Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dvadeset i Tri na Dvadeset i Treći (Twenty-Three on the Twenty-Third)

We interrupt this Lent for a special announcement . . . Twenty-three years ago today, we were married. Like today, it was a bit overcast and windy. (In fact, we have a hilarious picture of my veil blowing in the wind at one point.) Unlike today, we were twenty-three years younger and had little idea what lay ahead.

I remember hearing before I married that every wedding has something significant go wrong, that it would be bad luck if you didn't.

Well, our expectant-mother cake-maker was ordered on strict bed rest the day before the wedding. Our music director's child got chickenpox a few days before, and his wife was in cancer treatment and couldn't be exposed to it. And during the ceremony itself, one of the groomsmen fainted, nearly taking down with him all the ivy connecting the arch and flowers.

So according to the conventional wisdom, we should have been inoculated against bad luck. On the other hand, a dear woman made a wonderfully delicous cake at the last minute--and still came to the wedding despite the lack of sleep. And the music director was able to find childcare and direct the choir, which meant the world to me, since he had been my chorus director and beloved Bible teacher. And another groomsman caught the fainting one, saving the wedding from disaster; they even revived him before the end of "Lord, Make Me an Instrument" came, most people didn't even know it ever happened, as they had heads bowed and eyes closed for that prayer/song.

So, who knows, maybe all those last-minute "saves" undid our inoculation.

Of course, it wasn't "bad luck" that caused the war in former Yugoslavia. It was much more complicated than that. It may have been coincidence that we had bought our tickets to return there the very week that the war started. And it wasn't "luck" that we came from different cultures and spoke different languages; it was very much a choice we made to marry, knowing we came from different worlds. So I wouldn't say we had bad luck. But we did have a very tough start.

I've often looked back and wondered how many people choose this hymn as wedding music. Certainly today I don't hear it at weddings, and I don't know if I ever did growing up. But I knew I wanted it at ours, and Drazen agreed to it. We really were not expecting the war, but I already knew that moving so far away from home would be hard. And we knew that neither of us had "ease" or "idleness" on our list of hopes and dreams.

Father, hear the prayer we offer,
Nor for ease that prayer shall be,
But for strength, that we may ever
Live our lives courageously.

Not forever by still waters
Would we idly, quiet stay,
But would smite the living fountains
From the rocks along our way.

Be our strength in hours of weakness,
In our wand'rings be our guide;
Through endeavor, failure, danger,
Father, be thou at our side.

Twenty-three years later, by the grace of God, here we are. And it is by the grace of God.  He heard our prayer, and hears our prayers, and has given strength and guidance and many other things needed along the way.

And, I must add, I married a patient and persevering man. I don't think I'm an easy person for an engineer to live with; I know I'm not, for him. It's almost laughable to me, now a marriage therapist, to look at our scores on various personality tests. We are both extreme in most areas, and we are opposites in our extremities--except for the "intuitive" part on the Meyer-Briggs. So maybe intuitively we both knew we could make it, even with all the reasons we might not. Whatever the case, I'm thankful that he is who he is, and that he loves me as I am.

We didn't have these words at our wedding; I just noticed today that they are a part of the hymn based on St. Francis' Canticle of the Creatures--

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part.
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

But we did have other verses sung, and thanks to God's faithfulness in all our wanderings, it seems a good way to end this writing about our anniversary.

All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!....

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship him in humbleness,
O praise him! Alleluia!
O praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!
O praise Him, O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!


Sally Thomas said...

What a wonderful post, Sheila! Happy anniversary, and many more.

And I love that hymn. It seems very right for the start of a marriage.

Lawrence Underwood said...

This is a beautiful tribute to God's grace.

I think you opposites, because of Gods' grace, lend a strength and resilience to your marriage.

Cindy McMillion said...

Beautiful post, my friend!

Anonymous said...

Wish I had thought to come.
John M

Lucy said...

Congratulations, a lovely, slightly wry but very loving post! That's a hymn I've always liked too, though I guess it might be seen as an unusual choice for a weddding!

Sheila said...

Thank you, everyone. And it turns out that at least three of my friends (who read and commented on Facebook rather than there) had that hymn sung at their wedding. All over twenty years ago, not surprisingly. Today weddings seem to be a bit lopsided, tilting toward the romance side and lacking on the "this is for real and for life" side.)

Jeff Marx said...

So lovely Sheila, thanks for the insights.
I am thinking that opposites is the norm in marriage, and God's grace and aid is the commonly needed antidote for all that ails us. May the next 23 be filled with all that grace and blessing!

Sheila said...

Oh, yes, I know that "opposites attract" is not just a saying. Most of the couples I see in my office have a significant degree of "oppositeness." What stretches my credulity is the degree of extremity we both have in our oppositeness, and it showed up even in premarital testing. But I suppose in a way, even that could be seen as something we have in common. Neither of us does anything halfway....

Janet said...

Happy Anniversary!