This is a F&PB series we started to speak truth and love to all those single, in relationships, and discerning to help live in light of eternity. Perhaps a man or woman has captured your heart, but ultimately we are all meant to look upon Jesus Christ and say, “He has my heart.” Join our friends as they speak on marriage and the greater wedding feast: heaven. We hope it’ll inspire wherever you’re at. The first part of the series can be found here.
We first connected with Sarah in the combox here at f&pb, where she reached out to us. We were new(ish) bloggers at the time and were edified by her affirmation and her desire to build relationships within the blogging community. She and her friend Tess blog at The Feminine Gift. They have a fresh new re-design over there which is totally worth checking out!
Sarah’s been married for over a decade and the wisdom and grace with which she lives out her vocation are so evident in her writing below. Thank you Sarah for being so honest and open with us!
Jason and I got married on a rainy day in May, just about 11 years ago. We were open to life then, and we are open to life now, but God’s plans being what they are, we have no children, only a dog named Aowyn. Our shared job of Dean of Students at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Northern Ontario keeps us busy, as does our chickens and keeping up with our little house in the country. Ours is an unexpectedly happy life.
When Jason and I met we’d both been on lots of first dates, but not many seconds. I was 26 and he was 29 and we were both tired of the “dating game” and wanting to settle down. All those first dates had helped me clarify the qualities I was looking for in a spouse and I was eager to “find him” and get married. But even though I knew what I wanted in a husband, I was still a little worried about choosing well. I’d often heard my friends and family say that they “just knew” that this guy or gal was “the one”, and to be honest I didn’t really know what to think about that. How did they know what they thought they knew, when so many others these days thought they knew too, but were wrong?
For me, the “aha” moment came on our first date. Jason and I had been spending time together, as friends, for a few months before he asked me out on our first date. On all my other first dates I’d been uncomfortable, wishing I was anywhere else but out with the guy sitting across from me, who was usually trying to draw me into an intimate-yet-awkward conversation which I didn’t want to have. But with Jason, even though we were dressed up and at a nice restaurant, I felt as if I was sitting at home in my sweats with my feet up chatting and laughing about everything under the sun. I was at home with him. That’s how I know that I knew that he was right for me. And not to ignore the practical side of things, we also saw eye-to-eye on the issues that were important to us – God, children, finances and family amongst many others, and there were no real impediments to us getting married, like family problems or deeply rooted, un-dealt-with sins. We were also physically attracted to one another (which was also important to me, as I’d often been told that looks shouldn’t matter) and although we had our share of personal issues which we had to work through as we dated and got engaged, the Lord seemed to help us both be clear-headed and gave us the ability to work through them. God also gave us others to help us work through those problems – spiritual directors, family and friends – who were all very helpful. “Just knowing”, for us, happened to require a good amount of hard work.
But it was fun! After 7 months of friendship, we started dating, and after 4 months of dating, we got engaged. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend dating for only 4 months, but as we learned through our own relationship, every relationship is as unique as the people in it. Elvis Costello’s got it right, everyday we write our own book of love. Sure we can take others’ examples into consideration and perhaps emulate this or that, but at the end of the day, God isn’t looking to make copies, he’s looking to make originals. Your relationship is unique to you, so own it! Jason and I had read the books by Josh Harris – the second one being about kissing dating goodbye and while we thought he had some good points, we realized early on that dating was what God wanted for us, and that was ok. We didn’t have to follow everyone’s advice, all the time.
My other tidbit of wisdom? Work on your failings now. Wherever you are, whatever stage in life you’re in, strive to be virtuous. Being married to someone will bring out your failings one thousand times over, so get spiritual direction, counseling and/or medical help now for what you can see you struggle with. Not with the idea of living in the future – thinking that you will get all good and perfect before you meet and marry, no! But work on those issues secure in the knowledge that God has given you today, right now, to work towards being with Him in heaven someday. Taking steps to heal wounds and break attachments to sin helps to bring us closer to the person God intended us to be – which also helps us in our single and married lives as well.
I never really knew how to fight well (and yes, there is a good way to fight) and neither did Jason. He and I would get huffy over something, our voices would rise and the sarcastic words would fly and then we’d retreat to our separate corners to lick our wounds, leaving much unresolved. It’s only been in the last few years, while I’ve been working through childhood wounds with a spiritual director, that I realized that I have real trouble being vulnerable. I still remember the first fight we had where everything in me screamed to retreat, but I stayed in the moment, calmly discussing our frustrations and anger. It was hard, but our fights are almost non-existent now because of it. Sure we still disagree, but we are able to be more vulnerable with one another: admitting our failings without blaming or shaming, dealing with the issue at hand and then moving on. It’s brought us closer together, and has given us a certain amount of freedom in our relationship.
Try also to remember that life is a wild adventure that will take you to unexpected places, and be open to the life that God may have planned for you. Bilbo Baggins said it best when he said, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your front door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” I used to think that I would get married, have kids, stay home with them, they’d grow and leave home and then I’d have the grandkids for sleepovers, the end. That is exactly what has not happened. We’ve moved more times that I care to count, had crazy, interesting, challenging jobs, travelled around the world and more painfully, we have had no children. Knowing what I know now, I think the greatest hope that I have for my marriage is for it, for my husband and I, to be fruitful, and to be okay with the fact that that may never include children. For us, and also for couples blessed with children, fertility comes from our fiat, our yes to God. Whatever crosses befall us, whatever joys and sorrows come our way, the promise of growth and fruitfulness comes from our yes to the fecundity of the Lord – whether it means yes to another child or to any other big life change. Jason and I were working at these sweet-paying government jobs when we discerned the call to move to Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy to work with young adults. Our pay is definitely not what it used to be, but we have the privilege of working to form good and holy young people – not an easy task, but definitely a rewarding one. The Lord has blessed our lives so abundantly from our allowing him to reign, that I can only thank and praise Him for all his kindness and mercy to us. And given the chance to do it all again, I would still choose this life, exactly how it is, without a second thought.
My final thoughts for those in varying stages of marriage and discernment? Be where you are, right now. Live in the reality of your life. Don’t spend your time wishing you were elsewhere. I often see our young adults date and get engaged and I remember with fondness how fantastically exciting the single life, dating and engagement was, with everything about the beloved being new and lovely. But those thoughts, instead of making me nostalgic and pining for what was, only serve to remind me of how lovely my relationship with Jason is now. I don’t feel the same way that I did when we were dating, or when we were engaged. I don’t have that flutter of nervous excitement I used to get when I saw Jason, my then-boyfriend after a couple days. Now I have that deep down gut-wrenching love of him that holds us together no matter where we are. When we were dating, I couldn’t wait to find out his thoughts and expectations or go out with him in public to show him off to my family and friends. Now I know him so well that I’ve begun to anticipate his needs and I look forward to being with him in every sense of the word. Each part of our relationship has been wildly different from the last, and each has it’s own particular beauty and it’s own particular trials. If I could give you any advice it would be to just be, exactly where you are, in all the joys and sorrows of life, and keep the Lord close. While I can’t tell you exactly where we’re going, it doesn’t really matter because I’m happy about who and where we are, right now.