In a recent article I wrote about the waiting that is a part of all ways of life, including marriage. I wrote about how marriage doesn't fulfill all our dreams.
Someone left a comment on the article expressing how they didn't feel that marriage could really be as disappointing as I made it sound. That was a comment that I felt should be addressed in a new article, because the answer was too complicated to be adequately given in a com-box.
My initial reaction was to smile. Marriage has been anything but a disappointment to me. It's glorious. I love it. I love every minute of it. As I mentioned in the previous article, my husband is an amazing man. Every day with him is beauty. This is truly a dream come true.
But after that reaction, my realization is that if I had gone into marriage believing that it would solve all my problems and take the shadows out of my life, then YES, I would have been so, so disappointed.
When I was engaged and preparing for my marriage, I think one of the most important things I realized was that entering into this way of life was not going to be stepping onto the path of roses and rainbows. While I still believed then and know for certain now that marriage was going to enrich my life and make it happier, I understood that getting married was an invitation to suffering.
Yes, marriage brings suffering. It brings acute suffering.
Marriage invites the pain of infertility. Marriage invites the pain of a miscarriage. Marriage invites the pain of financial problems when you have little ones depending on you. Marriage invites the pain of rash words hurting countless times as much because they were spoken by the one you love most of all. Marriage invites the pain of seeing your child fall away from God. Marriage invites the pain of horrible loneliness when the beloved you spent your life with is taken from you.
Does that sound disappointing?
That depends on you and your perspective. Whether or not you'll be disappointed depends on what your attitude towards marriage is.
Do you think that marriage is a state of life designed to satisfy you? To make you feel warm and loved? To fulfill you and make you happy?
You're probably going to be disappointed.
Do you think that marriage is something man and wife enter into for the sake of sanctifying each other? Do you think it's designed to help you grow in holiness? Do you think that your primary mission in it isn't to scramble for your own self-fulfillment, but to sacrifice yourself daily in countless ways for the love and salvation of your spouse?
You're going to be fine.
The suffering and responsibility that comes with marriage is something that needs to be thought about if you're serious about entering into the vocation of marriage. They're going to come whether you like it or not. And the more you think about it and pray about it, the better you'll be able to handle it when it comes.
I know so many single girls who have an attitude of intense expectation towards marriage. The very real pain of their singlehood has led them to believe that marriage is going to solve all their problems. They sincerely believe that all their discontent with life can be attributed to their lack of a husband, and that as soon as they have him life will be all sunshine.
There will be sunshine. I know this from personal experience.
But I also know that it hurts like crazy.
Better than that, I know the hurt is what makes my marriage wonderful. When things are bright and cheery and my husband and I are out on an ice cream date on a sunny afternoon, that's nice.
But when things are dark and gloomy and we're both hurting and I make it worse by lashing out at him in my pain... and when he takes me in his arms anyway and tells me that he loves me, and holds me while I cry and until I fall asleep... and when I wake up and find the house clean and a wonderful dinner made, and his smile full of tenderness for me...
That's not nice. That's amazing. You get the feeling like when you see Christ bloody on the Cross. Everything in you shivers, and you ask: What wondrous love is this?
I hope this doesn't sound disappointing to you single girls. Don't feel like the Jews who wanted the Savior to come in glory with banners and armies and not born in a stable and riding into the city on a donkey.
I hope it sounds beautiful. It is. I hope you will experience it in on your lives. Yes, I hope for suffering for you. I hope for the hardships of marriage. Why?
Because marriage doesn't make life golden. The Love of God does, and it does whether you're single or married or in the religious life. Marriage is a truly amazing way of experiencing it. And so I hope that your dreams come true and you can be married and have a heart open to the suffering it brings. Ice cream dates are nice, but I want you to experience the deep and intense love that grows when your husband is hurting but he stills lays down his life for you again and again and again and again.
And I really, really hope that when you're hurting you will lay down your life for him again and again and again.
If you do, forget about sunshine. It's nothing compared to the level of joy that will fill your hearts and your lives.
Take a good look at a picture of a holy marriage. Don't tell me that this is disappointing. This is amazing.