What I’m beginning to notice with the passage of time is that this is both a significant and an insignificant practice. It’s significant because for many, the commitment to sticking with something or someone is rather rare these days. My parents are the only two people I know who have celebrated a 60th anniversary. We look down on people at times who have been at the same job for what seems like eons. We knew a man who had worked at a radio station for 40 years doing the same job and many of us said that all he got at the end of the day was a gold watch. Untrue. He had the admiration of many and the friendship of all he met almost immediately.
And that brings me to its insignificance. Staying committed to something isn’t about longevity, it’s about “living with the purpose of living.” For many, that means that they’ve realized a lacked passion in their current roles in life and feel like they’ve “chosen badly” and now it’s time to start over or revise their choice of partner, or career, or home. But when passion is realized and purposefully chosen well, then the choice for commitment is as close to who you are as your own heartbeat. In fact, I think it’s what keeps your heart beating and beating well.
For myself, marriage to Marion is what keeps my heart beating well.
And because I chose wisely 10 years ago in choosing to commit my life to her, each day need not be marked by the passage of time but by the noticing of the vibrancy of life itself with and for one another.
It was Marion who knew that I would love the little dog that we pour love and care into when children were not an option for us and when it could have been easy for us to fall into depressed states. It was Marion who had us moving to Buffalo long before I could let go of Busted Halo® because she saw the commitment and love that people like Fr. Jack Ledwon and Sr. Jeremy Midura and Patty Spear had for their community and longed to share with us. It was Marion who cared for my mother when she nearly died not even a year into our marriage–the so called honeymoon period for most couples.
It’s Marion who’s kept the honeymoon going for me, 10 years later and it simply feels like it was yesterday because of the passion that we have for one another and yet, we know it’s been 10 long years because of all that commitment required of us in our journey to love one another no matter what comes our way.
Passion sometimes also leads us down wrong or hardheaded paths. And throughout these 10 years (12 really, if you count dating) I know I’ve made this wife of mine angry or hurt her feelings. But we vowed to work at this relationship because we remember the passion we have for one another. Recalling that makes the fights subside, cures hardheadedness and brings us into healing and forgiveness. When I realize the love that we both have for one another and that Marion has freely chosen (and I do mean freely–she doesn’t have to choose me, nobody is making her choose me) to love me, the coldness of my spirit is warmed by the fires of her passionate love.
My colleague John Scarano talks about the commitment that we married ministers have made to our chosen vocation, a word I use here purposely. If we have two vocations, marriage and ministry than one has to predominate. “You can be a GREAT minister, or you can be a GREAT dad or husband. But you probably can’t do BOTH.” John says.
He’s probably right. But Marion bucks his trend because her response to something like that is “You already are a great minister and a great husband. I’m going to help you continue to be a great minister so that you also have time to be a great husband.”
For 10 years Marion’s been a fixture in much of the ministry work that I do. She’s played roles that I can’t play and brought people into my ministry when I easily could have missed the person entirely. Nobody’s ever left out because Marion won’t let them be.
Fr. Tim Sullivan, a great Paulist once asked me if Marion loved sports as much as he knew that I did. I replied “Oh no! Not at all. She went to a Jets game and said she liked it because they had great music!”
His response has stayed with me for a long time. “You know, Mike, that’s interesting. Because you probably could have married some baseball loving person who wouldn’t allow you to grow as much as Marion has enabled you to.”
Amen, Father. There’s something about loving someone that enables you to love yourself just a tiny bit more than you already do. They always see the best part of you–mostly because they also know the worst part—
And they love you anyway.
That’s what we call a sacrament. And sacraments are for us, to remind ourselves each day of God’s overwhelming commitment to us, so that we might love as God does as well in freedom. And so like the eucharist which we receive over and over again…marriage invites us into a similar experience:
We give each other all of ourselves each day, over and over.
And when we do that, we experience God in our midst, inviting us to give just a bit more to one another, maybe more than we thought we could.
I never thought I could love someone this deeply, and yet the significance of being married for 10 years now tells me that I can–and I can do it well. I probably didn’t know I could love this deeply because I had think that I had not experienced this kind of love from another.
But Marion has changed all that for me, not just because she has loved me, but because her love reminds me that God loves us even more deeply. She has awakened me to be able to understand that and to love more freely in return because of it.
Indeed like the Eucharist, marriage is a daily sacrament. A commitment that one lives each day, mindful of our wounds, seeking forgiveness, re-membering each other back into community so that we can more freely experience the presence of God in our lives.
10 years? 3652 days? That’s nothing. Why? It’s simple. Each day with Marion by my side is more than enough.
For Marion has given me all of who she is and it is there that I have found gratitude and love.
And God lurking within both of us.