Marriage: A Big, Beautiful Inconvenience

“So I’m over this whole engagement thing.”

This has become my customary response to friends and co-workers lately. Some folks chuckle, while others give me a puzzled look. Eventually, though, everyone recognizes the message underlying the tone: I’m just ready to be married.

Jackie and I aren’t living together before marriage for a multitude of reasons, and I have no doubt that it will make our marriage all the more fruitful and meaningful. No doubt—but it’s definitely the cross at times. When 10:30 or 11:00pm rolls around every night and I have to drive 20 minutes away in a state of grogginess (I don’t handle being tired very well), I experience frustration. It’d be so much easier to just live here in this apartment. I’m getting so tired of this night after night. This is so inconvenient.

And then I stumbled upon this passage from then-Bishop Timothy Dolan’s book, Priests for the Third Millennium:

A parish priest is willing to be inconvenienced. A retreat director once told me that putting on the Roman collar is like putting on a sign saying, “Please bother me.” A priest was in the airport in his collar waiting to board his plane when another man in sports clothes came up and introduced himself as a priest, too. “I never wear my collar when I travel because people keep bothering me, always coming up and wanting to talk.”

“I know,” the other one said; “that’s why I wear mine.” (p. 275).

I read this book a few years ago when I was in seminary and the words still haven’t lost any of their punch. Only now, I see how I could easily exchange the words “priest” with “husband” and “collar” with “ring.”

Marriage will be one big, beautiful inconvenience. Yes, certain logistical irritants we’re dealing with now will be no more in marriage. And then we’ll be given a whole new set of occasions (or as Jim and Pam from The Office call them, “opportunities”) that will test our patience with each other and will be moments of the cross. We’ll get frustrated at each other. I’ll be difficult and/or stubborn about stupid things. She’ll want to punch me in the face. And somehow we’ll love each other more through it all.

It seems illogical that anyone in their right mind would ever willingly wear a ring (or a collar or habit) that binds them forever in service to another, and yet it’s that human paradox that the most liberated folks are those most under obedience. Several of my friends from the Florida seminary have been getting ordained to the priesthood this month, and it’s been wonderful to see the joy overflowing from their communities, their families, and the guys themselves as they lay down their lives for us—the Church. Their years of seminary training are now over; these men are now on the front lines to serve and protect our souls at their own expense. Likewise, the happiest married guys I know are hardly on Facebook anymore or taking excessive time out for themselves; they’re always with or working for their families, laying down their lives in the quiet, simple ways that no one but their wives and young children will ever know.

Obedience is a nasty word to most American ears, probably because, as now-Cardinal Dolan wrote, we were founded on disobedience: “…we tend to equate liberty with license, freedom with rights unbridled by duty; that we exalt dissent over docility, and view with suspicion authority, tradition, and accepting things purely on faith” (Priests, p. 76). Add in with “obedience” the marital requisite of “forever,” and factor in human selfishness and weakness, it’s no wonder that our current culture recoils at the notion of a lifetime commitment. We are a generation that likes to “keep our options open” and not be “tied down,” and yet to live in such a way means you never commit to anything!

If we look at the ancient and original meaning of “obedience,” we can see that it stems from something more meaningful: to listen (ob: to; audiere: hear or listen). Obedience, in the real sense of the word, means to listen, to pay attention to another’s wishes, to quell our own desires perhaps for the sake of another. Jesus told the woman in the crowd, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28). Personally I think that a great deal of hurt and wounded-ness stems from our human tendency to not listen and take heed of those who have gone before us, and to not trust the Church’s teachings on difficult matters and give to the faith the benefit of the doubt. It takes humility to listen and admit our faults (and Jackie’s taught me a lot of humility).

It’s ultimately a death-to-self, but in trial and sacrifice we find meaning. God did not give us the sacraments of marriage or holy orders for lives of luxury or ease, but for life-giving service—as Pope Benedict XVI asserted, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” Love is supposed to hurt. It was “precisely at the time of greatest suffering [,] on the cross, obedient unto death, that Jesus accomplished the most” (Priests, p. 86). As our friend Colleen Nixon sings, “To live is to love is to die.”

And so I’ll keep driving night after night. 73 nights to go. You better believe it’s inconvenient, but you better believe that she’s worth it.

-Bobby

  One thought on “Marriage: A Big, Beautiful Inconvenience

  1. May 29, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Love this! You’re setting a great example and setting up a wonderful legacy. It will all be worth it.

  2. Amy
    May 29, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Bobby, this is so provoking. Thank you for sharing! You are going to make one, incredible husband! Best wishes to both of you!!!

  3. Liz
    May 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Love this, “You better believe it’s inconvenient, but you better believe that she’s worth it.”

    • May 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Even after 52 years you better believe he was worth it, and still is my everything.

  4. May 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    love the definition of obedience being about “listening” and really “hearing.” as a newly wed, I definitely am experiencing the call to really listen both to God, and to the needs of my husband. It’s so hard to die to my own desires, and to be exactly what you said, “inconvenienced.” but as I tell my junior high ministry kids, the best things in life are usually the ones that are hard to live out. the more that I have embraced that lesson, the more I feel fully alive.

