By Barb Arland-Fye
Creative, whimsical and nostalgic wedding anniversary photos of couples posing cheek to cheek, snatching a kiss beneath the shade of a tree or pictured years ago on their wedding day have been popping up on my Facebook feed. My own montage features scenic photos taken in Ireland and along a nature trail in rural Illinois.
The centerpiece of the post is an image of my husband Steve and me in western Ireland with a captivating view of a mountain and Kylemore Abbey in the background. The caption reads: “We’ve savored plenty of mountaintop experiences in our 38 years of marriage. Steven Fye and I give thanks to God on this 38th wedding anniversary for accompanying us on the journey!”
Left unsaid was the fact that every marital journey includes valleys as well as mountains. I posted the photos toward the end of an especially challenging day that could be described as a valley. Halfway through the day, Steve phoned me at the office to provide a head’s up to a developing crisis in our family. His call came around 20 minutes before my meeting with The Catholic Messenger’s Board of Directors. The timing couldn’t be helped, which left me entering the meeting feeling discouraged.
By the time I arrived home, the crisis appeared to be under control but both of us felt drained and decided not to go out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary as planned. For a moment I thought, why did this crisis have to emerge on the day of our wedding anniversary? Then I reflected back on the years of our marriage and remembered how God’s grace equipped us to pass through the valleys and make our way back up to the mountaintop experiences, for which I am deeply grateful.
We lean into the verses from 1 Corinthians 13: 7-8 about the nature of love: “It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails …” Paul wasn’t speaking to the Corinthians about marital love but his message applies so eloquently to Steve and I — through sickness and in health, in good times and in bad.
Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”) is perhaps my favorite “go-to” for inspiration. When I took it off the bookshelf the other day for this reflection, I found a bookmark on a chapter titled “The Challenge of Crises.” The Holy Spirit guided me to this passage, I’m sure:
“The life of every family is marked by all kinds of crises, yet these are also part of its dramatic beauty. Couples should be helped to realize that surmounting a crisis need not weaken their relationship; instead, it can improve, settle and mature the wine of their union. Life together should not diminish but increase their contentment; every new step along the way can help couples find new ways to happiness. Each crisis becomes an apprenticeship in growing closer together or learning a little more about what it means to be married” (No. 232).
On my computer stand is a heart-shaped paperweight containing a photo of Steve and me on our wedding day, with flowering trees in the background. I look at that couple, smiling in contentment, and smile back. Our apprenticeship is a lifelong journey in growing closer together, thanks be to God.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye@davenportdiocese.org)