Saturday, June 22, 2013

Our Happy Anniversary

The beautiful bride, and the groom at their wedding reception

It is June 22, 1996. Here's the happy, youthful, energetic newly married couple. Well, they're a bit "mature" -- he's 33 and she's 29. Both have pursued advanced academic study and are professional teachers. But they are younger than they realize, and have yet to learn many amazing, beautiful, and difficult things in life.

A few days after the wedding, they'll go to Rome and Italy for a three and a half week honeymoon. Both of them have lived in Italy before (at different times), and they intend to revisit sites, get together with old friends, contemplate great works of art, embark on religious pilgrimages, and eat lots of good food.

Cellphones in 1996!
Did you have one?
Indeed, they would do all these things and more in the coming month. Above all, they would also have a most unexpected personal encounter in Rome. (I'll write more about that later.)

After 17 years, looking at the old wedding pictures (none of which are digital) is a funny experience. Everybody looks "soooooo nineties." And sooooo young. I could scan the wedding album and tag all kinds of people and they would say, "Whoa, is that me?" But that would be more work than I'm up to now (aren't you glad?), and probably not worth the effort anyway.

When we got married, Eileen's father was only three years older than I am now. Wow!

It was almost a generation ago, and frankly it really does feel that way. I'm always musing about how strange a thing is time, but I feel the growth of those years, the many labors, the suffering, and the joys.

Today, I can't imagine life without Eileen at my side. I also can't imagine that there was ever a time when our five children did not exist. And its hard to believe there was ever a time when I had no beard, or actually even cared about the hair on my head (haha).

But there we were, newly married in 1996. Many new experiences awaited us. The deepest things were circumstances we could not possibly have dreamed. We knew enough to commit ourselves irrevocably to each other and to going through together "whatever might come."

We still don't know what's coming. Nor does any other married couple. There are challenges at every stage of a lifelong commitment. What we learn more and more, however, is how Jesus has consecrated that commitment with His love, through the sacrament of marriage. Christ crucified and risen has placed Himself at the heart of our commitment to each other, and made it a superabundant source of grace so that we might grow together in His likeness. And His presence is a guarantee that we can make it through anything, that our commitment is not based on our weakness but on His faithfulness.

One thing does not surprise me: she's still a beautiful lady. And she always will be.