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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Love is Expensive

I have an awful lot of thoughts about marriage running through my mind lately.  I'm not sure what it is about this calendar year, but I have so many friends who are getting married!  It actually seems kind of weird, to be honest.  I'm 36 years old.  Didn't we already do this phase of life?  On the other end of it, I have spent more time walking with friends through the tragedies of being widowed, divorced, and processing annulment than I ever imagined I would experience at this stage, as well.  Some of these sad stories are merging into new, happier endings (and beginnings), and I feel as if I'm bumbling my way through most of it, just hoping I'm saying the right things and loving well.  I often feel way out of my wheelhouse.  I often feel unprepared.  I didn't realize this kind of stuff was going to be cyclical.

My house is ridiculously small by American standards for a family of seven (stay with me...  I promise I didn't just have a random squirrel moment in the middle of a post...  it will come together in a minute...)  As I was getting my youngest child to sleep last night (yes, she's six... yes, I still lie down with her almost every single night... no, I didn't do this for this long with the other four... yes, I'm having trouble letting go of the "last baby" stuff...), I received a message from my neighbor who offered us a free piano several weeks ago (OK...  it might have been a couple of months...  I really don't remember).  As soon as her face popped up on my screen, I said to myself, "Crap!  The piano!"  She asked if we still wanted it, and because music is a priority in our home and our piano is literally falling apart (as a side note, literally means it is actually happening), I confirmed that we do, indeed, want the piano and that I would clear a space for it, somewhere, by tonight.

My six year old mostly fell asleep, and I stumbled through the darkening house muttering about how seven people sharing less than 1,000 square feet of space should not have two pianos in the living room...  Sometimes I am ungrateful.

As I was spending some time scrolling through Facebook (which has been a luxury this summer with my crazy travel schedule), I just so happened to run across a post about a house that a friend of mine has recently listed for sale.  It is beautiful (really, really beautiful), huge (over 5,000 sq. ft.), more expensive than anything I will ever imagine living in (I could insert the price, but just... no), safe neighborhood, jetted tub, intercom (let me reiterate... intercom).

I was getting a little bit jealous.

I know I'm not the only one, either, because the comments were great.  One, in particular, stood out to me.  It was written by a stranger, from what I could gather a pretty young guy getting ready to enter into marriage himself, hoping to one day live in such a place.  My friend's reply (shared by permission) was, "Only if it's filled with love, honesty and integrity."

That's when the weight of her whole story hit me afresh, and I remembered why the house is on the market.  The house is not expensive.  It's just money.  It's just stuff.  Love is expensive.  And unrequited love, over a lifetime, just costs too much.

My heart hurts, and it's not because it doesn't fit in this cracker jack box of a dwelling.  It's because it does.  Somehow.

Another recent share that hit my newsfeed came from a sweet, idealistic, unmarried friend of mine who is in her early 20s.  She was appalled that so many people warn young adults about the difficulties of marriage, and she was sharing a post by what must have been a marriage expert (the author claims, in her piece, to have been married for ten months).  The title... "Marriage isn't Hard".  Well, friends, marriage also isn't easy!  In fact, it is so difficult that the divorce rate in the United States hangs out around 50% consistently.  Half of all people who enter into marriage find it hard enough that they also exit.  And interestingly, it is often the people who have legitimate reasons to leave who hang on the longest, hoping, praying, desperately trying to make it work.  And it is work.

The Catholic Church plainly labels marriage a vocational sacrament.  It is a call to holiness and service to another human being for the rest of your life, and it requires grace... sometimes a lot of grace... definitely more grace than any of us possess on our own.

Before I go too much further, I want to make it clear that there are reasons to dissolve a marriage.  Sometimes it doesn't work, because one or both spouses have no intent of faithfully keeping covenant with one another and express this through adultery or abuse.  Most of the time, it's not healthy to keep hanging on to that, although I have seen some miraculous exceptions.  But really, they're the exception. 

Apart from these things, though, I think a lot of what makes marriage work comes down to our willingness to set aside what we want for the sake of what we need, and what we need is almost always described in terms of character as opposed to terms of materials.

Let me try to wrap this up.

In a subsequent message, my friend with the incredible house wrote to me, "We could live in a castle and be horribly unloved. I'd rather live in a small tiny house and have love, honesty, and integrity."

The truth is, my husband left the house at 3:00, this morning.  He drove 3 1/2 hours to work, and even though he has to be there again, dark and early on Monday, he also drove home when he was finished, apparently because he wants to be with me tonight.  Friends, there are days when I honestly don't know why.  Today is like that.  I spent hours moving furniture around.  I am disheveled and maybe just a touch hangry.  And I totally smell.  But we have a piano to move into this tiny house...

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