After surviving a year of pandemic-infested wedding planning while teaching rotating bouts of online and in-person instruction at my high school, I believed July would be my breath of fresh air. My newly married husband and I would lay claim to an idyllic summer month. I would breathe out the stress though peaceful days off, find time to prepare meals for my husband around his work schedule, settle into my daily workout and prayer routine, and craft a beautiful keepsake wedding album.
Lo and behold, we returned from our honeymoon in time for my husband’s 24-hour shifts as a firefighter and paramedic to resume full swing. I commenced to rise at the crack of dawn to see him off to work, routinely preparing and eating breakfast earlier than I have ever done in my life. I vigorously scheduled all my external obligations during my husband’s shift days and reserved time at home on his days off. The entirety of a week was spent penning wedding thank-you notes between errands; after hours hunched over paper and pen, I couldn’t manage a restful night’s sleep due to the ache in my neck. The pain sent me on another errand for a new pillow, but was that really a solution? And you must bear in mind: I had the easier half of the deal by far! Between crazy work shifts, we newlyweds found just enough time to complete prior engagements with family and friends, attend church, mow our lawn and work on myriad house projects together. The 24-hour work shifts were followed by 12-hour work days at home. Moments of peace, quiet and romance began to seem hard to come by, arising only after we had reached the brink of our daily exhaustion.
If I’m dramatizing the situation, it’s not by much. My heart groaned: Aren’t we newlyweds? This is not what the first six weeks of marriage is supposed to look like! Then I was reminded of the article I had proposed writing this summer: an article on practicing active contemplation in the day-to-day, a challenge to choose a life of intentional prayer in the little things. Well, Our Lord sure does have a sense of humor, for that is the very challenge we faced!
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Christ is never afraid of the storm. In the midst of the frenetic pace of our first two months of marriage, one word continues to reverberate in my heart: time. Upon promising ourselves to each other forever, we discovered that we never have enough time. At first, I found that irony frustratingly difficult, but with God’s grace, it has become achingly beautiful. We are thirsty for time we can never seem to grasp, never claim in its fullness, and I am slowly learning to relish the mystery of time.
Now that we have committed our whole lives to each other, we have found that we never have enough time to give, that we can never absorb or communicate enough time to satisfy. By promising forever in a world that is passing away, we’ve cracked the portal to eternity. Such is the mystery of marriage, of every sacrament: to point us toward heaven, toward the eternal. To remind us that we are not made for this world of temporary things and fleeting moments, but that we are made for an eternal love, one that doesn’t expire and one that we will relish timelessly. What a beautiful glimpse of what it means that marriage — each spouse caught up in the gaze of the other in a mutually sacrificial love — is a reflection of the heavenly reality of everlasting life caught up in the gaze of God!
Not surprisingly, these realizations haven’t arrived as mystical revelations; they’ve been lessons learned through the tension of daily trials and discovered in the love emanating from exhausted hearts. The scarcity of time is something I’ve struggled with throughout my life, but never so much as now that my life is given over to another. I can only imagine how much more profoundly we will experience that reality when children enter the picture. While I know we stand only at the threshold of the wonders of marriage, I am left with a few practical reflections for today:
1. Our concern need never be on whether time is passing too slowly or too quickly, for that rips at our peace. Rather, our focus need only remain on the Lord and on living in and seeking his grace in the present moment — in the now.
2. Don’t be afraid to stop and re-orient yourself. Stop everything, pray, make a list, prioritize, focus on the essentials once again. If you have a spouse, do it together.
3. Find meaning and joy in the littlest of moments. The temptation amid busyness is to sink into a relentless and draining routine. Break away from that to try a new meal, admire the beauty of your surroundings, slip away to an adoration chapel, or even dance a spontaneous jig. (I can testify, that really does help relieve stress — both yours and whoever sees you doing it!)
4. Always make time to show and receive love. It’s a Post-It with a loving message on the sink and a long hug for no reason at all. It’s a note to a co-worker going through a hard time and a meal to a friend with a new baby. It’s the conviction that love doesn’t shut down in the face of the mundane; it rises up.
My prayer is that these moments of grace from our fledgling marriage will bless and inspire you in whatever life circumstances and time constraints you find yourself. May we together grow to lean into the gift of God’s presence with simplicity and trust in the smallest of moments, that our lives may be permeated by his peace and overflowing with his joy.
If you will permit me a few closing words spoken directly to my husband: Austin, I am so blessed to be caught up in your gaze, to feast with you on the riches of a love that sometimes seems too short but finds its roots in the eternal now of Christ, both the Alpha and the Omega. Let us never fear the passing or the swiftness of time, but rejoice in the truth that, with God, we may always lay claim to our forever love.