I Used to Sit Next to YouSeptember 24th, 2012
I love my husband. Some of my fondest memories of the early part of our relationship are the times we spent going to Mass together. I guess because I was young and naïve, I totally took for granted the way we could sit with our shoulders touching. We could always be close enough to really feel like we were at Mass as a couple: a little hand-squeeze if part of the homily applied to us in a special way, a small nudge if the reading was one we both loved, etc. Just us…The old days.
This week we made a family trip to noon Mass and I happened to gaze down the pew toward my husband. Note: down the pew…toward my husband. We were about 5 feet apart, with three wiggly kids, a few hymnals strewn about by the one year old, 2 sippy cups, and 1 small baggie of Cheerios between us. “I used to sit next to you,” I thought. Then I tried to re-focus on what I was supposed to be paying attention to.
In my mind later that day, I wrestled again with the age-old problem of how the world views children vs. how Christians are supposed to view children. Even for someone as pro-life and pro-family as myself, it is genuinely a challenge on some days to identify with the latter rather than the former. The world sees children as “the biggest decision you’ll ever make, something you’ll never be ready for, a step that changes everything, the end to your freedom, and a definite challenge to the intimacy of your marriage.” Looking way down the pew I can feel a tinge of fear. Are they right? Is there really so much space between us? What happened to the old us that could touch arms together while we prayed?
Ultimately though, there’s not really space between us. There is room. Room that has been created and expanded and filled by God, and God-willing, He’s not done yet. Room for God and the lives he has created that we are called to serve together. Between us there is more devotion, and love, and sacrifice, and strength, and prayer than there ever really could have been in the old days. Even though it’s dang hard sometimes to be in the early years of Catholic marriage and family life, I believe that what the Church teaches is true. Children really are the supreme gift of marriage, and the love between spouses has the opportunity to grow in exponential ways when you try your best to be generous with God and the children he wants to send you.
A practical note I did try to make after Mass that day was this: As spouses, we do need to remember to show affection more to one another, even if that means setting down a small person or letting the kids run-a-muck for a bit. It takes a lot more effort than it used to, but all that touchy-feely love stuff is still really important. Plus, our kids need to see it, too. They don’t remember the old days; they weren’t even here yet. So while it may be a few more years (or decades) until we can sit next to each other at Mass again, we can surely sit next to each other at dinner or at least move a little closer together on the couch. Maybe our kids will notice, or maybe they’ll just keep running around…but when the love between spouses grows – it overflows to fill up the little hearts that live in our home, too. And there’s always room for more of that.