Monday, May 11, 2009

I Promise to Love You and Honor You

Last Saturday night, I got married again. In nearly every single way, it was completely different than the first time I got married, nearly 9 years ago. The first time, I was married outside, on a beautiful fall afternoon, at the foot of a lighthouse on the Atlantic coast. This time, I was married in a Catholic Church - my parish, my second home - on a warm spring evening in the midwest.

The first time, I was married in the presence of nearly 100 friends and family, and countless strangers who just happened to be visiting the lighthouse that afternoon. This time, I was married in the presence of 10 dear friends and my beloved Pastor.

The first time, I planned every last detail: the dress, the music, the wording of the vows, the attendants and their attire, the car, the reception, even the attire of the priest (I handmade his stole). This time, I bought a new dress, sent out a few emails, and meant to call Pastor last week to go over the details, but ended up leaving him a message stating that I was "letting go and letting God" and Pastor run the show. (And, for the most part, I succeeded in doing just that).

Despite the differences, there were some striking similarities between these two weddings. First, of course, was DH. He is the same man I promised to love and honor on September 16, 2000. The same man I wake up next to nearly every single morning. The same man I lean over and kiss goodnight after we pray together nearly every single night.

But the most striking similarity came in something completely dissimilar. Pastor used the Catholic Church's wedding vows on Saturday night. Nine years ago, DH and I sat in a spare room in my mother's house and wrote our vows together, four days before the wedding. Those vows are framed and hang above our bed. They are more flowery, more poetic than the Church's straightforward vows. Our original vows are longer and more detailed. They are more romantic, more idealized.

But our intention is exactly the same.

On Saturday night, as I stood facing DH at the foot of the sanctuary steps, having just stood witness to four other couples reciting the same words, the tears flowed freely. I squeezed DH's hands tightly. My eyes did not leave his. When my turn came to promise to love and honor him, all the days of my life, my voice quivered and tears spilled down my cheeks and onto my new dress.

I didn't care. I was fully present - body, mind and soul - in that moment. I meant every syllable and every emotion. My marriage is a blessing unlike any other in my life, including my children. DH is my partner, my best friend, my beacon in the darkness.

I am far from the wife I would like to be. I can be selfish, difficult, emotional, demanding and often moody. I despise cooking and am only a mediocre housekeeper. And despite these faults (and oh, so many others), he loves me. He really does. And I love him. With all that I am and in all that I do.

I suppose that's what it's really all about. None of us is perfect, and most of us, if we were being honest, would say that our spouses deserve a better partner than they got some days. When I held his hands on Saturday night, reciting those precious words, I did so slowly. I really paid attention. I made sure that I really meant each and every word.

I will be true to you.

I promise to love you and honor you.

All the days of my life.

I meant those words when I first said them them nine years ago. But I didn't really understand them. Marriage isn't something that you really understand until you've lived it for awhile. Good times and bad... sickness and health... all the days of my life. Those are phrases that take on a very different meaning after you've lived them.

The good times are easy. Clinging together in the bad times takes work. Holding tight to each other in the face of illnesses, sudden deaths, and heartbreaking sadness... well, those dark nights call for a true beacon. And that final phrase: all the days of my life. The permanence of that. It's not something I knew in my soul the first time around. Oh, I believed that marriage was for life. But I didn't know it.

Now, I know it. I know that we are together forever, no matter what. I know that I can count on him to carry me when I am too weak to stand on my own. I know that he has my back, and my best interests... always. I trust him completely. He is my beacon, my rock, my fortress.

And I will love him, and honor him, all the days of my life.

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