Saturday, April 30, 2016

Toast or Bacon - Marriage Over Breakfast

Today it was bacon instead of toast.  I was making breakfast and said, "How many pieces of toast do you want?"  He heard, "How many pieces of bacon do you want?"  I clarified.  He insisted.  I bristled.  The words had barely left my lips.  We defended our truth as passionately as though our lives depended on it.  His confidence in his defense (and simultaneous accusation) went right through me.  And he wanted to know how I could be SO sure I said what I thought I said?!  BECAUSE I was still making toast, I only had a fixed amount of bacon, anyway, I was looking at the toast, I said toast, and I heard myself say TOAST. 

That's how. 

Sometimes, marriage is just hard.  Just a week ago today, we renewed our vows with a group of couples doing the same.  Only, on that particular night, we didn't want to.  Sometimes beautiful opportunities with beautiful people come when only ugliness can be felt and it seems like a cosmic joke even to be present, much less participate in something so sacred.  We renewed our vows anyway.  If we hadn't liked the people we were with more than we liked each other, we probably would have left early.  It wasn't that either of us has/had plans to do anything other than what we promised to do when we got married 13 years ago, but we didn't FEEL like saying it again.  Not on that night.  

Things were more or less fine before we left, but I had the brilliant idea to ask for his input on which shirt I should wear.  I held up two shirts, and asked, "Which one do you like better?" to which he said, "Those are shirts?!"  That was it.  My patience disappeared in the span it took to ask a single question.   We never recovered.  Well, not never.  Just not that night.

In fact, it wasn't until the next day when I realized this boiled down to forgiveness.  I was sitting in Mass looking at Jesus hanging on the cross, and I "heard" Jesus ask me, "Can you forgive him?"  I knew this question was aimed at my feelings (and the way I blamed my husband for them) and not anything he had actually done wrong, which is usually the case.  Knowing the forgiveness I have already received and continue to receive, my interior response was a sheepish yes.  Ha.  Funny about being sheepish in the presence of the Shepherd. 

This yes ultimately made itself known when my arm conspired with the heroic effort of my heart.  I put my hand on my husband's shoulder in the car on the way home.  And so, we began again.

To help me along my journey in taking responsibility for myself and remembering that nothing, even that suffering which we perceive to be caused by another, is outside of God's plan for us, Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence (The Secret of Peace and Happiness) says:

Do not let ourselves be troubled when we are sometimes beset by adversity, for we know that it is meant for our spiritual welfare and carefully proportioned to our needs, and that a limit has been set to it by the wisdom of the same God who has set a bound to the ocean.  Sometimes it might seem as if the sea in its fury would overflow and flood the land, but it respects the limits of its shore and its waves break upon the yielding sand.  There is no tribulation or temptation whose limits God has not appointed so as to serve not for our destruction but for our salvation.

And this is how it goes.  All good for a good long while.  Then, the road gets bumpy.  And bumpier still.  Toast becomes bacon and bacon becomes a blog post and the waves break upon the yielding sand. 

In my work, I have the privilege of encountering many couples who have been married over 50 and 60 years.  I ALWAYS ask if they give marriage advice.  Usually, they don't.  This always takes me by surprise.  Maybe, they don't feel any more certain about what works than they did in the beginning.   Maybe they know talking about it doesn't do any good.  But, occasionally, when they're willing, it is one word. 


One very faithful woman who stopped counting after 50 years of marriage is married to a non-church goer.  For 50 years, she has laid his suit out on the bed on Sunday morning.  "In case he changes his mind, all he has to do is step into it."  What?!  How do you not become bitter or apathetic?  Her answer is simply her appreciation for how God has not given up on her and consequently, His love for her models her love for her husband. 

What a good and unfailing model.