The first two years of marriage were difficult. The first year of marriage was very difficult. I can say that with ease because our marriage is quite the opposite now, and it isn't because of books read or the sweet baby I just put down for nap time.
Fights have turned to a fuzzy remembrance in my mind now. Difficulties which seemed impossible to overcome now are daily gains of strength which draw Paul and I closer together. So, in reflecting on 2010 and all our/my blessings I couldn't help but think: Why? What changed in Paul and I? What clicked?
I've talked to friends on the phone or in person who, when asked about their marriage, claim some unruly beauty and peace in their home, some kind of magic happily ever after. They effortlessly obliterate my lingering belief that, to some extent, newlyweds face the same struggles Paul and I did. When I listen to their honeymoon bliss of past or present my initial infantile reaction is You're just full of it!, and after I check my attitude exclaim some robotic, "Well, that's just great to hear!" And, it is. I would never wish marital stress on anyone. For, marriage is almost always the greatest secret -- all around us people walk with a great secret living in their heart. Secrets of pure bliss. And some, unfortunately, of a great sense of hellish torment for marrying who they thought guaranteed that happily ever after.
My sister, Andrea, and my sister-in-law, Margery, will walk down the aisle next year to those men which make them feel down to their toes tingly with love. I can attest to the love and growth I see in both of these relationships. With great gratitude I will sit in the pew with my cuddly Thomas and my Paul and sing praises to God for pairing these couples together. What a grace it is to find someone to share the rest of your life with! What a blessing to marry that man who edifies and heals, loves, protects and provides.
But there's a very good reason we kneel throughout the Mass which unites us in marriage. We kneel in reverence to the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist because He is first. We kneel in awe and gratitude for his abundant love which allows for our spouses to be what they need to be [in loving, protecting, providing] within the vocation of marriage. We kneel in humility because we know we can't be all to each other. We kneel in saying, God, you are always first.
The past six months, I have put God first, so that Paul can be what he needs to be for us and for himself. Our marriage is not a holy string of prayer and discussion about faith. It is not complete unity in our adherence to the Catholic Church. It is not a perfection or a lack of sin. I would love it to be this, but it isn't today. But, I do lay down my desires daily as wife and as mother, and I do say, God, you are first. Take my desires and fears. Imbue your will and direct my path. You are the 1st healer, protector, provider. This is more sufficient than I thought it would be. My heart desires much more, but this, this is good!
Letting God be God, letting Him be first is the liberation a marriage needs. It is the independence we seek and can't find in distorted lies of independence like incremental increases in time apart or money multiplied.
Praise God for the graces He bestows on us when we are ready to accept them!