Andrew Peterson has a beautiful song about marriage. It goes, Let's go dancing in the minefields, let's go sailing in the storms. This is harder than we dreamed, but I believe that's what the promise is for.
My husband William and I stood at the altar a year ago and vowed to love each other in good times and in bad. We took each other's hands, exchanged rings, and prepared to forge a path together, with wide smiles and eager hearts. We've encountered many hardships during our first year, but the sacrament of marriage is rich in abundant grace and unexpected joy.
I asked William what he learned during our first year of marriage, and he said, "Nothing. Absolutely nothing." At that, we both started laughing. We’ve certainly learned much in this first year. In particular, we have learned how to live the "in sickness" part of our marriage vows, and to sail the storms that accompanied a continual illness I endured.
Facing hardship has allowed me to experience the beauty of Christ's love through my husband. When I am weak, William is strong. He takes care of me when I am feeling my absolute worst, and has carried me to bed many nights. He has accompanied me to every doctor's appointment and advocated for my health. When I feel like a burden, he speaks words of encouragement. He has done the little things, like running errands, leaving sweet notes, and making dinner. He has shown steadfast love amidst uncertainty and led us in prayer when peace is hard to find. He has shown me, time and again, what selfless love looks like.
Accepting my husband’s help didn't always come naturally. I can be stubborn, inclined to to do everything on my own. I used to envision a spotless apartment and warm meal on the table awaiting William every day when he got home. Since I'm not working, I thought I could at least keep our house in tip-top shape. That hasn't been possible for the majority of our marriage, though: I slowly learned pushing myself beyond my body's limits wasn't good for my physical health, and that resting was actually better for our relationship.
I discovered the ways I could honor and love my husband looked very different than the ways I had imagined. I learned my role as a wife didn't depend on perfection, especially as it relates to my health.
We have faced many storms during our relatively short marriage, including a stressful move right after our wedding day, settling into a new area, navigating NFP, waiting to someday have a child, and William's challenging workload. Through each of these challenges, we've found our love refined. These experiences have given us opportunities to turn toward each other, our eyes on Christ. Through all my health issues we've come to understand how deeply we truly care for one another.
During each difficulty we face, we seek a renewal of love. We pray to receive grace and be made new. The hardships of our first year as husband and wife have bonded us together, strengthening us by showing us "what the promise is for," as Peterson sings.
These months have shown us the blissful, unimaginable joy of marriage, as well. I am still amazed that I am even married to William; sometimes so in awe of who he is as a man that all I can do is praise God. There's a peace that fills our lives, despite the hardships. We've found that attending weekly adoration keeps our hearts overflowing with love. Each night we take turns leading a prayer guided by the Holy Spirit. Our prayer time often looks like praise: praising God for the gift of marriage, for the gift of having found each other, for the immense blessings we have.
If you are a newlywed facing hardships, remember your vows. Look for strength in your spouse and in Christ.
Don't get discouraged by your own failings or your spouse's, or the challenges that life presents. Have hope, that this is a part of your vocation, one you have been called to live selflessly. You and your spouse are being refined and being made new. Turn to prayer, and be a living testimony to the grace of the sacrament.
Step back from the storm now and then, the better to see all the good that's happening: all of your spouse's goodness, and all of God's goodness. Praise God for every gift in your life.
About the Author: Bethany Swanson studied Humanities and Catholic Culture at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has served as a Jesuit Volunteer with JVC Northwest and as an assistant at L’Arche Spokane. She’s currently a stay-at-home wife and blogger at Strengthen My Heart and spends her free time reading, sewing, cooking, and learning photography. Originally from Oregon, Bethany now enjoys the beaches and warm weather of California with her husband William.