Reconcile all things in Christ,
And make them new…
(Excerpt from Eucharistic Prayer 3, Book of Alternative Services)
I’d walked from my back door to the car and my bunions were already screaming at me to go back inside the house. The heels I’d chosen were the lesser of several evils, but I was still facing another great battle with fashionable footwear.
In a few minutes, my husband and I were belted into our seats, leaning into the curve of the 401 eastbound onramp, embarking on a rare night of being all dressed up with someplace to go.
“You look great,” I said to Mark.
“Thanks-so do you,” he replied.
Then we stared quietly at the road. I was nervous. We would have to meet new people. I am always nervous about meeting new people.
“Remember,” I said, reaching for some CDs to try to find some relaxing music, “you don’t want to divest or divulge anything.”
My husband has a robust vocabulary, but the mental wires around these two words got crossed somewhere along the line and he can’t untangle them: he’s always “divesting” what he should be “divulging” and vice versa.
“Roger that,” he said, adding, “And you remember: don’t try too hard to be funny. Just be yourself.”
“Agreed,” I said.
It suddenly occurred to me that the ability to tell each other the truth, without getting into a scrap, was one of the fringe benefits of a decade of marriage. In our early days, such a candid pre-game pep-talk would have been out of the question: the glossy finish of pretense made it impossible to acknowledge that we even had faults in the first place, let alone admit to them.
Back then I would have been loath to take ownership for my over-exuberance. Likewise, Mark had no sense of humour about the criss-crossing of a small handful of his neurological pathways.
It occurred to me, as we drove to the banquet, how far we’d come as a couple. I had a flashback to one of our marriage therapy sessions-during what was an acute case of seven-year itch-when we first became acquainted with the truth and were none too pleased with the reflection of our unvarnished selves.
Our therapist, who was a champion of enduring pregnant pauses, would offer us a crust of conversational bread every so often, but the car rides home were the worst: the sour odour of fresh truth hung around us like wet dishrags. There was no escape from it and no one to break the interminable silence.
Did I really say, “I can’t stand you anymore”? Did he really say, “Ditto!”?
The truth had set us free, but to what end?
Having acknowledged how badly we’d disappointed each other left us with no place to hide. We were like Adam and Eve in the garden, naked and afraid. Our knuckles were white, our fingernails were bloody. We were hanging on to our marriage for dear life.
Even though we rarely spoke to each other for several hours after the sessions, Mark and I were both preoccupied by the same dilemma: could we stay together for our son’s sake in spite of our brokenness? Or, was it better to part ways and try to be friends?
The priest who married us, a man who has become a close friend through the years, is very fond of the phrase “in the fullness of time.” Whether he’s planning a wedding or a synod, whenever difficult questions arise, he falls back on this tried-and-true wisdom. I would often roll my eyes at him, brainwashed as I was by the cultural understanding that time is just too damn slow. In the case of marriage, perhaps most especially, time simply cannot compete with the return ticket to personal freedom that is separation and divorce.
In my darkest hour, when I was ready to give up on my marriage, I never consciously considered the healing power of time-that it might be the magic ingredient that would help me acclimate to the exacting demands of ’til death do us part.
At some point, though, and with no clear answer as to whether or not to hold fast or jump ship, Mark and I decided to “wait it out,” and that made all the difference.
These days, while our marriage is far from perfect, it is getting stronger every day. For one thing, we can handle the truth, which is a huge relief because pretense is exhausting. And the truth, together with a newfound respect for what time can do, has given us a safe place to reconcile and rebuild.
As for being made new, that is a work in progress. But our goal is to hang together long enough to experience everything God has in store for us.
Michelle Hauser is a former fundraiser turned newspaper columnist and freelance writer. She and her husband, Mark, live in Napanee, Ont., with their son Joseph and worship at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. Her work includes contributions to CBC Radio, The Globe and Mail, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and The Kingston Whig-Standard. She can be reached through her website at www.michellehauser.ca.