My thoughts always drift to weddings this time of year. When fluffy white clouds fill the crisp blue sky in bright summer sun, I’m taken back to the final weeks of preparations for my own. The flurry of emails flying back and forth between me and my mom, the unofficial (and infinitely patient) wedding coordinator. The tedious last-minute details of seating charts and printing programs. The final honeymoon reservations for our trip to California. The sweaty work of packing up the apartment of my single years to settle into a new home.
We were about to be married, and I couldn’t wait.
Of course, with the nostalgia of the passing years, the stress of that time fades. The worry of whether everyone would make it—and how we would fit them into the reception room if they did. The convergence of so many major life transitions—getting married, moving into a new house, starting a new job (him), and starting grad school (me)—crammed into a single summer. Even a temporary freak-out about bird flu fouling up everyone’s travel plans. Planning and pulling off what turned out to be a practically perfect day was a ton of work.
Now I’m tempted to romanticize the already romantic affair. Because when I go to weddings these days—accompanied by an overstuffed diaper bag and a baby who fusses at the most inconvenient moments, or armed with the number of an out-of-town babysitter on the phone I check constantly—I have twinges of envy for the summer bride floating on cloud nine.
It’s tempting, once you’re no longer newlyweds and have reached the point of settledness—having set up house and established careers and had a few babies—to start sounding more like the seasoned old-timers, whispering while we watch them take their vows: “They’re just kids! They have no idea what’s ahead of them.”
It’s partly true: they don’t. We didn’t. No couple who commits themselves on a wedding day can fully grasp what that covenant will mean or what life will throw their way. We all hear “for better, for richer, in good times, in health” and breeze over the second half of each couplet: the wise and cautious reminders of the sufferings this calling will inevitably encounter.
Yet whenever I’m tempted to run the risk of clucking condescension for the fresh-faced kids standing on the altar, I remember this: we, too, had no idea what was ahead of us. But we, too, knew just enough for that day.
We knew enough about love to affirm that our commitment had a firm foundation. We knew enough about faith to promise our pledge in the place and people of God’s church. We knew enough about life to understand that the rocky road needed the right companion. We knew just enough for that day.
We didn’t know what would happen to us or our loved ones or the world around us in the years ahead. But we knew enough to take those vows of lifelong promise and take them seriously.
I wish I could always trust that the same is true today. Each new stage of life brings its own complications and challenges. Being entrenched in the early years of parenting is a phase full of work and worry and light on sleep. Questions keep me tossing and turning at night: How can we find the best child care? Did we pick the right school option? How do we help meet our kids’ different needs? How does our work fit into our family life? I try to micro-manage an unknown future. But I have to trust that I know enough for this day, too.
Perhaps this is part of the mystery of marriage. It is a leap of faith, a decision that must be lived out and reaffirmed day to day, in the midst of great unknowing. From where we stand today we can only trust, not control the future that lies ahead of us.
Here is where I fall back on sacrament every time. This is the core of the calling to which we have committed our lives: that we are not two people alone in this marriage. It is a trinity of presence: Christ within us, around us, before us, and behind us.
Everywhere I look there is uncertainty. Especially now that we’ve reached the point where peers have started to split up and divorce, the painful truth of how tough commitment can be tends towards pessimism if we’re not careful. But right here, in this messy mix of our ordinary lives today—two kids, two careers, one house and one crazy dog to care for—there is grace enough for the present day. Just as it was there on that sunny Saturday seven years ago, when the crowd clapped as we left the church.
Because as we drove away in my uncle’s white convertible with waves and whoops, and rounded the corner to cruise down the small town’s two-stoplight Main Street, we watched as an older couple entered the corner café. The wife shuffled slowly, bent over a walker, and the husband held her by the elbow as he opened the door. As we rolled past them, they stopped and raised their heads to smile at us. I waved back, and my new husband squeezed my hand from the driver’s seat.
We didn’t have to say what we were both thinking: I hope that’s us some day.
We had no idea what lay ahead. But we knew just enough.
Copyright 2013 Laura Kelly Fanucci