Today, my parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary! I would love to honor them by writing something about how they met, why they fell in love with each other, and what challenges and joys they have experienced through their decades together. But … I find myself at something of a loss for words.
How on God’s green Earth can I describe my own parents? The praises that I would give to my mother and father would be much like the praises that any loving child would bestow upon loving parents. Yes, of course, they have been extraordinary parents because they have successfully raised two children, one of whom has special needs. The extraordinary demands placed upon them because of a special needs child (me) has called them to make extraordinary sacrifices every day — sacrifices that they have willingly and lovingly made, and continue to make, even when it causes personal and interpersonal strain. This has not been the only challenge, however, that they have faced in their married life. Besides, all good parents willingly and lovingly make sacrifices for their children and even grandchildren, as my parents also willingly do for my sister and nephews.
But Dan and Francine’s Golden Wedding Anniversary is not about their offspring.
It’s about their marriage. Today is about two people wedded as one for half a century in holy matrimony.
I think it’s natural on an occasion like this to look up to a couple who has reached such a milestone. Perhaps some of their own generation, whose marriages were not as successful, will have great respect and admiration for them. Those of us from younger generations also admire and respect, while wondering what secrets we can learn from our elders who have maintained a loving, working relationship for so long. Thoughts like these have led me to think about what I can learn from my own parents’ marriage. My reflections turned to something central in my life, something that is essential in the life of every human being. As an up-close witness to the ups and downs of my parents’ marriage and a personal believer striving to maintain faithfulness in my worship and prayer life (as so many of us are), I’d like to reflect upon the similarities in each kind of relationship:
Marriage and The Life of Faith
There is a longing and even a need that leads us to this place. We search for a sense of belonging, for help in realizing who we are and inspiration to become the best that we can be. When we find understanding, uplifting encouragement, and refuge, we have an awareness of discovering home. Delighted and often filled with wonder, we may experience some timidity, some dare-to-hope trepidation, but ardent desire and the thrill of our new encounter makes us brave. We feel the burning of love that drives us into deep and devoted relationship, and we pledge ourselves wholeheartedly, mind, body, and soul, to this union, this commitment, this life.
This new life begins with flowers and laughter and every kind of pleasant sensation as we are overjoyed with this fresh and blooming way of living. The first difficulty arises, like a sudden frost upon an open bud, and we remember that we have not left the bounds of reality in our new mode of life. All of the natural causes of sadness and tension and disappointment still exist in the world in which we live. The home that we have discovered is still a home that is here, within the confines of time and space and human weaknesses. The promises that we made are still being kept by us, still being fulfilled, but often with less deliciousness of flavor and comfort of touch than what we experienced in the beginning.
There is a deeper knowledge of the other now, and also of ourselves. The lovely, gentle, sweet-breathing flower, after all, is such an attractive and delightful flower in order to bear fruit. The soft, rosy petals exist in order to be shed; the dreamlike blush and rapturous scent naturally give way to something more substantial, something solid, nourishing, lasting, and hard-won. There is an inner weeping with the outer weeping of tender perishables, but we, perhaps, revered too much the blossom without true regard for the blossoming.
We get distracted, have doubts, and may even be tempted by outer forces to stray away from the loving will that brought us here. As we struggle, we are called to dig deeper to find heartier resources. Only if we are truly committed to this relationship, to this life, to this reality of who we are now, will we ever be able to discover and tap into the source that is beyond ourselves and, so, be sustained and truly fulfilled. The love that brought us to this place remains unchanged and unexhausted, though it shapes us differently now and yields forth for us experiences and understandings that we never knew before. Difficult and painful though the formings may be, we find that through the tempests and losses we become better able to withstand storms and droughts. The good fruit doesn’t blow away on the winds of carelessness, tear apart with downpours of frustration, or wither and die in the arid torpor of tedium. This is not mere tolerance, though the human action of endurance may lead us through our worst mortal conditions. This reality is supernatural; it is made of stronger stuff than natural longings and likings, tingles and thrills.
Real love is willing to sacrifice self-centeredness for relationship with the beloved, willing to surrender some finite delicacies of feeling to the infinite depths of love and imperishable goodness. In this way, self-giving is rightfully recognized, understood, and taken up as bliss and, likewise, patience as pleasure, empathy as enjoyment, and forgiveness as true gift. Merciful acceptance of the bugs, bumps, and blights that mar the sensual beauty of the willing union brings forth a sense of humor and understanding of our own foibles, faults, and frailties. The relationship is what ultimately and intimately matters. The good that is at the heart of our commitment — the good that is the reason for our longing and loving, our forgiving and forbearing — is always there whether we feel it or not, whether we speak of it aloud or live it in quiet companionship. That every day choice to abide, to stay, to remain, to live with, through, and in this life is more marvelous and ceaselessly fulfilling than a fantastic forest of flowering trees or a thousand harvests of plentiful fruit.
Choosing to love and to remain devoted is the surest, truest, purest way to becoming precisely and perfectly who we are in this human life of change and challenge, of heartache and heartsong, of ebb and flow and give and take, as well as in endless reality. It is the eternal good, ceaseless beauty, and profound joy of us all.
Golden is the hour, golden is the shoot,
golden is the flower, golden is the fruit;
but Gold is the way, the truth, and the life,
Gold that outlasts disappointment and strife.
Purified through fire, sourced from above,
Gold is revealed in dedicated love.
Happy Golden Wedding!
(With much gratitude and admiration for my parents, Dan and Francine.)
© 2020 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.