From time to time I wax nostalgic about my college days in southern Minnesota. For two years after graduating from Bible school I lived in a small house with four other women, and worked as a copyeditor. Professionally speaking, these were critical years. And yet privately I also spent a good deal of that time agonizing over what God wanted me to do with my life. Should I move to Singapore? Continue my schooling? Join the community as a single woman? Marry my old college boyfriend? What?
None of the possibilities seemed an obvious fit. One colleague suggested that God is like a father who takes his kids to the ice cream parlor and encourages them to choose a flavor: There is no right or wrong, just preference. “Sometimes, growing up means you get to pick for yourself.”
And so . . . I stayed. Then I hit the road. Then I went back to school. Then I moved some more. And married . . . well, not my college boyfriend, though Craig and I did meet at the U of M Ballroom Dance Club. Over the years, the chapters of my life incorporated most of my original possibilities. (I have yet to see Singapore, but I have seen a good part of the rest of the world.)
Still, in times of stress and uncertainty, my dreams always carried me back to Bethany. Which was puzzling, as my time there was not nearly as happy as it was productive. When it came time to leave, I was glad to go . . . until I ran into difficulties. Then I invariably began to dream about going back.
It wasn’t until recently that I began to understand the hold that place had on me. At Christmastime, my husband took us to his parents’ trailer in Briny Breezes, Florida – near West Palm Beach. Five generations of Saxtons have now escaped there during the winter months. It feels a little odd, grilling burgers in shorts and t-shirts so close to Christmas. But as I watched my husband frolicking in the waves with our kids, I realized that this place represents the safety and security of home.
This is something I treasure about my husband, in part because I’ve always wished for it myself. I left home at 18; my parents moved away only a few years later, so that their home was no longer “home” to me in quite the same way. As an adult, I craved permanence. Becoming Catholic helped, with all its antiquity and catholicity. But the dreams continued until I finally met and married Craig.
Watching my husband at the beach, I finally understood. My “Bethany dreams” had always come during times of uncertainty or transition. Bethany was another word for home – until I met Craig, and we became home for each other.
I knew it the first time I saw Craig stroll toward me. My first thought was, “This is a man who looks like he’s coming home.” An hour later, under the influence of my lemon tarts, he asked me out. And the rest is history. Craig has roots that sink deep and hold fast, the perfect complement to my adventurous side. God knew I needed someone to give me “home” so I would no longer need the shadowlands. And God knew Craig needed someone to show him when it was time to let go of fixtures that no longer serve a purpose. Together, we balance each other out.
Whenever two people enter the sacrament of marriage, their lives become a mélange of gifts and flaws. Sometimes the two are difficult to tell apart. The stability and security that is second nature to Craig, also makes him resistant to change. My forthrightness, which he says first attracted his attention, has on more than one occasion rocked the family boat. But twelve years later, we’re still here.
This year as the feast of St. Valentine is just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about the great mystery of married love, how it grows and develops in unexpected ways. Sure, I took my friend’s advice, and made my choice at the ice cream counter. It does get a bit messy, but in the heat of the day its refreshing sweetness consoles and strengthens me. The honeymoon is over . . . but there’s no denying the fact that I am home for good.
In the words of William Shakespeare, from Sonnet 116:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken . . .
Copyright 2011 Heidi Hess Saxton