I Never Knew Happily Ever After Would Hurt This Much

I Never Knew Happily Ever After Would Hurst So Much

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.”

In-Between Anniversary
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,
purposing forever,
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)
became Christ,
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 language,
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.

II

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,
tension-provoking?
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
i
nstead 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,
shines forth,
miraculous and glorious.

III

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;
some died.
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,
needing us.
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?
Unanswerable question.
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.”

IV

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!

 

blessing-rings-2

Don’t Just “Bump into” Jesus (And other things we can learn from Berenice)

Touch his tasselA large crowd followed and pressed around him. (Mark 5:24) And rightly so. Jesus had just healed a man possessed with numerous demons and was on his way to the house of a synagogue official who had begged him to heal his gravely ill daughter.

As the crowd bumped into Jesus, hoping to see his next “show stopping” miracle, a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years discreetly made her way through the mass of people. She had suffered much under many physicians and had spent all that she had, and was not better but worse. (Mark 5:26)  She secretly touched Jesus’ garment and was healed. Tradition tells us that her name was Berenice.

We can learn from Berenice, especially as we prepare for the upcoming season of Lent. This desperate, penniless, physically-drained woman touched my heart as I listened to the gospel reading the other day. And I would like to present some points to ponder regarding her story:

  • Don’t Just “Bump into” Jesus

Intentionally seek Jesus out. Berenice had an intense desire to get close to Jesus. Do you want to enter into Lent with a desperate desire to get close enough to touch Jesus as Berenice did? Or will you just follow along with the crowd and bump into him periodically throughout the season?

All practicing Christians “bump into” Jesus during their lives, such as when a prayer is said before meals, or when you go to church on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong-those are good things to do. But have you ever thought that Jesus wants you to do more than just “bump into” him?

Being a tourist- a sightseer- through Lent is easy, but going on a pilgrimage, a special spiritual journey during the season is the challenge. Ask God to show you now (don’t wait till Ash Wednesday) what he would like for you to do this Lent.  Then make those plans that will help you grow closer to him during the 40 day spiritual journey.

  • Surrender and Prostrate Yourself

Berenice was considered unclean by Jewish law because of her issue with blood. She lived in constant social and religious isolation. This is why she strived to go unnoticed and came up from behind him. (Mt 9:20) She knew of her “impurity” and prostrated herself. She surrendered totally and sought out his healing.

It is not always easy to say that we need help. That we are hurting or struggling, or that we have failed in something. What are your pains? What/who are you tired of dealing with, fighting with? What exhausts you? Maybe it’s a physical aliment like Berenice. Maybe it’s a strained relationship. Maybe it’s a situation at work. Or maybe you have done things that you consider unforgivable.

We can fall into the trap of thinking we need to deal with these issues all on our own. But surrendering totally to Christ and laying our troubles at his feet, is the way to go. This Lent, God is calling you to give him all those heavy burdens. He wants you to give him everything, yes- even those “impurities” you are ashamed of. Empty yourself, and lower yourself before the Lord this Lent.  Surrender and prostrate.  He will heal you completely, just as he did Berenice.

  • Act in Faith/Pray for Faith

If only I touch his garment, I shall be made well. (Mt 9:21) Berenice believed that Jesus would heal her. She did not plead with Jesus face to face for him to touch her. She had confidence that if she only touched the tassel of his garment she would be healed. And of course she was! Then Jesus said to her, daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace. (Luke 8:48)

Having faith is obviously an important thing. And we should grow in our faith. In Luke 17: 5, the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. We too can struggle with the issue of faith. We might wonder, do I have enough faith? How can I increase my faith?  Faith is a spiritual gift from God. Faith can be increased by prayer and by acting in Faith (just as Berenice acted in faith by reaching for Jesus’ garment.)

One of my favorite prayers regarding faith is from the father whose son is possessed and pleads with Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “‘If you can! Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24)  This is a prayer I bring before the Lord often: God, I do believe, help my unbelief. This Lent-and beyond- God would love to increase our faith. We just need to ask him; pray and ask him to help us.

In closing:

  • Seek the Lord intentionally and purposefully this Lent. Make a plan that will help you to grow closer to him.
  • Surrender yourself totally to Christ and bow before him as your God and King.
  • And, act in faith as well as pray for the Lord to help increase your faith.

Berenice (and others in scripture) can teach us so much. Is there anything about her story that left an impression on you? How is the Lord calling you to be more like Berenice this Lent?