You looked up at me a moment ago, from the couch where you’re reading. You looked up and I caught your eye, so you smiled. Then you winked at me and returned to your reading.
Had someone else been there I suppose this might’ve looked somewhat peculiar though perhaps wonderful too. I’m beginning to think that most of marriage is that way- quirky in it’s own special fashion. And I think many of the traits are often hidden from the public eye. True beauty, as Karl Barth might say, is terribly unassuming.
But I wanted to tell you about one unassuming beauty. And I want to share it, because a shared experience is beautiful in its own rite, necessary even.
We went for a walk on the beach the other day, I’m sure you remember. The sun was setting in a brilliant fashion; its rays reached through tree branches catching our breath which fell on our shoulders like the whisper of lovers in a hotel room. The sand was packed and frozen so that breaching waves sliding across looked like mirrors skimming onto the beach with a billion shades of orange shining off them.
You had gone up ahead with a friend, walking arm in arm happily, the way you do in good company.
And as I stood watching you, I heard a soft thud and a tennis ball rolled against my shoe. It was followed closely by its pursuer, a Labrador wagging enthusiastically. Seeing me, he lost sight of the ball and rushed my direction, in a way anyone who has ever encountered a Labrador can easily understand.
A voice called to him, kindly with endearment. Looking up, I saw a girl- a woman really- twenty or so yards off. She smiled apologetically and beckoned the dog, slapping her thigh with a delicate hand.
And she was pretty, this girl. Pretty in the way that casual strangers often are, glowing with the mystery, intrigue, and beauty of waves sliding up upon the frozen sand. Beautiful within the brief moment in which their paths cross with yours.
The dog looked at her, back at me with brief condolences, then snatched the tennis ball and wagged his way back to the woman. She waved at me and smiled. I waved and smiled back.
I turned your direction and I saw you smiling, walking back towards me. And I thought about how lucky I was. I was lucky to be alive, lucky to be living in such a beautiful place, lucky to be loved and love in return.
And I thought about the woman.
It’s strange, you know, the freedom I felt in that moment: the freedom to admit she was beautiful. For I looked down the beach and I saw it was all so beautiful: the waves, the girl, the sun, the dog, the sand, the trees…and you. Of all the beautiful things in this world, God has granted me you to know, love, pursue, try to comprehend. And your beauty is not a simple topic. The beauty of your love is like a million sunsets, beaches, Labradors and smiling women compressed into two words: “I do.”
With all this beauty you’ve given me how could I ever ask for more? It’d be like a pizza delivery boy knocking on the door during the king’s feast. Steaks, lobsters, rolls, potatoes and tossed salad, and warm apple crisp! And here’s a pimpled delivery boy, knocking on my door. “Good God-I’ve no need of your pizza! But please, come on in!” Thus I smiled and waved back at the woman.
For because of you I can look at a sunset with elation and nostalgia, knowing that within seconds the sun will disappear, darkness will ensue. Because of you I want watch as water moves onto the beach and pauses, like taking a deep breath, before it slides back, gone into another wave. Because of you I can see another woman, beautiful and happy, smiling with her dog, and smile back. Because of you I can see all these things and have no need-no desire- to posses them.
None of this is to say that our relationship is easy. But it’d be foolish of me now -I’ve learned at least- to believe that easy is in anyway desirable. After all, this feast required arduous preparation.
And so I’m writing this because I truly believe that this marriage is not our own. It’s not about us anymore than the Eucharist is about the priest. And I want to people to know that when I look at you, I see a millions sunsets and beaches and Labradors and pretty girls.
I see them all and I smile. Because in you I know that I’ve been granted a little corner of beauty to know, love and understand.
As if it were even possible.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”