Spoiler alert: My husband and I are celebrating 45 years of marriage this month. I write this perspective, then, from a position of decades of experience. As we are now both in our early 60s, we have lived through several seasons of an ever-evolving society. Our childhood was a time of coming home when the porch light came on, and activity rather than screen time. I confess, however, that we have evolved ourselves – fitting neatly into smartphones and social media. Although there have been changes, both in practice and perception, the one key ingredient to the continued success of our marriage remains. Grace is freely given by God, and we have both been blessed with a loving Creator Who has led us through the seasons of our lives.
Marriage Is Under Attack Today
The society that led up to our marriage, however, is not reflected to today’s culture. The couples who are contemplating marriage today live in an ever-falling societal spiral. Witnessing the constant attacks against the institution of marriage leaves us all gasping for a moral resolution. Surely, punishment similar to Sodom and Gomorrah is waiting in the wings for our fallen world. It is not even necessary to list the many abhorrent sins against Holy Matrimony of our modern times. Unless you are hiding under a rock, you are at least marginally aware. As Catholic Christians it is our duty to do something, but what?
What we need is a return to grace in marriage because God’s grace is the only resolution. We all know that marriage is not easy. As the two, who have become one, live past the ceremony and reception, they experience the reality of life. What holds the bond together for eternity is an influx of God’s grace in marriage.
Grace in Marriage Then
How do I presume to insist on knowing so much about grace in marriage? Let us take a quick trip through the eyes of a 17-year-old bride:
- I came from a fully traditional Catholic family and was not allowed to date until I was 16. As the Holy Spirit planned it, Rick entered my life the month of my birthday. My mother quickly became a fan; winning my inexperienced heart presented more of a challenge. My eyes turned toward the boy with the motorcycle, or maybe the one with the guitar. This one came with a tractor and a country way of life.
- He also argued religion from a Baptist perspective. It did not compute in my teen brain – initially. However, slowly, over the course of a few months, and the ingredient I now recognize as grace, my heart was firmly won. Good sense overtook the thrill of cheap adventure. By the beginning of my junior year, we were a couple and roamed the halls together – him carrying my books. On Sundays we attended Mass in the morning with my family and, sometimes as a compromise, I attended his church at night.
- Fast forward several months and he began talking about marriage – Rick (Tricky Ricky) never actually asked, he just started talking about “when (not if) we get married.” He also began to talk about conversion to the Church and was fortunate enough to have one-on-one sessions with the parish priest.
- Our courtship was chaste, even though he knew about the issue the wagging tongues relayed. My son was two. We married on Thanksgiving weekend of my senior year.
- We spent the first 20 minutes of our honeymoon on our knees, praying the Rosary. Then we called my mom – to say goodnight.
- Rick had put his conversion on hold – until after the wedding. Although I was initially disappointed – since we would not be able to receive the Eucharist together – good sense won out as I realized this meant he was converting for himself – not just to please me.
- We returned to the real world a week later – me to school, him to his job as a millwright and part-time farmer. He also continued his meetings with Father and, a few months later, came into the Church.
- I completed high school, then college – our 1-year-old son attended my graduation. My older son was 5. Rick finished his apprenticeship with the millwrights, became a journeyman, and continued to farm part-time.
- We lived through blizzards, catastrophic losses, and even bankruptcy, but we had our love and our faith to sustain us. Soon, God blessed us with a daughter. We were still young – he was 26 and I was 25 – but grace in marriage provided. We had it covered like the “old” married couple we had become.
- Sometimes we continued to pray together, sometimes we prayed separately, but we always attended Mass and always stayed close to God and each other – more or less. The vital ingredient of grace in our marriage gave us an assist when needed.
- Several years passed and hope of another child was all but abandoned – then came another son. This time I was an ‘old’ mom of 31 and I cherished every moment of staying at home with my brood.
- Both of our mothers died of cancer, as did his brother and grandfather. His grandmother died of Alzheimer’s disease – all this within a year or so. Genetic testing reveled an almost certain danger of an early death for me as well, so my fertility ended. Prophylactic surgery helped to prevent the BRCA-1 gene from killing me as it had an uninterrupted line of women before me.
- In the following years we have moved several times, changed careers (not just jobs), built a house, married off a son and then a daughter. All children have returned to live with us, for a time, as adults. There are now 12 grandchildren – ages 4 through 15 (plus five who are with Jesus). Our fear of an empty nest was never realized; ours is always an Open House.
Grace In Marriage Now
These past 45 years have flown by, and I cannot really remember not being married. We have had our triumphant ups and our horrific downs. I have survived breast cancer (14 years and counting), in large part due to my knight in shining armor/court jester and the awe-inspiring prayers of friends from around the world – and of course, the grace of God. If I had to sum up the reason for the success of our marriage in one word it would be, not love (a very close second), but GRACE. Our love is strong and has sustained us, but the real life-blood of our union is the Grace of God. He has been there, through it all, and for that, we are deeply thankful!
By no means are we past the need for grace in marriage. We do, however, recognize our God-given priorities – God First, Spouse Second, and Children Third. Although we have mellowed, there are still the occasional bouts of discord. Our joint prayer life sustains us and we walk, together, strong in faith and grace.
I love you, Richard Joseph Jones! May we have many more years growing old(er) (and Eternity).
Copyright 2019 Birgit Jones