It must be the pregnancy hormones.
I have been near-tears all day for no particular reason and was just looking through all of our wedding photos, reminiscing.
I realized there were some that I had never really noticed before—in fact, they were the photographs that particularly made me smile and feel as if that was us, really and truly Travis and Shannon. I wonder if it’s because who you are together on your wedding day, although beautiful and magnificent, is only a very small taste of who you will one day be.
I am sure that right now we are just a shadow of the people we will be in twenty years or in forty, but we are becoming them—more them than we were a year ago. It was sweet to see the moments shining through where I recognized us best, where the Travis that I know and love appeared and I could almost hear the words he must have been saying. The portraits and the poses are all lovely and right in their own way, but I treasure even more the photographs that seem to reflect us more as we are now.
Those first days of marriage and the glow and excitement and feeling of newness are so special and sweet. But I realize now how much more of ourselves we are—how grace and love are making us more human, more of who we were created to be when God made that first man and first woman in the Garden. And I think that is precisely what a vocation is meant to do. (I say vocation purposely because marriage is not a person’s only hope for becoming most fully alive. “The glory of God is man fully alive.” —St. Irenaeus)
In my case, marriage is how I am being made more fully myself. I don’t mean it in the trite and perhaps silly ways that we hear it these days. I mean that we are made to be the imago Dei, the image of God on this earth. I think our culture knows in some vacant and distant way that we are not fully ourselves, and that we must become more of who we are in our essence and in our very being. And even the culture’s answers—love and joy and creativity and passion—are a shadow of the true answer. They are all hints of reality, of Paradise.
Madeleine L’Engle writes about the burning bush, imagining that it is burning but not consumed because it is fully itself. It is fully and most perfectly a bush. Its existence is perfect in all of its “bushness.” She imagines herself as the bush, burning with flames that are the trials and hardships of life. These fires only burn away the parts that are not true to our being, those branches and leaves that mar and distort our existence as imago Dei. The flames burn and we—like the bush—become more fully ourselves so that one day, perhaps only upon glimpsing the heights of Paradise and experiencing the Beatific Vision, we too may burn with divine love that does not consume.
I am reminded of the hymn that says “The flames shall not hurt thee, I only design / Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.” We are gold and dross both and we are being made into purer, more beautiful gold. The dross burns away, slowly and painfully, but the flames shall not debilitate thee. In fact, they are the means of our existence, of becoming as Christ Himself. They are the very thing that bring us to eternity, ourselves, fully and completely.