Saturday, June 23, 2018

After 22 Years: Marriage is Life Together

So it's been 22 years, and here is what we look like now.

When Eileen and I got married in 1996 we certainly didn't know what these years were going to be like. The only way to know any vocation is to live it, because vocations are personal.

Obviously there are basic realities that define marriage as a state of life. But the whole experience is lived by two people in an very particular way, two people with two different personalities, with special joys and special challenges, and with so many circumstances that we have had to face together—things we never would have dreamed.

After all, this is not just "any" marriage; this is "our marriage."

We didn't know whether or not married life would conform to our expectations (we didn't even really know we had expectations).

Really, things are turning out to be continually surprising, different, and better than we could have known (note that I did not say easier).

It's a life together.

What did we know back then? We knew enough to commit ourselves irrevocably to each other and to going through together "whatever might come."

Now we have a family, which in one way is "not surprising"—and it is certainly something we wanted—but in another sense it is a continually unfolding surprise and challenge: these five human persons have been entrusted to us, and they have grown and changed, each one of them with their own unique personality.

The kids have changed so much since the book Never Give Up was published in 2010 and since I began this blog in 2011. Suddenly, they were teenagers. And now, "suddenly" they are adults (some of them) and even though we've all been through so much together, it can sometimes seem like it just went by so quickly.

Our two youngest are not grownups yet, and there are lots more adventures coming up with them.😜

We've also had the struggles with my illness, with loss of employment, change of employment, needing money, managing "stuff," being weak selfish sinful human beings, being forgetful, being exhausted, and now this new kind of experience of caring for our own aging parents (mine, for now—Eileen's are younger and doing well at present).

Marriage is life. It's life as a companionship. It's a gift, a journey, an adventure, a daily experience of the reality that we belong to something greater than ourselves, something... Someone, mysterious and good, leading us deeper toward the fulfillment for which we have been created, which is beyond our understanding...Someone who is worthy of our trust.

Marriage, like life, involves much suffering. This is mysterious too, and we are still learning to endure all kinds of sufferings with patience.

Marriage, like life, is a joy. There are many joyful surprises, but there is also that deep joy that remains at the foundation and still holds us even through desperation and the biggest challenges.

And so, we remember these things as we continue together.

We still don't know what's coming. Nor does any other married couple. There are new experiences and new challenges and new sufferings at every stage of a lifelong commitment (I have the example of my own parents, who are called to face new and hard things even now, after 58 years together).

We live committed to stay together, to love each other, to persevere in hope. What we learn more and more is how Jesus has consecrated this commitment with his love; the reality of marriage as a sacrament fills the whole living out of this vocation.

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 promise that we can make it through anything, that our commitment is not based on our weakness but on his faithfulness.

We continue together, with hope, with joy, because Jesus is here. He has come to dwell with us and has promised to remain with us. Trusting in him, we find the strength for each day.