Original article featured on FemCatholic: http://www.femcatholic.com/marriage-throwing-a-bridge/
I’ve probably read The Jeweler’s Shop by Karol Wojtyla (the future St. John Paul II) at least a dozen times—in high school, college, and throughout my dating and engaged years. Since being married, I’ve come to see it in yet a new light, as if the characters I once thought I knew so well have suddenly come alive through their brokenness, humanity, and relatability. In the beautifully crafted play, three couples, whose lives are all somehow connected, each offer insights into the joys and trials of marriage. Ultimately, through the sacrament’s powerful bond, they are all called to love.
There is one line of the play that I have always particularly loved: “[She] was a whole world, just as distant as any other man, as any other woman—and yet there was something that allowed one to think of throwing a bridge.”
I used to think about this idea of throwing a bridge and how profoundly beautiful it was. I loved this reality that marriage meant forming a connection with another person, who himself was an entire world; that there was no such thing as solitary islands within marriage; that somehow, through the grace of the sacrament, you and your whole world were literally one with someone else’s, while still becoming more of yourself. I loved this truth, and I wanted more than anything to live it out.
When I met my husband, I knew right away that I would marry him. Not because I believed I had met my “soulmate,” or even that I believed it was “love at first sight.” I knew I would become his wife because I knew that the bridge between us would be strong, unbreakable, and indissoluble.
Loving him was so easy in the beginning. I was 21, he was 23; the only real responsibilities we each knew were to school and work. Our relationship was marked by a joy and certainty that we were called by God to this vocation and wanted only to live it out as best we could, side by side. It was new and exciting as we both grew in friendship, trust, and love. He did everything in his power to make me happy and prove he was worthy of my love. He was a gentleman, confident and fearless, naturally good with a spirit and love of life I hadn’t encountered before. He made me more myself, and I watched him grow into the man he was called to be.
During our engagement period, we had intentionally discussed two main goals for our marriage: to start a family and to get each other to heaven.
Leading up to our wedding day, I actually thought little of what it truly meant to get your spouse to heaven and allow him to lead you there as well. We had heard that marriage was hard work, yes; but what was a little hard work when you love someone with all of your heart?
We had no idea then just how humbling, hard, and sanctifying marriage and this call to holiness would be. How it would show us the ugliest, weakest parts of ourselves that we didn’t even know existed. How it would mean walking each other through the nitty-gritty moments of sin and failure and leading each other back to Jesus with a heart full of humility and forgiveness. How it would teach us that true, selfless love means putting the other first and always seeing him as Jesus does, ever delighting in his unique gifts and ability to love you above all others.
Indeed, he is my path to heaven. In just two years of marriage, I have become keenly aware of this truth—and it has been unbelievably difficult to live out at times. So often have I been tempted to destroy the bridge between us if only to prove a point or inflict a wound. So many times have I wanted to be my own solitary island and wallow in bitterness or resentment. I ought to be seeking justice for myself after all, right? Why must I allow him to throw a bridge when he has wronged me and ought to pay the price? Why must I forgive and offer forgiveness?
So often have I been tempted to destroy the bridge between us if only to prove a point or inflict a wound.
I remember one evening when I was terribly sick with our first child. My husband had asked if he could go to a baseball game with a friend or if he should stay home with me. I reluctantly said yes, half hoping and half expecting that he would see the disappointment in my face and recognize my need for him that night. But off he went to the game as I lay in bed, filled to the brim with self-pity and resentment. Within minutes, I had become so dehydrated and sick that I contemplated going to the hospital and knew it was time to call my husband. Desperation and anger in my voice, I urged him to come home right away. I wanted so badly to punish him for leaving me in such a weak state; I wanted him to know how he had let me down and to feel terrible for it. He had wronged me, and I was determined to make him pay.
Then, just like that, he ran through the door and wrapped me in his arms, assuring me that everything would be alright. He admitted he had been wrong to leave me, asked for my forgiveness, and then took care of me. He had recognized his failures long before I tried to point them out. And suddenly my heart softened and shattered as the light that I had been bitterly blocking came seeping through. It was a moment of grace, and I felt more than ever the strength and power of this bond of marriage. I knew I could never, as long as I lived, destroy that bridge between us.
I’m learning that within this vocation, there are valleys and peaks, highs and lows, joy and sadness, pain and triumph. Amidst the dirty diapers, greasy pans, and tearful conversations, I am constantly given the choice to love or to close myself off in fear, anger, jealousy, or bitterness. For I have found that beyond that valley is the highest peak of knowing that I have chosen to love this man exactly as he is, even when I don’t feel like it. That is real, lasting, life-giving joy.
I am constantly given the choice to love or to close myself off in fear, anger, jealousy, or bitterness.
In the moments when my husband surprises me with a loving response or a small, kind gesture, I see the man that I loved so easily when we first met. But now, unlike then, I see him and love him infinitely more, for I have chosen again and again to love him in the face of anxiety, fear, and heartache. With each day and year of marriage, our love continues to grow into a force that cannot be broken, not even by our own sin and weakness. For Love Himself is that force, and Love Himself constantly calls us to throw a bridge.