Year 9: Learning to love in hard times

 

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Image by KC Wong

This year as we crossed into our wedding anniversary, we are both tired and worn out. Initial plans for a home-cooked dinner yesterday was tanked when he was held back due to an emergency meeting at work. When he came home past 11pm, he was so exhausted that instead of taking out the dinner I had re-heated for him in the steam oven, he ate from the cooled containers I had set aside to be put in the fridge. And I was so exhausted and distracted myself that I didn’t even notice the mistake until he had finished eating.

It has been a tough year for us since our last anniversary. Both of us have had to dig deep into our resources to live each day with hope and joy. It’s just been one of those long seasons where God tests us to stretch our hearts. How will we fare when it’s not all sunshine and roses and life is full of consolations? How will we fare when we find our own resources running low and yet we are met with our neighbour who is in need of our time and our love?

My primary love language is quality time. And so this past year has been a tremendous challenge because I see my husband far less than I would like, and when he is with me, he is often so tired and in need of solitude that the loving thing for me to do is to let him rest, go for a run, or pour out his woes to me. It feels like in this past year, we haven’t had very much opportunity to dream and laugh together. There have been pockets of graces of course – thank God – such as the times we spend with treasured friends or go on unexpected adventures. But then too quickly our batteries are drained again and we find ourselves forced to take one day at a time and learning in a much deeper way to love.

Yet as hard as this year has been for me, I am grateful for the wonderful opportunities I have learned to be more loving. In our relationship, my husband has always been the more giving one. And in this past year, I have learned to give much more than I had needed to in the past. Simply to welcome him home each night without complaining about how late he is, or to listen to him late into the night, or to give him a pep-talk at 3a.m. in the morning, or to get up to fill his water bottle when I’ve already snuggled into bed, or to get up before 6a.m. to make him coffee and breakfast – all these have become my training school of love. I have found that when my attention is on his needs and how sorry he must already be feeling about his work taking time away from me, it is not that difficult to be loving even when I am upset.

But perhaps my greatest lesson in love this year has been to love myself when so much is asked of me. I am proud to say I have learned where my limits are, and I know when to not wait up for him and turn in early, or when to just flatly (though gently) refuse to fulfil a request he makes when I know it is beyond my limit. Somehow we have learned to be very honest and frank about our feelings – both positive and negative – even as we both try to be more loving to ourselves and each other.

So as we celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary, I find that there is much to celebrate and rejoice over. For though it has not been a comfortable or easy year, we have been faithful companions on the Way of the Cross in daily life. I have learned how important it is to be faithful and loving in the little things, for it is those little things that add up to a great mountain of love.

“We love because he first loved us.” – 1 Jn 4:19

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