  5. Janie Gonzales
    May 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    So wonderful!! I wish more youth had access to this.. People very close to me need these words.. Congratulations

  6. Travis Chabot
    May 29, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Great post! The inconveniance of love. Thanks.

  7. May 29, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Beautiful! Everything about this is beautiful! Your writing, your obedience, your faith, etc!! My parish priest just celebrated 8 years of ordination today and in mass he stressed his 100% commitment to our parish and his 100% availability to us. It was a nice refresher for me and my new husband (2.9.13)…we’re 100% there for each other 100% of the time, just like God is for us. Thanks for sharing! May God bless your marriage and these few more months of wedding planning!
    *A friend shared your post via Facebook and this is my first time on your blog.

  8. May 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Amen! This is on point and so beautiful. May God continue to guide and bless both of you as you journey toward The Sacrament of Marriage. Thank you for your witness and for being so open. +JMJ

  9. May 29, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Thank you; amazing post. Congratulations and Blessings to you both!

  10. handmaid
    May 29, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    I think the Lord is calling me to be His bride. Reading this brings to light that selfish place in my heart but greatly consoles me of my fears of committing to what the Lord could be seriously calling me to do.
    Thank you brother and God bless!

  11. May 29, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    A commenter left the link to this blog in my combox this morning. All I can say is, Wow! You have said it perfectly. Thank you and blessings on your head!

  12. Paco
    May 29, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Awesome insight; thanks for sharing!

  13. Lorryn
    May 29, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    I so remember this feeling, Bobby! Watching him drive away, night after night, and feeling so lonely for his presence when he was gone. BUT only 73 more good byes and then a LIFETIME of togetherness. After three years of marriage, we will still cuddle up as we fall asleep and whisper, “No more good byes, only good nights!” This heart ache for your beauty you experience now will only make your marriage that much sweeter when she’s ALLLLLL yours!:) Blessings upon your beautiful vocation, now and always.

  14. May 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    This is the way a true man shows true grit and builds a strong marriage before he gets married. Keep it going, keep sacrificing because the best is yet to come.

  15. May 30, 2013 at 8:08 am

    I’m right there with you brother, and couldn’t agree more completely. OK, I’m actually 3,000 miles away from you, but you know what I mean.

    Being on the other side of the world from my fiancé for over half of our engagement has been tough, and it was certainly much less romantic, more expensive, less convenient and more of a hassle to stay in separate hotel rooms when we did finally get to meet up on our 13 day rendezvous across five countries… but it was wonderful, gave us peace and allows us so much more to appreciate after the wedding.

    Having to spend months at a time with snail mail (which really lives up to its name here), Skype, email and VOIP phones (across 16 time zones) as my only means of contact with her is tough and frustrating sometimes, but it is also helping us grow, communicate and appreciate each other more. It’s a huge inconvenience for both of us, but it honors us to know that the other willingly (and lovingly) endures that inconvenience for our sake.

    There is something liberating about finding my vocation. It doesn’t free me to live however I want; instead, it frees me to live the life I was made for – inspiring, self-sacrificing, life changing, life giving, life-long love.

    There will be sunny days in the future and there will be clouds, but we look forward to a lifetime of weathering the storms of life (and the drizzle) together – under the same umbrella.

    AMDG

  16. May 30, 2013 at 8:41 am

    My husband and I have been married for 6 months now and the memory of driving home every night is very fresh in both of our minds…. It is so worth it!! I remember falling asleep our very first night together and thinking… “I don’t have to drive home!” :) Marriage is wonderful and holding fast to the Lord and your commitment to purity is so so worth it! God Bless you two! -Arielle

  17. May 30, 2013 at 11:20 am

    This was just fantastic… as someone getting married in 86 days (but who’s counting? :)) I really appreciated this!!!!!! Good luck and God bless your life together!!!! :) And thank you so much for posting this. :)

  18. K
    May 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I’m a protestant church-goer, but I can totally identify with what you’re saying! I appreciate the Catholic church, your views, and work for the Kingdom of God.
    I’ve been married just a little over a year, and how wonderful it was when my husband and I stayed that first night together!

    Blessings to you and your wife-to-be!

  19. Trish
    May 31, 2013 at 6:53 am

    nine years later..I never forget how my then fiancee walked home to his apartment every night in the cold. I cannot express how much this means to me now in our marriage. Because of that simple act each night, he has my complete trust and love. Like you said in your last line, he showed me he believe that I was worth the wait. Congratulations on your engagement!

  20. Anna
    May 31, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Thank you. This was so beautiful.

  21. Nigel
    June 3, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    This is truly beautiful and I can relate because my love is worth every bit of time. Time is all we have and need to enjoy falling in love more and more with every passing moment; forever and a lifetime.

  22. August 4, 2013 at 10:15 am

    I’m extremely pleased to uncover this web site. I need to to thank you for your time just for this fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to see new information on your blog.|

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