When I was little, I loved stories of soul deep friendship and triumphant romances, and I yearned to find a someone who would love me with as much abandon as I would love him. Ironically, although I was such a romantic, I was very realistic about marriage. Growing up, I have observed in the people around me (children do listen, and they see what you don’t expect) that there were more unhappy marriages than happy ones, and I knew from an early age how destructive and wounding an unhappy marriage was, especially to the children. So I always knew that I would not choose marriage for the sake of marriage or for companionship or to fulfil some social expectation – far too much was at stake. I decided that I would only marry if God made it clear to me by giving me a partner that I would have no doubt would help me serve Him better than I could on my own. It had to be someone very special because I love and live with a kind of ferocious intensity and passion that I knew most people could not take at close distance.
When I was 19, I was given a moment of wonderful grace where I truly, deeply felt that Christ was enough for me. I still remember that moment of prayer in my freshman dorm room: my heart was so full of gratitude and love that I told Christ, “You know the yearning of my heart to be deeply known and loved. If your will for me is marriage, then I ask that you give me a husband who would love You more than anything – even more than he would love me. Otherwise, Lord, your love and friendship is enough for me!”
Just months after I made that prayer, I realised that God was pointing me to a friend I loved and respected deeply. When we came to the decision to become a couple and to discern marriage together, the first thing we did was make a prayer of consecration of ourselves to Christ, and to enthrone Him in our hearts. I remember clearly that we specifically asked for the grace to be open to where He was leading us, and to not be an obstacle to the fulfilment of each other’s call from Him. That moment was 18 years, 4 months, and 2 days ago. The rest, as they say, is history.
Our act of consecration to Christ did not make us saints. Together, we struggled, stumbled and fell – grievously. Being in an intimate personal relationship unleashed our deep seated insecurities and we learned quickly that it was not easy to yoke one’s life to another, and that it felt extremely risky to be authentic and vulnerable with someone whose love we felt we greatly needed. But for all our struggles, we received confirmation after confirmation as the years went on that we were an undeniably good team and the dream grew stronger in our hearts to make this team permanent and to be spiritual companions and mission partners for the rest of our lives. With God’s grace, we married after 8 years of dating (5 of which was long-distance). That, of course, was 10 years ago today.
When we married, we had thought we would have a “normal” married life. That is, we would have children (we thought at least 4 of them!), and we would devote our lives to bringing them up as disciples and apostles of Christ. As is always the case with God, He had a different and better plan for us. Nothing gives us more joy than co-discerning our personal vocations and our mission as a married team through the ups and downs of life. Together, we have covered great distances that neither of us could have done without the unique gifts and strengths that God has given the other. We now know without a doubt that whatever the unique work of love that God had created us to do in this life is one that we can only accomplish if we continue to grow and work together. By this point in our journey, we already know we are not called to raise a family of our own but to open our hearts to God’s children in spiritual parenthood. Just as with biological children, we cannot choose who our spiritual children are or how long they will be under our wing. God asks us to love with open hands and open hearts – without seeking to possess them or control them – because they are His.
Our anniversary falls annually on the Solemnity of St. Jean Vianney, the patron saint of priests. We chose to renew our vows in the Eucharistic celebration of this solemnity because like St. Jean, we would like for our vocation to be spiritually fruitful through our obedience, beyond what our limitations and weaknesses can possibly bear. And we ask to bear fruit not for ourselves, but for the Kingdom. God will do what we cannot do if we but give him our willing hearts, and THAT we re-committed to Him at mass. We will surely continue to stumble and fall, perhaps even spectacularly. We may become ever greater fools. But one thing we know – whether in plenty of lack, in sickness or health, in seeming “glory” or humiliation, we want our marriage and our lives to be spent by Christ, through Christ, and in Christ. And for THIS we ask your intercession too – pray for us that God’s will be done in our lives, and that the years ahead will be ever more surrendered to Him!