Golden anniversary that is. Happy 40th Anniversary to my loving parents Steve and Cindy Seberger! Recently, in the Olympics we have seen the hard work of many Americans pay off. The United States brought home 121 medals, 46 of them gold, from Rio. Anything you want to succeed in takes work: preparation, practice, perspiration, perseverance, passion and sometimes even coaching. Whether an athlete or a business leader we can recognize there is a recipe for success. But do we apply the same logic to our marriages? Do we somehow try to side step the hard work, and see short falls as unpreventable or an unchangeable product of fate or luck? Olympians don’t get there because of luck.
“When it comes to marriage, are we settling for a green participation ribbon?” ~Regular Joan
Content, as long as no one’s yelling or crying? Or do we push ourselves to improve, to take that marriage that is a 7 or 8 and make it a 10?
A line from the toast I gave at my parents’ anniversary party was “At weddings we celebrate young love, at anniversaries we celebrate REAL LOVE.” Got a chuckle. Was it easy Mom and Dad? Knowing what I know from the 11 years of my own marriage my wager would be on “no” it wasn’t always easy, but “yes” it was worth it. Love isn’t that starry eyed floaty-feeling though it may start that way. Love is a choice; a conscious act to put the needs of another first, at times even above your own. In fairytale land, marriage is 50:50 and you meet in the middle. In reality it could be 60:40, 80:20, or even 100:0. But it is real love that sustains through thick and thin and reaps the joyful bounty of a life well-lived, built together brick by brick.
You want the fairytale? Me too, after all who doesn’t want a happy ending. Okay, here you go. Like Cinderella and Prince Charming our newly married heroes ride off in a horse drawn carriage. But in a time before paved roads, rubber tires, and shocks it is a BUMPY ride! And as they hit the first pothole they are surprised. For although they knew they would encounter bumps, they didn’t see it coming so hard and fast. They wondered did other couples hit these same bumps? Some of the bumps brought them closer as they clung together through rough patches. Some of the bumps threw them apart, ‘who is driving this thing?’ Sometimes, they got stuck in a rut. But with faith, and using God as a guide the couple remains together (no one bails) and the journey continues. How will it end? Well, it wouldn’t be a fairytale without a kingdom, the Kingdom of God. The happily ever after is a marriage where spouses help each other get to heaven. Paradise! I heard a priest on Catholic Radio say, “No one gets to heaven alone.” (Probably quoting someone, but I don’t remember) We are companions on a journey, we need each other, we lift each other up, and we keep each other on the right road to heaven.
In shopping for a special anniversary card for my parents I was disgusted by the prevalent themes of “made for each other” and “meant to be.” It is a sense of pre-destination that makes is sound like love and going the distance is out of our control.
This applies to falling in love and falling out of love. The notion of “soul mates” originated in Paganism. Zeus, split a soul into two so that instead of trying to take over Mt. Olympus, humans would spend their time looking for each other. Marriage is an institution from God. He created this vehicle to transport and transform us. And in answering the call to the vocation of marriage, the heroes change the world. With children it seems like their needs always come first. But really the best thing one can do for their children is to love their spouse. Thank you Mom and Dad for loving each other. Thank you for showing us to love through Christ Jesus, and for letting Jesus show us how to love through you.
Mom and Dad you have won a medal for the home team. Congratulations. You inspire me. You inspire all your children and grandchildren in ways you don’t know. You’ve taught us to be generous, kind, and conscientious, to work hard and admit our faults. You have taught us to love God and our family, to serve the community, and to respect life. And so many other things! There is more joy and beauty in this world because you loved each other. Your marriage truly is a gift to all. Cheers to 40 years! I’m rooting you on to gold, 50 years and beyond.