Stretching Our Virtue
In the short three months that we’ve been engaged, one thing has become very evident: people ask a lot of questions when a handsome man puts a shiny diamond ring on a pretty girl’s finger and asks her to be his wife. Our experience of the “barrage of questions” has been no different than the average newly engaged couple. From the moment we shared our engagement with our family and friends, the questions began…When’s the wedding? Where’s the ceremony? Are you having a full Mass or just an exchanging of vows? What will the bridesmaids and groomsmen be wearing? Where’s the reception? Band or DJ? What does the dress look like? Is he wearing a tuxedo or suit? Where are y’all going to honeymoon? Where are y’all going to live after the wedding? How long do you think y’all will live there? When are y’all going to have kids? How many kids? What are their names? Can you name one after me?! Those last few questions concerning future children are typically asked by our high school students, though occasionally we get “future grandchildren” questions from our parents.
Right from the get go, plenty of people had plenty of questions to ask us about everything surrounding the wedding day itself and even the children we will hopefully someday be blessed to have. With each new question, we are realizing that this time of engagement, however brief these few months may be in comparison to the many years we hope to be married, is really a time of anticipation and preparation. All the work we’ve done so far to plan one single day of a gorgeous dress, a handsome suit, a beautiful Mass, and a fun party is merely a drop in the bucket in comparison to the work and preparation we must do to get ready for the day-to-day married life we will start to live this summer.
The planning of the actual wedding day is certainly small when placed alongside the sacrament we will live once that day has come and gone, but the “frenzied activity” in this joyfully busy time of planning a wedding and answering questions only comes once in a lifetime! When else will we get to call each other fiancé or fiancée? When else will we choose readings for the Mass that will celebrate our exchanging of vows? When else will we get to choose cake toppers and reception favors and our first dance song? Never again! And so, as busy, chaotic, and hectic this time may be, in the three short months of our engagement thus far we have learned to embrace the busyness and the questioning and see it as a blessing of excitement and anticipation for the great gift of our marriage to come. The busy (and fun) planning is merely one of the numerous external signs of the joy in marriage to come.
There’s nothing wrong with the busy, frenzied activity of wedding planning. Those first few weeks of booking the photographer, finding the reception venue, shopping for the dress, and choosing the bridesmaid and groomsmen outfits were equal parts fun and exhausting for us both. But we have learned (albeit slowly) that this time of engagement isn’t just for that. In the Gospel of Luke, Martha certainly played an important role at the dinner party Jesus attended in her home: she cooked the food and set the table and (had it been a southern wedding) organized the line dance songs to be played! But her sister Mary was also there, sitting at the Lord’s feet, attending to His every word and joyfully embracing His message. Martha and Mary were both necessary to the story, and as Jesus says, “Mary chose the better part” that day.
While the busy activity is certainly something we have enjoyed and embraced, we are also learning that engagement is a time for us to just “be engaged” to each other. Sure, there’s no other time when we’ll buy a wedding dress or pick out a sharp blue suit that we’ll wear on the most joyful day of our lives, but there’s also no other time to dream and talk about what we want the life we have ahead to be like. There’s no other time in our lives when we’ll get to simply enjoy the excited anticipation of calling each other husband and wife. There’s no other time to attend marriage prep courses with an experienced, long-married couple and pick their brains about what we can expect in the first year and in the many years to come. These months of our engagement have made us organized, budgeted, event-planning champs, but it has also shown us the real joy of how much we love each other because we are able to really “be with” and “rest in” each others’ presence. The questions, the planning, and the decision-making have helped us truly enjoy each other’s presence even more in our engagement. We have been able to see, and choose, the best part of our sacrament to come: being with each other.
These equal parts of busy activity and restful enjoyment with and of one another has ultimately led to one thing: engagement has “grown virtue” within us. While we both thought we were fairly patient people prior to becoming engaged, now there’s a countdown that we look at each day reminding us that there’s still more time to wait. This has led to occasional tension, exhaustion, and frustration, all of which must be combatted with humility, charity, and compassion. We’ve begun to see, even more clearly than we did while dating, the amount of sacrifice marriage will take, even just from planning simple details of our wedding, like who will be in our wedding party and what kind of meal we will serve our guests. The need for humble acceptance and respectful open mindedness has shown forth as we’ve both pleasantly compromised and happily changed our minds, showing us the immense importance of flexibility and forgiveness. We’ve also experienced a real surge of gratitude for the presence of each other, especially as we look around and see a horribly distorted view of love, relationships, and marriage in modern culture. There’s nothing quite like knowing we have each other as we journey towards Heaven. There’s great peace paired with immense excitement in knowing our vocation is growing each day.
Each moment of our engagement has been busier and more thrilling than the last. The details we’ve planned, the decisions we’ve made, the things we’ve bought, and the questions we’ve answered have helped us begin to see the beauty of what’s to come: a life together growing in holiness and working towards Heaven together.