Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Husband and Wife (08/08/14)
- TITLE: No Longer Walking Alone
By Carolyn Ancell
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Mom’s life-litanies buoyed me through the bumps and bruises of adolescence, but they were also instrumental in my later staying in a 15-year relationship that bore the title of marriage, but held little sacramental, physical, or emotional resemblance to the real thing. When the end came, it brought with it release and relief, but also a terrible burden of self-doubt. How could I have made such a monumental mistake? Will I ever again trust my own judgement?
In the decade that followed the divorce, I enjoyed profound, joy-filled friendships with both men and women, many of which will surely endure “until death do us part.” One of those years was spent--under the close supervision of a wise and trustworthy spiritual companion--discerning religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. I could not have felt more fulfilled spiritually, emotionally or relationally.
Then, unexpectedly, across my radar came Will Bourgaize (name hanged to protect the anonymity of this writer). We could not have been more different. He is a blazing extrovert; I am an an off-the-chart introvert. He is a banker; balancing my checkbook reduces me to tears. He is a political conservative, and tells me that I am a liberal. He is attentive to detail; I waft about with my head in the clouds, not even noticing when he gets a haircut. We were married 20 years ago. It seems like yesterday.
I still wake up every morning with a sense of awe. Who is this human being sleeping beside me, so utterly different from me, so other than me, yet so much a part of me? We eat breakfast together, chatting nonchalantly about the news in the daily paper, seldom noticing the miracle of us. And, whenever, in a fleeting moment, consciousness of that miracle does happen to break through, it takes my breath away.
How did this happen? It could not have been my own doing. It must have been--it is--sheer gift.
I look back to my religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, fully expecting to find huge differences between those vows and the ones I celebrate today. Yet I find that at their deepest level they are the same.
When I vowed obedience, I vowed I would listen to the Word of God in Scripture, in the depths of my heart, and in the advice and guidance of trusted others, and that I would be open to change and growth. This marriage is certainly a result of obedience to God’s guidance in the most obscure and profound depths of my heart because it could not have come from obedience to the rattling, prattling mind that insisted I should never marry again.
And growth and change? Try living heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul, and skin-to-skin with another human being for 20 years and not grow and change.
When I vowed chastity, I promised to exercise a love that was both intimate and universal, accepting without being possessive, and centered in awareness of God’s love for me. Although in one sense, Will’s and my love for one another is exclusive, it is also generative of a love that reaches out beyond ourselves to family and friends, the clerk at the grocery store, co-workers, fellow travelers, and persons we may never meet but who are, like us, part of our human family created and loved by God.
When I vowed poverty, I identified God as my only true wealth, prayed to be turned away from material and spiritual greed, and illusions of power, security and control, and to live in a spirit of gratitude. Marriage has not changed that.
Only one thing has changed. I no longer make the spiritual journey alone. “For better or for worse,” Will and I walk that path together, supporting each other every step of the way.
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