And they lived “happily ever after.” The ending words of fairy tales have become our expectation for real-life marriage. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a “happily ever after” marriage is easy. You walk off the altar with such joy and think that this marital bliss will last forever. That it will come automatically and be pain free, because we are sooo in love! But the words, “Darling I never knew it would hurt this much to live happily ever after,” are much more realistic. The words are written by my good friend Cinda DeVet in a poem she authored.
With World Marriage Day on February 11th, and Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on the splendor and the challenges of marriage. In celebration of the beautiful Sacrament of Matrimony I am sharing Cinda’s poem, In-Between Anniversary. It is full of truth and hope. Cinda and her husband Joe know quite a bit about marriage. They have been married for over fifty-one years! Cinda speaks not only of the struggles and pain of marriage, but of the glory too!
Read through its entirety and experience the beauty of a grace filled marriage that lives out the vows of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, and…until death do us part.”
By Cinda DeVet
My hand slides towards you
across the bright, white cloth,
and yours is already there.
We’ve learned some steps,
you and I, over these years of love.
We don’t trip as often,
nor fall as far.
This is one of those in-between years
When few are inclined to ask
if we have special plans for our anniversary.
People in the early years
think you need a five or a zero
to make an important anniversary,
but we know better.
This year is imperative.
People outside cannot fathom
the tiny fragments of time
that comprise forever.
Like this moment,
when your hand closes over mine,
covering the ring you gave me,
one evening, long ago,
when we were playing dress up
and stumbled into forever.
What did we know then?
Two little children,
we dressed appropriately for wedding
and behaved well.
We stood on the brink of eternity
and spoke solemn, weighted words,
exchanging rings of gold,
and we knew not what we did.
What miracle occurred that evening
in the far away past,
as we stood in God’s presence
speaking solemn weighted words,
exchanging rings of gold.
We promised forever,
but we were speaking words
unknown to us, unlived.
We said them with conviction,
but I, at least, had no idea
they would bring us to today.
On the altar,
bread and wine became Christ.
Before the altar,
two little children
(appropriately dressed and well-behaved)
but we knew not what we did.
(There were words in our heads
that spoke of sacrament;
they came from books
and our book was not yet written.)
Father spoke words I can recapture,
words you know well
because I’ve recaptured them for you,
over and again.
You remembered only shaking knees
and a vision of loveliness,
that was a little girl playing dress up,
coming down the aisle of the big, big church
to join you in becoming Christ.
If we had known,
would we have feared to take
the awe-inspiring step we took?
We moved into a new universe,
with new laws and a new language,
on that lovely spring evening.
And we didn’t know the laws, nor speak the language-
and didn’t know we needed to.
We wasted years, love,
trying to make the old laws and language serve forever,
trying to avoid learning the new.
Years fraught with conflict and competition,
with hurt inflicted, and hurts sustained, and hurt hoarded.
When did we learn,
how did we learn,
the laws of love?
When did we stop trying to work out a compromise,
recall whose turn it was,
make sure each of us did a fair share?
It began long ago,
even that same evening, I suspect,
but the beginnings were so tentative
and the change so cosmic,
and the way so uncharted, unthought-
who could imagine?
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard.
Now we have begun to see and hear-
and to forgive.
Darling, I never knew it would hurt this much
to live happily ever after.
I never knew either,
it would be this glorious,
an explosion of glory between us.
I try to speak this across the table
in the very lovely restaurant you chose
for the celebration of this in-between anniversary.
Words won’t come-only tears,
and a deep silence between us
where Jesus walks
and raises His hands in blessing.
I look back over the years,
wondering again how it has happened;
when did we learn (or begin to learn),
when did the steps become more apparent,
the voices quieter, less harsh,
the movements gentle and healing
instead of fierce, self-centered,
I see the shadow of the cross over the years,
absorbing and healing the little crosses we’ve carried,
and fought about carrying,
and threatened not to carry any longer
without adequate support and remuneration.
The covenant is unfair! Strike!
And we did strike,
and He felt the lash, falling upon Him.
(When did I see you in need of comfort and caring, Lord,
and leave you in your pain?
As often as you did to one another, you did it to me)
Tonight I see those times
in the pure light of His forgiveness and yours.
One day we began to forgive
instead of totaling up points
and waving overdue accounts at each other.
Light came in.
Jesus walked with us and taught us,
every time we gave Him the slightest chance.
And the shadow of the cross healed us.
Tonight those times are part of the story,
part of the symphony,
a backdrop against which the light of His presence
within us, between us, even just as us,
miraculous and glorious.
We did so many stupid things!
It’s overwhelming to look back and see,
where and how, and, dear God, how often,
we attempted to push each other off narrow mountain paths
along precarious cliffs
because neither of us wanted to give way, to go second.
How could we have so undervalued
the incredible, unmerited gift of person
with whom to share life, to share God,
to celebrate His goodness?
He sent one prophet after another;
How long it took us to hear their prophecy
instead of trying to use the old law,
the old language,
to remake the prophets.
Little, helpless prophets,
speaking with wails in the night,
We served them many years
before we began to listen deeply,
to the Gospel spoke
in the image of God.
(A little child shall lead them.)
Now, I ask myself,
what lessons did we miss that He sent us?
I have to let it go,
turn to you in love,
and go on with open heart to listen to them now.
When did I last ask you how this happened?
We were just two little kids, playing house,
and now our children are visions of loveliness,
approaching other people’s children
before other altars
to become Christ.
And you said, “I don’t know,
but I’m glad it did.”
Sing a psalm to our God!
Rejoice in His presence forever!
Moments and days that add up to forever,
Bless the Lord!
Unfolding promises, lived out in faith,
Bless the Lord!
Husbands and wives, called to show forth His love,
Bless the Lord!
Sons and daughters, sent as prophets and messengers,
Bless the Lord!
Bless Him in rejoicing and sorrow!
Bless Him in pain and joy!
Let all the earth bless the Lord!