Written by Mary
Last week on the Feast of the Transfiguration, my husband and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary. I remember our wedding day like it was yesterday. August 6, 1988 was hot and humid and there was no air conditioning in the chapel of the US Naval Academy. It was so humid that my veil kept sticking to my face. All the way down the very, very, very long aisle I kept blowing it out of my face. In the video, you see my veil float away and then get stuck to my face again. It quite amusing today. Then…not so much.
My husband grew up Lutheran and converted to the Catholic faith in 1999, eleven years into our marriage. So on our wedding day we did not have a Mass, we just had the readings and the vow ceremony. It took twenty-two minutes from start to finish. Neither one of us cared. We were young, naive and not so grounded in our faith then. We just wanted to be married, the faster the better.
As we approached this anniversary, we both knew we wanted a Mass since we did not have one at the start of our marriage. You see we have grown up just a little bit in these twenty-five years and have come to know, love and understand our beautiful Catholic faith so much better. There were two things that I would not compromise on. Having a Mass and chocolate cake with white buttercream icing. A girl has standards you know.
When we said our vows all those years ago, my husband wanted to use the old order vows and asked me to say “obey”. I was so in love and just wanted to be his wife so I said yes. I know, I know I can hear my feminist friends scream in agony and pain. “Obey? Why would you ever choose to obey a man?”
In the marriage ceremony, when we say “love” it means a selfless and sacrificial love. “Honor” means to respect and trust completely. When we were planning this celebration I told my spiritual director that I didn’t want to say “obey” again because I did such a horrible job during the first twenty-five years. I didn’t want to repeat that for the next twenty-five years. He challenged my understanding of “obey”. I told him what I thought and he just laughed. “He’s not your father Mary, he is your partner, the man who has promised to lay down his life for you.” For the next forty-five minutes he explained to me what “obey” meant.
I used to think it meant that whatever Jerry said was the law of the land. He said blue, I agreed. Except most of the time I didn’t, I said red. Let’s just say that I was not a law abiding citizen for many, many years of our marriage.
What does it mean to “obey” your spouse? When we are obedient to God, it is without limits for God is limitless. To be obedient to your spouse has limits because as human beings we have limits and are governed by higher laws.
Simply, to “obey” your husband means to sacrifice your will for the love of God and the betterment of the marriage. Just as Our Blessed Lady is a reflection of the love her Son has for her, we as wives are a reflection of the love our spouse has for us. Together we reflect the infinite love God our Father has for us.
An important part of our marriage is that we are each other’s path to sanctification, meaning when I am “obeying” my husband, just as when he is sacrificing for me, we help each other in our journey with Our Lord, as a couple and as individuals.
So this time around, during a beautiful Mass with no annoying veil issues, I joyfully said “Love, honor, and obey”. Maybe I cried just a little, having a better understanding of what that really means for our marriage. I can now make a renewed commitment to try and live up to this virtue. We each have our gifts. God made Jerry for me and me for Jerry. He knew what challenges we would face as a couple and He allowed certain things to happen in our life so that we would see our need to obey Him and bend our will to His.
I am no theologian and am still learning about the many aspects of my faith but as I go along this path of life I find the idea of obedience much less threatening and much more desirable. Let’s face it, when we are in right fellowship with God, and our husbands, life is so much more peaceful and filled with joy.
The Joy Journey is a weekly series on Fine Linen and Purple by Mary. Stop by here each Friday for a fresh perspective on living the joyful life!