Yesterday was our 15th wedding anniversary. 15! Time does indeed fly. I spend a little time reflecting on our marriage at this point each year, and Amy unintentionally prompted my reflections this time.

Amy's ability to appreciate beauty has always been more advanced than mine, and I've learned a lot from her in that. Her appreciation for art allows her to quickly see the meaning and truths that beautiful and artistic things express. For example, she likes jewelry that says something so this year for our anniversary I bought her a solid gold bead for her Pandora bracelet. She picked it out and chose this one (pictured right) mostly based on just liking the way it looks. Then she stumbled on its name "gilded cage." That struck us both.

Amy has written before, quite eloquently, about how life sometimes feels like a cage - particularly with a chronic pain condition. See the caged bird poem she has on the sidebar of her blog, for instance. We've talked a lot about imprisonment themes in literature: most recently we've discussed the beautiful way Charles Dickens develops the theme of imprisonment vs. true freedom in his novel Little Dorrit. It has meant a lot to both of us to realize that, though "imprisoned" by something like chronic health problems, one can be truly free as they trust in God's wise providence, serve him wholeheartedly, and cultivate a deep love for him and his word. Sometimes the most "free" people are really the most trapped. Freedom comes from a life lived in concert with our maker and his purposes, not from external circumstances.

Still, despite this true freedom, those circumstances remain. Relationships don't magically heal (usually), cancer doesn't just suddenly go away (usually), or - as in our case - chronic pain doesn't just cease (usually). The external "bars" are still there. And have their ways of making their presence known.

In the early years of our marriage I was a determined cage smasher. Any problem that surfaced I would attack with gusto: work harder, work smarter, earn more money, see whatever doctor or specialist was needed... basically, smash the cage! Nothing, I was determined, would prevent myself or my wife from living the kind of life we felt we should be living. Ah, the idealism of youth... I gradually learned that I had no more ability to alter some of the circumstances of our life than I had to command water not to run downhill, or the sun to not rise today. With the almost intractable pride of the human heart, learning one's own insignificance is not a fun prospect. And I'm afraid I was not a patient or teachable student. But reality has this stubborn way of not changing simply because I want it to. Funny how that works.

So learn I did, eventually. And my emphasis slowly shifted from beating my head against every bar of our cage (which always seemed to do more damage to my skull then it did to the cage) to more of an emphasis on thriving where God had planted us. Rather than insisting that water run uphill I began learning how to successfully navigate a stream that's heading downhill. Rather than insisting that every pain be removed I began learning how to thrive, and how to enable my wife to thrive, with the physical limitations God saw fit to allow in our lives. In short, I stopped trying to break the cage and started learning how to cover it with gold.

Not that I'm a genius in that department. Not by a long shot. I still have difficulty knowing as a husband and father when to move forward on an opportunity or when to hold back for the good of my wife and kids. And I make decisions I regularly regret.

But Amy's "gilded cage" bead is the embodiment of the marriage ideal. I don't have the ability to break out of every circumstance that I consider confining. But I do have the ability to thrive in it - to cover those bars with gold, which reflects the beauty of God. Turns out that Amy's little golden bracelet bead is a much better 15th anniversary present than I had imagined.

Of course, that's to be expected: I'm not the one who picked it out.


Amy Guerino said...

You beat me to a blog post about the Pandora bead...but I'm not sorry. Thank you for such words of affirmation and love. I'm in awe of how my chronic issues change even you and create opportunities for our marriage to grow stronger. I love you and the creative ways you are able to help me see gold rather than just bars. Thankfully, we still can look forward to God's completion of redeeming the world with no bars, even golden ones in the future. Until then, what a joy He has given me to be with you!

Aaron said...

Congrats on 15 years! This was such an inspiring post/perspective - I've found myself thinking a lot about it the past couple days since reading it. You both are such an encouragement to me in my faith.

Crown of Beauty said...

Hi Matt,

I have just discovered the husband and wife blog team that my heart has been longing for.

Thank you for writing this post is such a cliche in many comment boxes, but that is exactly what I want to say.

I have just recently lost my best friend and soul mate of thirty years, so take it from me, enjoy your marriage every single day of it, while it lasts.


Matt Guerino said...

Aaron: thanks bro!

Lidj: what a beautiful comment (that's not cliche, but it is sincere!) I appreciate seeing what you've written on Amy's blog, and I take your words to heart. It is so hard not to let familiarity breed complacency - so hard not to just assume that tomorrow will be like today and yesterday. But if we're wise we won't make that assumption. Thank you for the gracious reminder of that!

I hope to see you stopping by in the future as well.

Crown of Beauty said...

Hi, thank you for the visit and the comment.

I appreciated what you said.

In the course of writing blog posts about my family, I realized that my children may not want their real names published for all the world to see... so I have thought up of the character quality that best describes each one of them - First Born, and Worshiper are my two sons, and Obedient One is my daughter. God-given is First Born's wife, Forerunner is their son. Chosen One is Worshiper's fiancee, they will get married in December.

Thanks for asking and showing interest.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin