From my blanketed perch in a window seat of an international flight, I looked out at the cloud castles and mused over the preceding several days. Even in the quiet of my seat, a whirl of languages echoed in my ears. Spanish. English. Italian. And of course, French.
My husband and I were returning from a week-long celebration of our forty-year-old marriage. We'd visited small French villages, massive cathedrals, Parisian landmarks and sacred stops along the Normandy coast where multiple nations fought for freedom. We'd dined in outdoor cafes and lovely some-starred bistros. Some nights we'd slept in tiny beds and others in generously appointed rooms.
As we zoomed across the sky stretched over the Atlantic back toward home, I thought about our forty years. What has changed? Who have we become? What would I tell someone about marriage from what I've learned?
Oh. So. Much.
Like the long-learned truth that different isn't wrong. It's just different.
And the hard-to-swallow reality that I don't always know what's right. (What?!)
And the graceful arc of love that rhythmically takes turns. You. Now me. Back to you. And the discovery of an "us" in the process.
But in that moment on the flight, high above so much I couldn't even see, another learning laid its head down in my heart. It's taken forty years for a new lesson to take hold. And honestly, it took the intentionality of pondering for me to truly notice its influence.
What is it?
This: I am beloved. A reality that nudges me each and every day to be loved.
Maybe this is just way too obvious and reveals that I'm late to the game. But I'm guessing there are others like me -- many others -- for whom the lesson is revelational. Even revolutionary.
Here's the thing. When I first married, I'd been single up to that moment in my life. Twenty-four years on my own. A young woman formed through a broken family with confusing examples of love. A being who learned the necessary defenses of independence and self-reliance. I was secure in my pre-planned choices and set firmly toward their accomplishment. Then, with the exchange of vows and a kiss on the lips, I arrived at betrothal, single no more. I began the adventure of figuring out who I'd become after being who I was.
Sure, I brought many elements of my previous self along into the merge of marriage. My creative, initiating, winsome personality. My eager investment in learning. My joyous energy. I also brought some not-so-great stuff like sarcasm, stubbornness, impatience and selfishness. Normal contributions of the young and unlearned. As I dribbled such bits and pieces into my love for my husband and then picked out the muck of the not-so-great, our marriage expanded and grew.
But it's been more recently, looking back at the sum total of how we've made it to forty years together, that I've recognized certain no-longer-needed traits remain still clamped about my ankles, shackling me from what could be in our marriage. Independence. Control. Fear. Unyieldingness. In short, a resistance to be loved.
By my husband, yes. But first, by God. Because when I risk being beloved, being loved by God, I can more fully be beloved, be loved, by my husband.
As I scanned the celestial scene out my airplane window, I realized that forty years ago I inscribed a verse from Song of Songs 5:16 inside my husband's clean gold wedding band, "...this is my beloved, this is my friend..." I loved him then as my beloved and have continued the process of loving him as my beloved ever since. Now, forty years later, I'm recognizing the power of allowing him to return the sentiment to me.
Because it is when I understand that I am beloved that I can then be loved.