I was pretty low-key about graduating with my master of music degree. I knew that now, I was going home to dive into the last three months’ worth of wedding preparations. And that was a much, much bigger deal than a master’s degree. Because now it was crunch time. If I wasn’t going through with this wedding, it was time to decide.
At times like this, you pray for some incredible moment of clarity, but then, if you had clarity, you wouldn’t really need faith, would you?
In retrospect, it seems clear that I needed professional help. I had allowed normal doubt to turn into a monster of mythic proportions. But if I asked to go see a counselor three months—two months—one month—before my wedding, would not my parents think we needed to postpone the wedding? My rational brain told me that there was no reason to be freaking out; that postponing the wedding would likely destroy my relationship with Christian (who could put up with something like that?); and besides, what would everyone think?
So I didn’t go for help. I expressed a hesitant doubt to my mother on the way home from picking up the wedding dress, about three days out, and she asked, “Is it about a wedding or is it about Christian?” I could answer honestly that I had no doubts about Christian.
By this time…I’m not sure what Christian thought of all this. He was pretty thoroughly sick of it, but I don’t remember him laying down ultimatums. (You want unconditional love? You need to meet my husband.)
Don’t misunderstand: there was a great deal of joy in my life those last few months. Many moments of peace and certainty, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of wedding planning.
Still, the fear always returned, usually when I reflected on the words of the marriage ceremony: Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage? I could hardly claim having no reservations, could I?
Then one day during Mass, I heard something I’d never heard before. Oddly enough, I can’t remember the exact placement anymore. I think it was in the Eucharistic Prayer. It said something like, “Jesus gave Himself without reservation.”
I sat thunderstruck. Jesus spent hours in the Garden of Gethsemane, begging God to spare him his Passion. This is not what I would call “without reservation”! He was definitely expressing reservations. The fear and doubt aren’t the point. The point is that he did God’s will in spite of them.
This revelation burst like a dazzling flash of light on my psyche. For the first time in my life, I had a glimpse of Jesus as a human being—divine, yes, but surely he stared down the specter of Crucifixion with sheer terror in defiance of all he knew to be true, and wondered, What if I’m wrong? And although it didn’t rid me of fear, anxiety or freaking out, this insight was a point to cling to in those last weeks, a message I knew had been aimed at me as surely as the billboard I’d been hoping for.
The morning of my wedding, I woke very early in my bedroom in my parents’ house, with the same paper cranes turning lazy circles above me that had hung there for years. This was it. Lord, I prayed, I really hoped I’d be through with doubt by this time. But I have to believe that you’ve gotten me this far for a reason. Please protect me from freaking out today.
The practicalities of a wedding day kept me too busy to freak out. I could feel it hanging around back there, probing for openings, but I kept letting go, and I rode on a buffer of the Spirit until I was standing at outside the church with my dad in the Labor Day weekend heat, with football fans walking past calling congratulations on their long walk to the stadium. The door opened, and cool air washed out, and when I entered the church and saw Christian standing at the front, a great spring of joy erupted inside my soul and bubbled out of my mouth in a giggle that lasted almost all the way up the aisle.
I cannot claim that the fear never returned after that blessed moment that was our wedding day. On our honeymoon, in the first weeks and months of our marriage, the fear lingered. It had lost a great deal of its venom, but it was still there. Two years later, it made a valiant effort when infertility reared its ugly head: Maybe this was God frowning on me for marrying a man after I’d been told not to.
Still, time does heal much, if not all, and having made the commitment, I gradually found myself able to stop wrestling with the fear and let it dissipate into the tapestry of a beautiful life. And of course, becoming a parent meant I ran out of time to worship at the altar of irrational fear.
We are the sum of our experiences. I value this one, because through it I learned the value of quieting my soul, of seeking God in stillness. I learned lessons about love that paved the way for more advanced lessons still to come.
Although the comment box has been quiet, I can see that you all have been reading, and for that I thank you. This is tougher to write about than infertility, because paralyzing fear still lies dormant within me, waiting for an opportunity to attach to another subject and tear me to pieces.
This much I know, however. If it does resurface, this time I won’t hesitate to seek help. My life is too beautiful, to blessed, to sacrifice to years of pain again.