There are at most 31 days in a month. In the Filipino-Chinese community, we used to say when one reaches 31 years old that he/she’s getting off the calendar. It seems to be a transition period from youth into adulthood. The next number would be the max limit of the thermometer – 40! Hi fever to reach 40, isn’t it? But life is said to begin at 40. What about marriage? What’s the magic number for the promise to love, to cherish and to hold – in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, till death do us part?
On FB, there are often professions and confessions of love and devotion, through thick and thin, cheesy and warm declarations and greetings of anniversary celebrations filled with smiles, seemingly all things bright and beautiful. Indeed wedding anniversaries are a milestone to be happily and thankfully celebrated. Yet behind each marital journey, there are always tears and heartaches along the way. Life is not a bed of roses. Even as there are roses, roses have thorns. It would be unreal to just see all sunshine without the rain. Even when the rain does not fall, black clouds loom in the horizon that threaten to dampen the way.
Hubby and I are entering our 32nd year of the journey called holy matrimony. Looking back the 31 years of being together, there was certainly much sunshine as there were storms. There were tears as there was laughter. Going through the marital path is about seeing both sides of the coin not just fuzzy idealistic lenses but also with a bare and clear realistic perspective: that man does not love perfectly. We are flawed no matter how much we love. And no matter how much we strive to be the ideal partner, we often fail. Honeymoon does not end after the first few months or even the first year or in spite of the kids’ arrival.
Is there a formula to a joyfully strong and ideal marriage? Hubby being good at Math, came up with a simple equation for our special dates. My birthday is the sum of his birthday and our anniversary. We are both born on the same year in the same month – only 17 days apart. Today is our anniversary. Basic algebra will give you the answer to our birthdays. It so happened that in the year we got married, 17 was a Sunday. But our love story is more than just numbers on the calendar.
Long story short, there is a simple formula that seems simple and yet profound. It does not take two to tango. Ours is a love triangle. Perhaps I could borrow some geometry to describe our marriage. It’s like a pyramid with God as the base and God as the peak. It’s God that holds us together by His grace and mercy. If there is one thing that is more important or just as important as our love for each other, it is our common faith – we both have Jesus as our Savior and Lord. We both receive God’s gift of salvation and eternal life to be lived on earth as it is in heaven.
Let me give practical illustrations on having a dual lens of the marital adventure. It’s like some paradoxical mystery with God as the puzzle mastermind.
Two but One
First, it is a fact that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. A man and a woman are different even as God created Eve from Adam. They are called to be one flesh from two bodies. And so my first dual lens is that we need to affirm our individuality yet find our way to be one. It is more than just about me eating ice cream and hubby having hot soup together. It is also not about him trying to fix things and find solutions each time I tell him a problem. It does not have to end with him feeling helplessly frustrated at finding a solution. Why? Because more than a fix, I just need a listening ear or bluntly a sounding board. So how do we traverse this paradoxical issue? We need to accept one another. It is easier said than done. It takes lots of practice on self-awareness and other-thoughtfulness. And this leads me to the next paradoxical secret.
Head and Heart
There are many truths about love and marriage that we know in our head. We can get so theoretical, rational and logical – we reason and argue with this and that – how right we are or how wronged we are. The head needs to be balanced with the heart. Sometimes the distance between the head and the heart can either be very short and near or long and far or even boundlessly unreachable! So how then do we deal with head and heart thing? We need to read God’s Word and practice what we read from it. James speaks of looking at the mirror and not doing anything about what you see in the mirror. Reading the Bible is like looking at the mirror to see that your hair is not in order. Not practicing what you read is like going out of the house without combing your hair. Love is not a thing of the heart. It is more than just warm fuzzy happy feeling that you have – when your spouse is so lovable and thoughtful and doing all the things right and serving you in the way that you expect him/her to do.
Love is being kind and serving hubby food even when I do not feel like it – even I think that he does not deserve it… even when I feel like letting him starve or even when I wanted to storm out of the house and not appear again for a day or two to let him taste what it would be like to go a day without me! Love is a decision in the head – a choice to make to do what the Bible teaches me to do. It is thinking of myself less and more of what God wants more. The Bible teaches me to submit to my husband. It is not about being a slave – oppressed and depressed either. It is about making a choice to be humble and patient. Again it is easier said than done. Where is the line between humility and inferiority complex? How do I get past these obstacles of hurt, pain, wrath, frustration and disappointment?
Forgive and not Forget
What to do then? I practice to let the sun go down and not holding on to the wrong, the hurt, the pain etc. How am I doing with this lesson? Perhaps just a little higher than the passing mark or sometimes even way below the borderline. It is hard to let go of the pain. It is not easy to hold my tongue and not justify myself or defend myself. If I hold my tongue, I need to let the tears fall. It’s my way of coping. But again practice makes perfect even if perfection seems to take practicing forever. And it’s not about forgetting either. It is perhaps about remembering less and less the wrong. Love does not keep a record of wrong. How to remember less the wrong? How about remembering more the good? I need to remember the good words that hubby said, the good traits that he has, the good deeds that he does.
And before this piece gets too long, I need to stop and practice some more. 1, 4, 17, 21, 31 or 32 or more… these are just numbers. Many things in marriage cannot be counted – they are abstract and difficult to appraise. Yet these priceless stuffs are what count.
As husband and wife, we need lots of practice – to be different yet united, (through acceptance), to be rational and yet emotional too (in our loving), to let go and to hold on (in our forgiving/appreciating). Let God be the base and the peak.
As man and wife, pray this prayer together… Together, we can do it – you, me and God!