“One of the good things that come of a true marriage is, that there is one face on which changes come without your seeing them; or rather there is one face which you can still see the same, through all the shadows which years have gathered upon it.” George MacDonald
Not lonely in the sense of being isolated or deserted. Not friendless with no one in the world to turn to. Not estranged or abandoned. It is not that I am uncomfortable being alone. Lonely seems to be a theme over the whole of my life. I just thought that rattling, nebulous nagging sense of something still missing deep down inside would dissipate. I am coming to discover I am not the only one. I wonder if that space remains because it is meant for something almost too good to even believe. While I have the capacity to love, I also have the capacity to not love. God is absolute love and as a Trinitarian God, He is never lonely. There will come a time when He will fill that space in our soul with love that is entirely eternal in a way that it is not fully filled right now.
What seems most important right now, is to realize I can embrace that internal lonely feeling as a meaningful-alive-holy space while at the same time embracing and offering true love to my husband. A love that pours into and nourishes and is centered on him for his good. A love that wants to be married to him because I love him more than I want him to fulfill something that is lonely inside of me. As his wife I have the most wonderful, particularly remarkable, opportunity to reveal the relational character of God to him in a way no one else on this earth can. To draw out, and deeply enjoy his uniqueness as a human being. What might the impact be if we were to think more of the other than ourselves? What if we sincerely confronted those relationally harmful expectations like: Make me less lonely! Heal my wounds! Make me happy; no matter how much the emotional cost is to you, by the way. What if we really believed we have life, love that is eternally alive within us, to pour into each other? And what if we, in all genuineness, let it surge and spill and splash? An exuberant pouring of profluence; a forward flowing abundance, each into the beloved other.
How is it I came to think that, I wonder. Maybe in the widening wonder of wedded bliss and the eventual hope of having a family, some of that ever illusive “happily ever after” got to me. I being first-born of five and the man I married being tenth-born of eleven, two of each gender seemed just right to me. Such stirring sensations of longing, desire, anticipation. Dreams of fertilized eggs. The miracle of birthing. Naming. Nurturing. Mothering. Fathering. Tending. Cherishing. Eager, expectant excitement for the future. What if children never come? What if they die before they even grow up? What then? Become a nervous wreck? Even if wrecked; run. With one shaky foot in front of the other, run trembling hard for the sticking place. The sticking place of courage. Of a love that will not fail. We birthed and named and nurtured and mothered and fathered and tended and cherished two boys and a girl. The girl patiently and persistently petitioned for a sister. A sister never came but the miracle of birthing just kept on coming. How God unfolded the life of each of them in stories of wonder and amazement is beyond my breath of comprehension.
The man I married gave me the gift of golf clubs for high-school graduation. I felt so honored because it was like this incredible invitation to join him in what is often called “the greatest game ever played.” He even gave me lessons. That required a gargantuan amount of patience, which he provided but awkwardly, I did not. The lesson I learned is that golf requires a lot of character which, it seemed at the time, I did not have. I struggled because I had this romantic notion that if I could just learn, we could play golf together over the course of our lives. I have watched him play golf for forty years now. Round after round, swing after swing, putt by putt, step by step, he has developed qualities of distinguished character, on and off the field. It turns out that being married thirty-six years is an effective means of building character as well. There are lots of things we can do together besides golf. We have open opportunity to engage and encourage and listen and cheer each other on in our different strengths, talents, interests, burdens and passions. Relational encounter by relational encounter, moment by moment, word by word. Becoming who we were made to be at our heart’s core, character marks us over the gutsy grace of time; we make our marks on each other and our world.
We carefully unpacked our treasures to discover what we treasured most was getting to be together. We were young and naive. Who can really know what marriage is going to be like? Home came to be each other. It was a wondrous thing to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night with his face.
I look right at him, full in the face. That handsome, storied face I found in the library at the newspaper rack when we were fourteen and seventeen. Our eyes meet and know. I know every lineament, every distinctive feature and characteristic. His look, his manner of expression, if he is wearing a mask, the mood he is in, the cast of his countenance. I read with revere and respect all those images of opaque stories projected on one beautifully illuminated face. Encompassed with both shine and shadow, a presentation of poetic imagination. With compassionate grace he has saved my face more than a few times with the restorative shade and shelter of his. He has exhorted me to face the music of life with the face that is authentically mine when I am prone to pretend or run or hide away. Even after all these years of listening and studying, and engaging, I know there is yet more of him to know. There is more depth to be explored as we stand, faces upward, leaning into the light. Not just anyone can touch your face. I draw the silhouette of him in my mind, encompass all facets.
I see the shadows the years have gathered.
“I see you.”
It is a holy thing.
I touch his face. He touches mine.
And we are home.
To have and to hold. In sickness and in health. For richer or poorer. We took a vow. Made a promise. Two become one while still being two. What does it mean to love each other, not with a strangling-want-my-own-way that will not bear up against the stunning surprises life brings but rather, with I-will-die-to-my-self-centered-ways and love with the kind of love that God loves us. An eternal-centered love that is for another and with another, no matter what it costs you. What a staggering and astounding opportunity to engage with each other in growing a larger-souled life. What a sacred thrill to laugh and cry, to be broken, to be beautiful, to fail and yet be loved, to remember and to be restored; to be a part of an astonishing love story that is bigger than just our own.