By Barb Arland-Fye
My husband Steve and I crossed the border between Minnesota and Iowa on a pleasant day in May when a warm memory surfaced for me. On another spring day 34 years ago, I sat in the front passenger seat of Steve’s Ford Bronco as we drove back to Iowa after spending the weekend visiting relatives in the Twin Cities. We had been dating just a few months and stayed in separate places but got together for dinner and dancing with my Aunt Judy and Uncle Pete. Our budding romance had begun to blossom.
As Steve drove me home that long ago spring day, we talked about everything under the sun. I began to contemplate a lifelong commitment to Steve, with my parents’ marriage serving as a guide to discern that commitment. One year later, Steve and I entered the sacrament of marriage on May 25, 1985.
We’ve traveled many miles these past 33 years of marriage. The journey continues through the grace of God that comes from having said “yes” to marriage as a sacrament. God’s grace helped us to navigate uncharted territory as parents of a son with autism and another son whose sensitive nature made his childhood difficult. God’s grace has helped us navigate work-related separations and my tendency toward being a workaholic. (Steve jokes about “real time” and “Barb’s time.”. God’s grace guides us through detours related to injuries and illness. We’re hoping to be looking through the rearview mirror on the journey with cancer!
Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “The Joy of Love,” is probably my favorite reflection on marriage and family because he “gets it.” His commitment to being present to others, the example set by his parents, and his relationship with God contribute to his wisdom about the day-to-day joys, sorrows and ordinariness of marriage. The Holy Father offers this gem of wisdom that speaks to me: “If I expect too much, the other person will let me know, for he or she can neither play God nor serve all my needs. Love coexists with imperfection. It ‘bears all things’ and can hold its peace before the limitations of the loved one” (P. 55).
It used to bug me that Steve dressed in well-worn shirts and pants even on outings and errands. I grew up in a household where appearance mattered, even for a quick trip to the store. Ratty clothes would have required a trip back to the closet to find something more suitable. Steve is gradually changing his dress habits and I am gradually zipping my lips when he leaves the house wearing his favorite T-shirt or wrinkled Hawaiian shirt.
In a wonderful homily he gave in 2007, Father Ed Dunn, a diocesan priest and theologian, asked: “Was Jesus present at your wedding? … Does Jesus continue to be present in your marriage?” It dawned on him that 50th anniversaries aren’t reached very often because couples don’t live that long together.
“Can couples weather all the trials and temptations of married life together if they don’t root their relationship in Christ, and realize that their love for one another also reflects the love that Christ has for all of us, the church?” Fr. Dunn asked. The love of husband and wife, he continued, “should be a sign for others of just how much Jesus loves us, the community of his followers ….”
Last weekend, I watched the televised wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. The doe-eyed look of love the couple exchanged left TV commentators cooing and teary-eyed. Four years ago, when I suffered a spiral fracture in my right leg, Steve arrived in the emergency room with that same doe-eyed look on his face. That’s the look of love that conveys all the miles of a journey of marriage that we’ve traveled with the grace of God.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)