problems and set things straight…. There is only one “book” that will work for a couple like us, and it’s the one that recounts Someone undergoing crucifixion out of love, loved ones standing at the foot of the cross out of love, thorns and blood and agony, and resurrection and joy that don’t make any earthly sense.
Yeah, that’s the book for us.
Because, saying “you’re so beautiful” doesn’t do much for me when I’ve had 3 minutes of sleep last night because of the baby, my head is nearly splitting open from chronic migraines, our finances are (still) a mess, I feel anxious and depressed at times, and I’m trying to hold on to hope and trust and God Himself… Saying “you’re amazing” seems weak and desperate when certain issues seem to never go away despite repeated and passionate attempts at healing them…. and when we just can’t seem to ever get a foothold, because as soon as we do, another problem arises from out of thin air…
But there are words that DO warm my heart. Last night, after yet another exhausted Sunday and a tired argument, my husband said, “I’m here.”
I had dismissed those words last night, and somehow our conversation drifted away, and he was playing chess with the kids, and I fell asleep after feeding the baby…. But this morning, those words were still there.
And I realized, so am I.
We both continue to “show up”…. Even though there are a million easy ways out. There are second and third happy and compatible marriages. There are people who have worked out their personal psychologies and did the Dave Ramsey thing with budgeting. There is Match.com and there are handsome Italian strangers all over the Internet just dying to meet us, and I’m not even talking about the pervy folks. There are vacations, savings accounts, and people who are romantic and healthy. The world’s a candy store.
But THEY are not here. WE are.
“For better or for worse, for rich or for poor, til death do us part”…
We are here, and we are an icon of mystery, with layers and layers of paint and tears and depth and distortion and beauty… An icon that has borne the fruit of ten beautiful children this side of heaven.
Many times, I feel like I’m tired of working on this “icon”… I can’t seem to get anywhere… Sometimes, marriage seems like my own worst enemy… That maybe, if I were just single again, I could get a grip on my life and not have to be so… charitable. I could be more free, more independent, more prayerful and holy, more focused on my children and my life than on trying to always seek unity with my spouse, when most of the time I’m not even sure if we speak the same language….
But it occurred to me this morning, that I am my own worst enemy. And my spouse inconveniently brings out all those broken areas where I still need to change, to be molded, to learn how to love when there is little consolation, to have my heart transformed into one of purity rather than one of self-centeredness or pride or anxiety…. He shows me that love, real love, is supposed to be unconditional and faithful even through the dark storms… He shows me that too often I desperately want human approval and heaven on earth. Who doesn’t?! I mean, I want that gorgeous house and that perfect hair, that husband who writes all this gushiness about his beautiful wife for all to see, I want that vacation and knowing that my bills are not only paid but that there’s more to come, I want all those friends I can just hang out with whenever and wherever I want with my shiny SUV, I want to go to sleep without anxiety or migraine pain….
I want heaven on earth, folks, and I’m admitting it right here! But if I had that, maybe I would never get to the real thing in eternity…
So, dang it, I have to go and be faithful and spiritually competitive and continue running this race. And my husband won’t let me off the hook, because he’s still running it too.
We are each other’s best enemies of each other’s sins, and we are not giving up.
…..Last one to heaven is a rotten egg!!! 😉
God grant us many years, in health and happiness… Happy 18th Anniversary, Corey!
Below: This is the icon that was given to us during our wedding by the priest who married us…