The Undiscovered Country (1-20-2002)
Dr. Michael Thomas
There are many blessings in life. One of the greatest blessings I have known is to have a partner to walk with through life. I heard a pastor speak to a newly wedded couple on the television the other day. He told them, From this day forward, your problems will not weigh as heavily upon you because you will have someone to shoulder them with you. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but I really appreciate and agree with the sentiment.
I have had the honor of over nineteen years of marriage with the former Bonnie Jean Holland. The comfort and trust that I have shared with her is unknown to me outside of our relationship. I have other friends in this life, but none that have the depth, breadth, and width of this one. Through thick and thin (and there has been plenty of thin), the young woman I took to be my wife has grown with me and stood by me, through tests and trials: financial, emotional, physical, mental all the multitude of ways that life grabs hold of you and shakes.
Its complicated having a real abiding love in these days. We are all so very busy. We scurry here and there all day and often into the night. Life pushes on us so strongly that it is hard to hold on to someone else. At least it is hard to hold on for the whole ride. It seems like a lot of folks have been able to hold together for a few years here and there, but many seem to lose their grip on what it was that created the bond in the first place. Sometimes people grow up and realize their reasons for marriage were based on unsound foundations. Fear can make us do a lot of things, but it is rarely the foundation for a good marriage. Ambitions shift and change. People wake up to the fact they are acting out dynamics that belong to their parents. There are a million reasons why marriages fail.
I only know of one reason that marriages succeed. The word that describes this reason has, however, been grossly overused. In fact, I hesitate to blurt it out because a lot of people will probably go, -oh that! Words are only descriptors and when a word becomes popular, its meaning becomes diluted. If the word was equal to its meaning, you would immediately see with new eyes. Your entire world would be transformed and a secret light would shine in every cell of your body.
Instead, something else has happened in our world today. We have so many words that represent so many different things that the impact of words has become blunted. So many incredibly powerful words have been taken and used in ways that trivialize the reality that they represent. Our magazines and books and televisions and theater screens make such stunning use of words that they almost seem to overshadow the very things they represent. The media world almost seems more real than our own. Deeper connections get papered over in a veneer of surface appearance. So we have become ˜sophisticated. Very little really touches us. Of course, if we just let open the floodgates of the world, we could never take in the resulting tidal wave of information, and we would quickly drown in it. So many words, and in the end, they cancel each other out.
Okay, so its not really a secret. The reason marriage works is that both partners have given themselves to the other “ in love. This word ˜love is so overused as to make it almost meaningless in todays parlance. People ˜love pudding and their new car. They ˜love to hit the jackpot and they love to shop. This is not what I am talking about.
You may have read that God is Love. This is closer to what I am trying to express. Love created the whole universe and holds it together. Atoms and galaxies both rely on Love to function. You wont read this in your science texts but you can read it in your own hearts.
I knew Bonnie for a year or so only as a coworker and friend. Sometimes I think that is why we have been able to make this work for us. We have always been friends. I decided to marry her one evening when I was talking with her in her home. I suddenly, in one moment, knew without a doubt, that I could trust her. We had been talking about something or other, I’ve long since forgotten what, but in an instant, I felt this warm sense of absolute knowing in my chest. It wasn’t just that I could trust her with money or my car or with any other possession. I simply knew that I could trust her. Period. I wont deny that this is a rare quality. I don’t think I have ever known anyone else with whom I have felt this way. Nineteen years later, I haven’t changed my mind.
This ˜love though, is very mysterious. I thought I knew all about it as a teenager, but each year has helped me to see that I really know very little of love. Each time I learn more, another door opens and I realize the vast immensity of the landscape of Love. Gods love is unconditional. Our reflection of this absolute is less perfect, but love offers us a thread to follow. The path of love leads us directly to God. A marriage is predicated in love, and two become one in the light of this love.
Life is longer than a movie. The happy endings we see in movies are clean and definite. In our real lives, we wake up again the next morning and the only ˜soundtrack is the love we let sing in our hearts – or the discord of its lack. No one I know has a really simple and uncomplicated life. Life is messy. It is complicated. It isn’t all ˜mountain-top experiences. Its easy to feel love in your heart when all is well, but an entirely different ˜ball of wax to sustain it in troubled times.
When we first marry, we unite together and it seems so easy. This is the honeymoon. Having a partner to walk through life with feels wonderful. As years go by, this union begins to get stretched and pulled. We change as our experiences begin to pull us in different directions. What was once simple and blissful becomes difficult. What once seemed like an advantage can feel like a millstone slowing us down. It is now that love is most important. If love has bound you together, it is possible to weather these storms. Love is giving and forgiving. It is pliable and reliable. In the darkest moments of my own marriage, I would walk the streets at night and ponder what to do. I even asked God to take the love out of my heart if I was supposed to leave. But it never left and even though in those darkest of moments, when I couldn’t understand why, love held us together. Gradually, something new formed. Love created a bond even deeper and stronger than we had ever had before. Another door had opened into a vast expanse of new territory, one I hadn’t even dreamed of.
It takes great courage to pay attention to love. It takes courage to weather the storms of any marriage. The rewards however, for doing so have taken me into a previously undiscovered country, and for that I am eternally grateful. My marriage has taught me more about myself than anything else ever could. We are mirrors for each other, and during those days when we stand ˜on the mountain-top with each other, it is glorious. When those times come that we find ourselves huddled down against a heavy wind in a dark valley of trouble, there is no one I would rather have at my side. Each year together brings new subtlety and strength to our relationship. I learn more about what it means to love someone else. I thank God for my life’s companion and I am comforted as I look to the future.
We are Gods eyes and hands in this world. God has truly loved me through Bonnie and I pray that His Love has comforted her through me. Because our marriage was truly founded in love, we have been able to hold together through thick and thin, richer and poorer, in sickness and in health. Gods grace has never let the fire of love in our hearts go out. Together, as we have helped ourselves, we have also found the strength to reach out to others, and in this way, the circle of love continues on and on and on!