Dear David and Ellie,
Thanks to the combined efforts of weather, Philadelphia air traffic control and United Airlines, we almost missed your wedding. As we sat, stranded on the tarmac at PHL for the better part of five hours, our plans changed from “Well, if we shower and change at the hotel quickly, we might make it to the church with a few minutes to spare” to “If we blow away all the speed limits between O’Hare and the church, we might see them walk down the aisle”. As it turned out, we made it in time for the Eucharist (no coincidences!), and to see you walk down the aisle, even if we did screech into the parking lot and ran into the church wearing our travel clothes and tennis shoes. Despite the stresses of getting to the church (not on time), I feel blessed to have experienced even just that bit of your sacrament. As you walked down the aisle, hand in hand, headed into your unknown together, I teared up. We took our own first steps as husband and wife almost 30 years ago, and from that perspective, I offer you a few words of advice and encouragement, because what our culture tells you about love and marriage is often at odds with the sacramental union you now share.
From selfie over-saturation to Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling”, we live in a culture that tells us to put ourselves first and to do what makes us “happy”. But now that you are permanently bound, though good times and bad, to one another, your focus is on the “we”, not the “me”. From the mundane (who’s going to take out the garbage tonight) to the momentous (parenting), you will be challenged to work with each other’s strengths and quirks to build your new life. And some days, working together will be tough, so you need to focus on your commitment, and on truly loving each other. Because, contrary to popular belief and Hallmark, love is more than just an emotion.
This weekend, you vowed to love and to honor each other all the days of your life—but you didn’t vow to like each other every day! Sacramental love means leaning into one other, not away, even when his or her unlovable parts are showing. It means giving more than you take, and leaving your expectations for the other behind. But of course you won’t always succeed in loving each other well. You aren’t always going to be happy with each other. You might even occasionally doubt the marriage. I know, because in the last 30 years we’ve had some rough patches—and then we had some really rough patches. And that leads me to my last point.
Marriage is easier when God is part of it. Right now, your faith isn’t first and foremost in your lives. I get it. I was a twenty-something once, too, and heaven knows our secular culture doesn’t impress the importance of religion. But after 30 years of marriage and parenting, I can tell you that our marriage, our life, would have been richer had hubby and I embraced our faith together earlier. Making decisions, working on compromises, would have come more easily if we had brought God into them. The daily stresses of life and the anxieties of raising kids would have been eased if I had prayed more and worried less. When you view your marriage as a vocation, truly a calling from God to create a life and a family together, even the rough parts are easier to manage. Because true happiness, true peace and true love comes from Him.
With all my talk of struggles and challenges, I’m not trying to minimize the romance you feel right now. Revel in it, revel in each other and keep that newlywed joy alive in your hearts. Bring it out when things get hard. Remind each other of it. One day, 30 years from now, you will be sitting in a church at the wedding of one of your children’s friends. You will reach over to hold hands, and you will tear up, too, just like I did. Your heart will overflow watching those young people begin the journey that blended your two hearts, your two lives, into a marriage and a life larger and richer than either one of you separately. And you will know how truly blessed you are.