For Better, For Worse
I have an anniversary this week. My husband and I will be married forty-two years in a couple days. I’ve been reminiscing about past anniversaries. There was year ten when we foolishly thought we could leave our eight-year-old, five-year-old, and six-month-old for a weekend getaway. After all, we enlisted the help of two grandmas and one grandpa. Three on three. What could go wrong? Let me just say, it didn’t go well. They never offered to do that again.
So, for many years we have stayed close to home. We go somewhere for a nice dinner. It is always so exciting because I know I can count on two things happening that are a rarity. My pick of anything from the dessert menu and prolonged eye contact from my husband. Both so sweet.
Each anniversary I find myself pondering where we have been as a couple, where we are now, and where I dream we could be someday.
With each passing year the traditional wedding vow words make more and more sense. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health until death do us part. Right now, we are in a toss-up between “in sickness” and “for worse.”
My husband has suffered with chronic back pain for over ten years. Those of you who have experienced chronic pain know how insidious it is. It has a silent yet powerful effect on its sufferer and those around them. But, as with all of life’s challenges, there can be valuable lessons learned if we let ourselves enter the classroom.
God is using a trial in the relationship that is nearest and dearest to my heart to teach me once again a very basic lesson that I seem to be slow to pick up on.
Even those who love us the most will disappoint us.
As my husband has been focused on his pain and all that goes along with that, I have found myself after time, losing compassion and empathy for him. I can get angry and resentful. I can become someone I really don’t like. But I’m helpless to change. I feel so let down and disappointed by the person I thought, forty-two years ago, would never fail me.
Ronald Rolheiser puts it best in his book Against an Infinite Horizon, “Human love is finite. This insight helps us realize that the first task in any love, whether in a marriage or in a deep friendship, is for the two persons to console each other for the limits of their love, for the fact that they cannot not disappoint each other.”
I know now that what Rolheiser said is so true. We don’t do it on purpose, but we cannot not disappoint as we clumsily try to love.
He goes on to say; “First of all, the very way that we are made precludes ever having, in this life, a oneness of mind, heart, and body that fulfills us in such a way that there is no disappointment. Our eros, our longing, is just too wide. We wake to life and consciousness with an abysmal longing. Our hearts, minds, and bodies are restless until they rest in God.”
So, this anniversary I am going to rest in God. I’m going to fight any disappointment that wants to creep in. I’m going to let myself feel God’s tender and all fulfilling love for me in the prolonged eye contact and, this year…. crème brûlée.