This morning, I came across a little piece of paper I saved with these wise words written on it: “How many memories lie in the circle of a wedding ring?” I don’t remember where I found the quote, but the words hit home for me. What a perfect way to acknowledge the awesome wonder and the “sacrament” of marriage.
Marriage and relationships are my passion. I think we all learn from each other’s stories, so I thought I’d a share a little with you. Maybe something I say will be of help to you or someone you know.
My husband, (Joe) and I have been married for 35 years. I would be lying if I told you we were always happy and things always went smoothly. Not only would I be lying, but I would be leaving out all the reasons why our marriage is now so blessed and rewarding. The struggles, and the overcoming of the struggles together, weaved the strong fabric of our lives together…intertwining our hearts and minds as one. Our life together…our marriage…is truly a miracle.
Joe and I married young – I was 20 and he was 21. I have to be honest with you; we did everything wrong. We “fell in love” when I was 17 and Joe was 18, meeting at a restaurant where we worked together. Joe was a musician in a rock band. (a very naïve me thought he was in his High School Marching Band – didn’t realize he was the lead singer in a rock band!!!) We had no planned goals, except for his rock star dream. Neither one of us attended college. Well, I made it through one semester, before deciding that my career would be wife and mother. Once we were married, the next ten or so years consisted of ups and downs, with some “very” down times.
On about three occasions, we were on that dangerous precipice teetering toward divorce. We had two sons, and loved them very much, but did not know what to do. We were miserable, each of us blaming the other for the unhappiness.
I could clearly remember our defining moment, that happened about 22 years ago. That moment came while we were holding each other on the couch, both crying, because we “knew” that we were headed for divorce. You see, we loved each other, but didn’t know how to be happy within ourselves, and knew nothing of what glued together a relationship. When we looked into each other’s eyes, we decided right then and there, that we would stay together and LEARN how to be happy.
God blessed that decision. I attended a “Christ Renews His Parish” weekend retreat that opened my eyes and heart to God’s love. Joe decided to do the men’s retreat the next year. His heart was touched that weekend in a profound way. He was a different man when he came home. I started counseling that helped me see my own weaknesses and strengths, which led me to appreciate Joe’s strengths. We started focusing on the goodness in each other, and somehow that helped us each to grow into better people. We became better parents to our wonderful sons.
I am sharing a little of our story with you because I believe that many people do not understand what marriage is, and why they are not happy. When I see married couples struggle, I wish I could do a mind meld with them to let them see what they could have if they just hang in there. But hanging in there is just the start. Marriage is much more than just “being there”.
“The sacrament of Marriage signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Beautiful thought, but how do we attain this love? I’ve been mulling this question since I found that piece of paper this morning.
Here is what I have discovered. When two people “fall in love” and get married, hopefully they have taken the time to truly get to know their spouse in the dating and engagement process. However, there are many layers in each of our hearts. There are secret layers of fears, emotions, life memories (good and bad), and insecurities that reside in all of us. What each spouse needs in the marriage is unconditional love, so they can feel safe enough to slowly peel away the layers that are masking their true heart and God given identity.
Therein lies the problem. We are merely human and not capable of unconditional love.
The secret to a truly loving and joyful marriage is that the husband and wife both open their hearts to Jesus.
When you make the decision to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and open your heart to Him, His Holy Spirit abides in you. No longer are you floundering on your own…He fills your heart with love, compassion and empathy. No longer are you just seeing actions or hearing words. You learn how to love the whole person, and look for the root causes of the behaviors that hurt or irritate you. Instead of pointing fingers and accusing your spouse (or anyone for that matter), you learn to overlook weaknesses and focus on strengths. Forgiveness and acceptance start to become much easier for you.
I don’t mean to make this process sound easy…it isn’t easy at all, and will not happen all at once. It is one of the hardest things you will ever do, but so very worthwhile!
Marriage is a covenant, a sacrament, and a miracle. The real miracle is the changing of two hearts into the heart of Christ, and then the two hearts will become as one. This oneness happens gradually, through love, support, loyalty, trust, commitment and forgiveness. Once this heart and soul connection is forged, the marriage relationship is so much more wonderful than you could have imagined on your wedding day.
I recently heard a pure and simple truth from a newly married couple who went through the Pre-Cana Marriage Classes at Church. They said that a married couple’s job was to guide each other to heaven. How beautiful! When that is your mission, imagine all the unique memories that will be contained in the circles of your wedding rings, on your way to Eternal Life!
May God bless your journey!
Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:4-6
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8