(I wrote this several years ago and is excerpted from my second book, Lessons Along the Journey. I updated only the dates to make it current).
I hadn’t slept well the night before, and weariness settled over me like a heavy rug. Nancy and I returned home from Mass, ate lunch, and were unwinding on the couch where she continued our conversation about her passion for art. But I couldn't keep my mind from drifting. As it did, my eyes focused on her face. I’d noticed her changing features before, but somehow this time I saw her anew. Creases now feather her cheeks and forehead where her skin was once smooth and supple. Gone is her naturally dark auburn hair. She colors it blonde to mask the gray. When I asked Nancy to marry me nearly four decades ago, I thought I knew her. I thought I loved her. Now, half-listening to her describe the colors she planned to use in her next project, I realized how little I really knew or loved her in 1975. We’ve weathered many storms during our years together. Some of them were tsunamis. I don’t even like to dredge them up in my memory. Our son suffered through divorce. Nancy’s beloved stepfather died. Two years later, I lost mine. Financial crises and long periods of unemployment rocked our marriage from time to time. Friends turned their backs on us because of our commitment to Christ. And then there were a dozen military-related moves from one end of the country to the other, which forced us to leave family, friends, and familiar places. Sometimes I wonder how we survived it all. God’s grace? Unquestionably. Intervening from the shadows, often without revealing His hand, our Father brought peace when turmoil overwhelmed us, and freedom when fear bound us. He quieted us when, in frustration, we lashed out at each other instead of going to our knees before our God. God’s grace, certainly. But something else has proven vital to our relationship: our communication with each other. I suppose better than eighty percent of our discussions over the years have been casual. You know the kind: what’s for dinner, what happened at work, the kids have colds . . . . But because of that casual eighty percent, she and I can also meet in intimate, deeply personal conversations. We are able to talk about our hopes, joys, fears and dreams because we have spent so much of our time learning about each other. That’s why I know her – and love her – so much more today than I did when we married. Which brings me to the real point. Forty-seven years ago, I thought I knew Jesus. I thought I loved him. But, oh, how my knowledge of Him and my love for Him are so very different today than they were in 1972 when I first offered Him my heart. Why? Unquestionably, because of God’s grace. But I am sure there is something else at work. Early in my walk with Christ, I learned the importance of communing with Him in prayer, study of Scripture – and since 2005 when I entered the Catholic Church – in the Sacraments. Over the years, I’ve worn out four Bibles, memorized scores of Scripture texts, and can allude to a hundred more. I’ve spent time with Him in the morning, the evening, and throughout the day. To be honest, most of my prayers – eighty percent? – are not what I would call passionate. You know the kind: Lord, I need a good evaluation at work. Mom needs guidance about moving from Florida. Gerry needs a job. Helen’s son is ill. But because of that eighty percent, because I communicate so often with Him, I know how to be intimate with Him when battles rage beyond my control.
In the first stanza of his poem, Rabbi Ben Ezra, Robert Browning wrote, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be. The last of life, for which the first was made, our times are in His hand who said ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!’” As husbands and wives grow old together, they learn what love and intimacy with each other looks like. When men and women grow old with the King of Glory, they learn what love and intimacy with Him is like. When life’s storms rip at our foundations, when the hot breath of Satan prickles down our neck, our deeply personal knowledge of God will be our fortress. Our passionate love for Him, born through intimate communion, will be our strength. Surely, that is one reason the prophet urged: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).