1. Romantic love.
Long hours on the telephone. Addictive behavior, like shirking responsibilities and making lame excuses for missing deadlines; slipping out of the house to buy the third bottle of hair glue in week; celebrating your thirtieth day of being together; avoiding asserting your opinion at all costs; running your credit card over the limit; making endless promises to yourself that this is stupid and that you'll never do it again...at least not for the next five minutes! Since this is a family section of a church magazine, I will not push the memories too much farther.
I was sitting there on the couch today thinking about a lot of the things that I did during my period of romantic love. I was even thinking about the things that she did during that period. At least it seems that we did them. If we didn't do them, why do I remember them? Furthermore, how could we have done them since we were both on the slippery slope leading us out of our thirties. It's absolutely amazing how we got through it. How did we get through all the promises to think it over carefully, to not do anything stupid, to pray on it every moment of every day, to consult with friends and family, and on and on, and on... What I was thinking about today was that we've broken through the other side and Romantic Love is now a by-product of something that doesn't get much press as being love at all, Faithful Understanding.
2. Faithful Understanding.
Long hours together in silence. Telephone bills that don't surpass the minimum charge of keeping the apparatus. Addictive behavior like never making the bed alone in the morning; preparing soft boiled eggs every Wednesday; checking behind one another to make sure the stove is turned off before leaving the house; ditto for the faucets; having passwords on the computer that we both know. We have passwords because the computer asks for them, so we have to be kind to the computer. Don't we? She cooks, I wash; I drive, she sleeps. She earns, I'm the secretary. She has the elephantine memory for personal foible details; I admire that ability and I observe it and enjoy it in silent admiration. I have to admire her infinite assurance that she can ask for anything, at any time and get it from me. Where does she get that? Is she really unable to figure out that the first trouble shooting action to repair a computer is to shut it off for one minute and turn it back on? Like the light in the refrigerator her memory lights up as I open the door a crack on my way to the market for butter and salt. "Oh don't forget the olive oil, the sardines, the bread, the Tabasco sauce and the air freshener." Where does she get all these definite articles? When I get home I have the butter and the salt, plus the olive oil (Italian, of course), (Extra virgin too, natch), the bread, (French, naturellement), a nice Brie and a bottle of Beaulieu Pinot Noir (to go with the bread and the Brie) and a bottle of Tabasco Sauce (I once worked with a guy who date one of the McIlhenny girls). I dump all of this on the counter when I get home and she says, "you're going to get an attack of the gout with that cheese and wine. I never said to buy bread and of course you forgot the sardines and the air freshener." I say, in smug response dodging the gout prophecy, "There is some more air freshener under the bathroom sink because I bought two the last time." Then, thanking God that I bought time with the air freshener, I come back with, "I didn't forget the sardines. I couldn't remember if you like the ones with the spicy tomato sauce or the mild. I also couldn't quite decide whether to get Norwegian, Portuguese, Greek or New Zealand, large or small. I just gave up and decided that we would have them another time." By this time the laughter in the kitchen is musical and we fall into a loving hug. Hey, I'll take all the loving I can get at this stage of the game.
Matrimony is a grace from God. It starts growing when we're young and never stops. When two people are blessed with the same grace at about the same time, then the grace takes root. Like any other God-given gift, it gets better as it grows older. At first the roots are young and vigorous and the soil is rich and fertile. As time goes by the roots take on strength, the soil changes its chemistry and with it the relationship morphs into an ever growing oneness that neither person ever suspected could come to be. Romantic love doesn't grow, it changes into deep interpersonal unity that is stronger than romance. It is faithful understanding and acceptance that the mystery of God's gift is the most beautiful flower that has ever blossomed in our minds and our hearts. It never stops blooming. It never stops producing nectar; it never stops throwing off a sweet odor of grace.
Testosterone and estrogen are not the glue of marriage. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are the atmosphere, the rain and the sunshine that makes the matrimonial grace grow in two receptive souls that stay open to the flow of the spirit between them. The grace of Matrimony is love too. It is the creative love of God that takes on many forms over time. It
is an infinite mystery that cannot be described by mere mortals. I know that becaue I am not a mere mortal and even I can't describe it. I had "prepared" a lot of young couples for marriage, but how do you do that when you're still single?
After it happened to me I was arrogant enough to think that I had this stuff down pat. That was thirty years ago and I still have moments like the one I told you about earlier, "What is going on around here?" The answer, my friends, was not blowing in the wind. It was being planted into me by Our Father the Creator, His Outspoken Son, the Savior and their sweet and mysteriously shadowy Holy Spirit. They told me that LOVE is what was happening. Right there on the couch! Imagine my surprise at that answer! "Ol' What's Her Name Again?" wasn't even there! But I believed, and the grace of Matrimonial Love engulfed me even while my Better Half was out relaxing like most women do, shopping.
She's back. She didn't buy any sardines. Hey, I can handle that. She brought home two pounds of fresh, sashimi-ready salmon. Now answer me this, how can you cry at my funeral knowing that I am married to a God-send like that?