For the last 20 years David and I test each other on remembering what we did to celebrate each and every one of our anniversaries. We run into confusion and memory loss for about 15 of them as we are not a couple that has intentionally made anniversaries much more than a short excursion or a dinner out.
Yesterday we celebrated our 35th and unless we both end up with dementia we won’t forget it. No special excursion unless a day at the cancer institute counts and no special jewelry to commemorate our 35th unless a med port ring surgically placed in the chest wall counts. David will remember our 35th because of the added bonus of suffering through a cracked rib from a fall a several days before in Florida (one day into a 5-day trip meant to give us a break before chemo therapy started).
The traditional wedding symbol for the 35th anniversary is coral. According to Wikipedia, “This is because coral organisms grow close together just like a good marriage, built and developed over many years.”
Is it simply the passing of time that builds a good marriage – ticking off years until you reach 25, 30, or 35 then “voila”, there you have it, a good marriage? Or, is it something else that can’t be measured in years?
David and I have a good marriage so far. I don’t think you can rest on your yearly laurels. “For better or worse and in sickness and in health,” a promise we made 35 years ago is currently being played out by a serious disease. How it all ends – not just this sickness part but other parts as well – are still to be tested. We have had other sicknesses and a few heart aches and disappointments thrown to connect us to the rest of the married world. The union of two becoming one certainly doesn’t negate the two unique personalities brought to the union each with there weaknesses and strengths. Marriage uncovers personality traits neither partner were aware of prior to the promised commitment to faithfulness, cheerleading, and fun. For example, and I will mention only my foibles, I did not know that I could be critical, defensive, or even irritable until I was married for a while. Now, it’s not all bad as certain character strengths have had a chance to express themselves to my surprise as well. All in all, marriage has provided many blessings – but especially a journey into humility (having children is the other road to humility).
I am married to my best friend as it turns out and the following lines from the 2004 movie, “Shall We Dance” spoken by Susan Sarandon, the wife character, expresses this sentiment:
“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does anyone’s life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”
Timothy Keller writes in his book, The Meaning of Marriage, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
So, about two weeks from now I will ask the person I trust the most to do me the honor of shaving my head. It was my hair that David says that initially attracted him to me over 35 years ago and it will be shaving that hair off that will make the decision I made 35 years ago to marry him the best one of my life.
Footnote 1: The quote by the character played by Susan Sarandon, “what does anyone’s life really mean?” is a rhetorical question that compels me to comment. Each individual life, married or not, means a lot to the One who is the ultimate witness to our lives. He witnesses and marvels at every aspect of our short mundane lives with all its suffering and joys. I know that everyone does not share this belief and certainly not a secular world that sees Christianity as a crutch for “the infantile” (Richard Dawkins). Yes, a crutch indeed. A crutch that someday will be thrown away at the restoration of all things.