I think I can say that my husband and I both came to this marriage woefully underprepared and without a clue. I think I can say that our marriage is what it is today, and will be what it will be tomorrow, as a result of God’s generous supply of grace and our willingness to cooperate with that grace. While the qualities I’m going to describe are those that can be pondered in contemplating a spouse, I ask you to realize that these are qualities that can be grown into with God’s grace.
While a woman’s gifts come in her softness, her gentility, her ability to intuit, her eye for beauty in all its forms, a man’s gifts lie in his strength and his leadership, his providing for his family, and his sense of protection. This is really why there is such a complementarity of the roles within a marriage.
There is a certain *chemistry* I suppose that can’t really be summed up or written about, so I won’t even try. And, in looking with an eye towards a man who will be a good provider for his family it’s hard to nail down anything more than work ethic. Does he have one? Would he willingly go to work in a carpenter’s shop next to St. Joseph? That’s enough for me! I think I’ll look a bit deeper…
Why is this so very important…and in particular why is this important in the husband? Because marriage today is counter-cultural. Because when the wife finds herself minus the stylish clothes of her youth, minus the figure of her youth, minus relaxing lunch dates, and minus adult vocabulary for a large portion (ALL?) of the day, but rather finds herself drenched in spit-up, drowning in Cheerios, and singing “Jack Frost” for the 30th time this morning, it is his love and respect that anchors her to this worthy task – and it is worthy – it’s just hard to see its worth from the trenches sometimes.
Entering the Sacrament of Marriage with eyes wide open also requires an acceptance that love undertaken sacramentally will yield suffering. It seems paradoxical, but it’s true. The more you open yourself to love, the closer you are to suffering – and the deeper the love, the deeper the suffering. You need only look to Our Lord to confirm the truth in this – He loved with a depth so profound and unspeakable and unknowable that He opened the gates of heaven. In following Him, there is no other way but through the Cross.
Acknowledging that at some point in a marriage suffering will be gifted to you and your spouse, seek a man with strong shoulders. Look for the same kind of shoulders that bore the weight of the Cross some 2000 years ago. Prayerful shoulders. Shoulders that seek to follow the will of God, even when that path is uphill and full of scorn and mockery. When I speak of strong shoulders I’m thinking of shoulders that square in the face of adversity, but are still soft and yielding enough to hold your fears and your intense sorrow. I’m thinking of a man that is strong enough to pray, to seek his strength in the humility of making himself small before Our Lord. This man is a treasure beyond compare.
I shudder to think how rough a specimen I was on the day I entered marriage almost 17 years ago – how vain and silly and stupid. I was however, very much in love with a man of great worth. I can take credit for choosing HIM and that’s about it. God’s mercies and gifts are made evident in weakness though, and I suppose we gave Him much to work with in that respect. Over the years God has pruned and fashioned Rob and I, stripping away the silliness and the layers of uselessness we clung to so hard and so fast in our youth. At times it has been quite painful, but always He has been good and merciful and tender, and after almost 17 years of marriage I can see that all that was really needed – all that is still really needed on that list seeking after ideals – is an openness in marriage to God’s grace. Leaving that door open yields a flood of mercy and grace that elevates marriage to that of a Sacrament and assists a spouse in viewing the other with the eyes of the supernatural, with all tenderness, so that your entire being speaks, “You are my beloved.”
It’s just as simple and complex as that. Isn’t it my beloved?