How do the two become one? God joins a man and a woman not just physically — that is the easy part — but mentally and spiritually as well. Oneness is a knitting of two bodies, two minds and two souls. It is a work of God that cannot be rushed. If you ask me how the miracle of “oneness” happens, it is on the inside where no one can see but God. When a couple has journeyed up the mountaintops of great joy, into the valley of tears and sadness, and through deserts of loneliness, and sometimes in the crucible of suffering they get to know God for themselves. Along this marital journey God makes them truly one! I think that is how the two become one, but no one is asking me!
When you are in the ministry, like Deacon Patrick and I, you sometimes go to intimate places with people you do not know very well. Your “Yes” opens your heart door for Jesus to send you places you have never gone before. The prophet Isaiah says it best: “Whom shall I send?” I fervently pray that my response will always be, “Lord, send me!”
Most people enjoy celebrating life with others. They attend a wedding, a baby shower or a milestone birthday. They would not miss it. How many are willing to aid another who is suffering? Usually those who are experienced in carrying a cross or two in their own lives are the ones who readily answer God’s call to serve. We are often called by God to lift the spirits of those who are carrying a cross. My husband and I can attest that when we answer God’s call, we are blessed more than those to whom we minister.
John and Arline are one of those couples we have been called to minister. This couple has been married over fifty years. Their sacramental love is evident to those who know them. You may know their names. John and Arline were involved in growing Catholic Family Land. They shared their gifts and served the Lord with gladness. In their later days, they have been presented a cross which is only bearable with God’s grace. Arline can neither speak nor walk due to PSP, a neurological condition similar to ALS. She is also on a feeding tube. When I say John attends to her every need, day and night, I am not exaggerating. You can only imagine what we have seen firsthand. To us they are a living witness of the words the “two shall become one.”
Pastor Stan and Karen were one of those couples. My husband and I traveled from Florida to Utah to show our support with a visit. Why did we go? We went because God told us to. They were there for us when we were the new guys in Vernal, Utah. Although we are of different denominations, they shared the love of Jesus. Years later we were called upon to return the favor. Stan was only in his fifties when his diabetes took a turn for the worse. When Stan had to go on dialysis, Karen was at his side. Their love held them together in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. God’s grace saw them through until death did they part. We will never forget the oneness they shared in their suffering, carrying this cross together. The dialysis center became Pastor Stan’s podium, and he was a living witness to all. When Stan passed away, Karen said to me, “Ellen, when I don’t know what to do, I pray. Then I remember what Stan said. It helps me know what to do.” In life and in death, Stan’s words guide his beloved.
This week we find ourselves in Colorado. Why? We are on a mission from God. We are on our way to the Catholic Medical Association’s yearly conference in Denver. We came a week early to vacation, and visit family and friends. Our first stop was to visit a high school friend, Don whose wife, Coletta is a recent lung cancer survivor. You would never have known the cross they bore together; it was hidden behind the glow on their faces and the love they shared for each other and their family, Briana and Adam, their daughter and son-in-law. Coletta, the gracious hostess and her husband the barbecue king, served up a feast!
Did I ask them my favorite question, “How did you all meet?” Of course I did. They shared their love story with enthusiasm, like it happened just yesterday. The serendipitous circumstances of how they met had to be God alone. However, it was the story of Coletta’s cancer scare that truly touched my heart. We came to bring hope, but received a double portion of blessings instead. At one point I asked Coletta, “Is this a little strange to you, that we do know each other and we feel right at home?” Her smile and gentle response showed us that we may have arrived as strangers, but left as friends. As we hugged and said our goodbyes, we promised to pray for each other.
One of the ways I find that God accomplishes the miracle of oneness in marriage is through suffering. I see it in their eyes. I hear it in their voice. It is evident in their actions. It is a key part of these three love stories. When I see a cross presented to a couple I want to whisper, “Do not be afraid.” It is because I know that if they turn to Jesus, it will strengthen their love. Picture this: a cross is presented and the husband takes one side of the cross upon his shoulder; his wife stations herself on the other side. Together they keep on moving forward. Their support does not take away the pain or the fear but it surely lightens the load. It is while carrying the cross together that they remember why they chose each other for life.
Deacon Patrick and I feel blessed to have been able to witness the love between these three couples. Their love stories have built our faith. If you ever ask a couple who has borne a cross together, to tell you their love story, listen to every word they say. You will not want to miss a thing. It will change your life. It did mine!
Copyright 2017 Ellen Mongan