Dear Current and Future Husband (one in the same, though we’ll be different people in the future),
Before we met I wrote to you, I wrote to you of love and the life we would share. What I didn’t realize for all the romance and dreams of walking down the aisle was how difficult some of our days together would be.
My focus was on walking down the aisle to my husband, not realizing that at the same time, that walk was our own walk to Calvary, to laying down our lives for each other. Marriage is a sanctifying vocation, and the only way we find salvation is through the Cross. You are my cross to bear and I am yours. There are and will be days that this cross is light, that the burden is heavy as a feather. But there are and will be days that this cross is heavy, so heavy that we’ll wonder where our Simon is. The cross that is this sanctifying vocation will seem to crush one or both of us. In all of my daydreaming and praying for our life together, I didn’t understand that marriage could be so utterly trying.
Christopher West describes it well,
There’s no getting around it. We express our wedding vows in a church, under a crucifix, in front of an altar of sacrifice. The vows themselves are a solemn promise to love as Christ loves. That means there will be times in married life when the nails are being driven through our palms, the thorns are being pressed into our scalps, and the lance is being thrust through our sides. And we, understandably, will want to exclaim: “This is horrible!”
I’m constantly confronted with how marriage, by its very design, confronts me with the cross. The temptation in those moments is always to look for a detour.
This is the stuff that movies and TV and the like don’t tell you about – or maybe I just ignored it in favor of all the fairytales of how blissful marriage would be. I was sure we’d have struggles, but I’d never imagine they could be so painful, so horrible, as West says. The temptation is to look for an easy way out, a shortcut of some sort. Years ago as I was watching a documentary on John Paul II, I was struck by something that was said as people were encouraging him to resign from the papacy given his declining health: “You don’t get off the cross.”
Christ didn’t get off the cross. God knows He could have. He could have called on the angels, said enough was enough, and tried to find another way to save us – one that involved less pain, less shame, less sacrifice. But on the cross He stayed.
In the difficult days, in the days when we feel the thorns and the lance and the nails, let us remember this: Christ didn’t get off the cross. It was painful, shameful, and humiliating, but He didn’t get off – He stayed through to the bitter end, and to the glory of the Resurrection. When we cling to the cross, when we sacrifice for each other as Christ did for His Bride, rather than running from the cross, there will be pain, shame, struggle and strife beyond our wildest dreams. But so too will there be a new day, a new dawn, a new temple, hope, and joy beyond all telling.
If love were merely about feelings, Jesus would have been hugged to death. With true love comes suffering. With true love comes the Cross, in all of its horror, shame, humiliation, pain, and sacrifice. Yet this is the sanctifying vocation we’ve chosen, and we’ve chosen it with one another. You are my cross and I am yours, now and forever until we reach Heaven’s shores. Embrace the cross and the sacrifice with me, won’t you?
Your wife, your cross