One of the core beliefs of Love’s Sacred Embrace is that the sanctified union of a man and a woman is a gift from God, though the qualities of the gift itself often change over time. ( I’m pretty sure our speakers this week at Marriage on Tap will be discussing the various phases most marriages go through against the backdrop of a culture that disrespects the institution of marriage in general.) As some of us who have lived together as husband and wife for decades discover, there comes a time when you’ve discharged the main responsibilities of your roles as parents. At this moment, the quality of the gift is different than it was in the beginning.
When it was about infatuation and learning about one another and our families, Nancy and I sensed we might be on to something. In the midst of this dazzling exchange of opinions, beliefs and attitudes, fueled by hormones, we discerned gifts in each other, the absence of which was likely a deal-breaker; honesty, a sense of humor, the ability to think standing up, similar Theories of Children, and so forth. We married in three years and were parents in five.
Two and a half decades with children in the house were, for me, another gift from God that
I only infrequently allowed myself to enjoy during the time we had it. I was overly focused
on the mundane details of sustaining a fairly modest lifestyle in Carmel, and was not very good at making money. One of Nancy’s gifts is that she doesn’t need to go out and buy a lot of things, what I refer to as “recreational shopping.” She made sure the holidays and birthdays were done well. We had help from our own parents with things like music lessons, orthodontia, college, etc. I overlooked a lot of the good times, to my lasting regret.
Nancy and I became empty nesters when Cate left for WashYou in August of 2002 and my mother, who spent the last two years of her life with us, passed away in late October of that year. I began my own spiritual journey, starting mine about where Nancy was in hers since she was a girl, just kind of falling into step and trying to keep up. We made hard decisions that led to our getting our financial house in order. We framed a retirement plan that seems to be working. We’ve done some traveling, and generally travel well together, unless a restaurant I really wanted to go to in Michigan had closed for lunch for the SEASON the previous day, unannounced other than a small hand-written sign in the window, for crying out loud.
With the bulk of the heavy lifting of being parents and workers and savers largely complete, we have found that God’s greatest gift to us is His having helped us arrive at a point–the door to retirement–where we’re both facing essentially the same direction, with similar hopes and expectations for how we will attend to one another for the last 25 years of our lives. We have achieved a level of emotional intimacy well beyond the “peaceful co-existence” we survived earlier in our marriage. We each hold a bank of goodwill for the other we draw upon when we get crosswise for whatever reason. We assume friendship and fair play. She still laughs at jokes I’ve been telling her for 40 years.
So often we see in ourselves and those we love times when, due to circumstances, we allow ourselves to wish great chunks of our lives away. “I can’t wait for this to be over;” we hear it every day, about situations that may last for months or years. What a relief and blessing it is to be able to say to Nancy, “I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with you. It sounds like fun. For not entirely selfless reasons, I hope it never ends.”