The song my husband and I chose for our first dance includes the line, “I want to belong to you.” The words resonated deep within, evoking something free, intimate, permanent.
As we said our vows at the altar I felt the weight of commitment and distinction, grace made tangible and distinctively binding us together. The very gravity of our promises made them romantic to me: faithful love forsaking all others, fruitful love that wouldn’t stop at the two of us, free love that willingly desired exclusive belonging, total love that saw all of me.
I thought I got it at the time. I thought my husband and I shared a healthy sense of vulnerability and a spirit of loving encouragement and correction. In many ways we did, and continue to.
But in the months and years since, I’ve seen the ways in which seemingly small matters make me fall short of letting myself belong entirely to my husband, calling me into communion over division.
There have been times I’ve clung to wounds received and inflicted in past dating relationships, allowing them to hold sway even after I thought I’d moved past them. It’s only been more recently, as I’ve waded fully into this pain for the first time, that I’ve shared the fullness of embarrassment over my past actions with my husband. I hadn’t intentionally withheld these thoughts earlier in our relationship; their magnitude and resulting unrest only surfaced later on, the fruit of deeper insight and self-examination.
Holding on to the past, I realized, was a distraction from my present.
I was sacramentally united to my husband and desired to rid my mind and heart of the past. He loved me still. He encouraged me to offer my humiliation--a true sense of being humbled--to the Lord, praying for freedom and interior peace.
There have been times I’ve retreated inward, too embarrassed and ashamed to admit fault in actions both minor and major. Yet each time I’m tempted to keep my mistakes to myself, I feel the restlessness creep in. The overwhelming desire to share, tempered by fear. Being seen in the fullness of who you are is thrilling, though terrifying. He loves me still.
Even in my shame, I am loved. Even in admitting the regrets and misjudgments I’m scared to bring up, my husband is gentle and forgiving. I’ve come to understand belonging to him as an invitation to take off my masks. An invitation to reveal who I am and who the Father calls me to be.
A healthy sense of belonging to my spouse has, for me, amplified an awareness of ways in which I ultimately belong to the Lord.
However imperfect in this life, the purpose of each vocation is to make manifest God’s love. My husband’s love—so patient, merciful, total, and accepting—shows this to me. I am known; I am seen; I am beloved. It’s not unlike the sacrament of reconciliation, in which we find ourselves tenderly embraced in our brokenness. We leave armed with the grace and resolve not to remain the same, but to stay the course in pursuit of greatness. The word reconcile, after all, is rooted in the Latin word for “to bring together.”
Are there small cracks and nagging divisions tugging on your own heart, drawing your attention to ways in which your relationship can grow in total honesty, trust, and intimacy? Though always a work in progress, I can’t attest more to the joy and freedom of transparency and accountability that embody the Father’s love. Saint John Paul II has interceded for us from the start, and I frequently recall his motto, totus tuus. This phrase, “totally yours,” expresses his trust in Our Lady to bring him to her son; in our marriage, we make this our same prayer.
If you find yourself, like me, suddenly seeing ways in which you can belong to your spouse more entirely, I encourage you to enter into them, even when you’d prefer to run. Sit with your mess, let yourself feel any pains of your shortcomings, and move forward--with prayer, practical steps, and, if necessary, spiritual direction or counseling--knowing you’re not just moving for movement’s sake, but toward a beautiful pursuit: being brought together--reconciled--with both your earthly and heavenly beloved.
“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you.”