"Right now I'm imagining you reading this letter; when you finish and look up at me from the page, I want to look at you with honest, brave eyes and smile, both of us knowing that yes, we have stepped fully into this vocation and the promises we've made."
For hours I used to sit on my bed or in the chapel, scribbling away letters to my future husband, years before I even met him. On our honeymoon I presented them to him, no longer a distant future but my living present and path to heaven: a pile of my hope, my heartache, my dreams and my joy at finally having found him, all tied in a stack of paper. I knew, as I was formed in the years before my marriage, that love was more than a fairy tale, and was ready to face it.
And we have faced it, together in faith and in love, yet I’ve found myself surprised by how stark the divide is between knowing reality is different from the authentic, sacrificial, piercingly romantic love I’d envisioned and actually living it out.
All things considered, God has blessed my marriage so richly as we celebrate our fifth anniversary this week. We have never experienced serious illness, tragedy, or infertility, facts I try not to take for granted.
Yet my heart is heavier than it was five years ago, in a good way. It’s fuller than it was at the altar, weighted with all we’ve experienced: grad school, unemployment, frequent moves, new parenthood, and all the sides of us those experiences have drawn out--for better and for worse. While we were dating and preparing for marriage, my husband and I read so many books, prayed together often, and thought the words of St. John Paul the Great would be preparation enough. As it turns out, though, nothing is preparation enough.
But this isn’t just about how nothing can prepare you for marriage; not just a word of advice and caution that a spiritual relationship alone doesn’t a marriage make.
It’s the realization that in love, it is possible to see your beloved perfectly clearly, as they are and as created by the Father, as much as possible at a given time. You come to see each other even more clearly, over and over--the totality of understanding who your spouse is is always increasing, always deepening with time. The first time I heard Brad Paisley’s “Then,” a song about thinking you couldn’t possibly love someone more, yet being proven wrong again and again, I sobbed. And that was before my husband and I were even dating.
We revealed to each other recently how, earlier in our relationship, the both of us would’ve said we knew the other person entirely. At the time, I think we truly did.
Prior to certain tests, certain fights, and just the passage of time, we did know an entirety of one another. With each of those tests, each of those arguments, those weaknesses revealed, and with each passing day, the entirety we’ve experienced has become deeper, though, and more complex; another brushstroke made visible in the master vision of who we really are.
Unlike before, I’d actually say now that I don’t know my husband completely, nor does he know me completely, and that’s alright. Our marriage prep mentors told us you can never fully know another person’s soul. How true that is practically, spiritually, and emotionally speaking, yet what a git we’ve been given in the opportunity to constantly know more.
On my wedding day, my dad lifted my veil and there I stood before the man with whom I was about to become one. What he saw before him was his bride, joyful with anticipation of the life ahead. That day, I was radiant with a gaze that hid or held back nothing. What I’ve seen, in the time since, is that that unveiling wasn’t a one-time occasion. It’s continual.
Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote, “Great are the joys in marriage, as there is the lifting of progressive veils, until one is brought into the blazing lights of the presence of God.” While we await the fullness of that blazing glory, that perfect heavenly vision, I pray the light of his presence still shines on us, drawing us out of darkness, out of ourselves, casting a clearer and clearer image of the man and woman we are.