My husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage today.
We also said goodbye to our first-born.
As we reached this milestone in our journey together, our son embarked on a journey of his own. At 3 am, he and 52 other students from his university began the 24-hour trip that took him from Southern California to Johannesburg, South Africa. For the next few months they will study, eat, serve, laugh and learn together. He will experience community in a way he has never experienced it before. I am thrilled for him to have this opportunity. He will be challenged and changed for, what I hope, is the better.
An Emotional Mess
But to be completely honest, I was an emotional mess all day. I felt excitement for his new adventure one moment, then the waterworks started when I thought about how much I will miss him. We celebrated 25 years of marriage, but we have also known the imperfections of life together. While trying to celebrate a marital achievement, the threads of worry tugged at my heart and mind. It’s hard to let your child go halfway around the world, even with Facebook and Skype. I could not focus very well today. My mind and heart were ping-ponging between reflection and anxiety.
I don’t know what it is about this kid, but he always leaving us at some significant moment. He moved away to college on my husband’s 60th birthday; last year, he left me on Mother’s Day to go halfway across the US for a wilderness experience; he leaves us on our 25th anniversary. He must have some type of Attachment Disorder.
No Special Folk Here
A few years ago, the New York Times ran a story that the majority of marriages did not make it to the silver anniversary. Wiki Answers and Yahoo Answers, (those stalwart pillars of knowledge) both state only 25% of marriages make it to the 25-year mark. Even in my own family, we are a rarity: my parents, my older sister, my nephew and my brother are all divorced.
But no back-patting here. We are not any special kind of folk. Frankly, I am astonished we are not on the statistical heap ourselves. We have had our share of disagreements, disappointments and dismay. Besides the normal stuff all couples quarrel about, in our 25 years together we have nearly killed each other as we built our first house and remodel two others (one a major fixer). Ask me anything about dry-walling, crown-molding, or laying wood floor. I have done it all.
Two of our kids were diagnosed with diabetes and the third with asthma. Both of my husband’s parents have passed to Glory. We had major adjustments to our family dynamics when my husband retired, and again when I went back to work after 15 years as stay-at-home-mom. We have also had our share of joy and blessings, our kids, by far, being the best.
Arriving and Letting Go
So when I stop to think about the convergence of our son leaving and our silver anniversary on the same day, I realized this: to arrive, you have to let go.
In order to have this semester abroad, our son had to let go. Let go of the comfort of regular college life and immerse himself in a different culture. He had to let go of the familiar, and venture into the unknown. We had to be willing to let him go and trust God for his well-being and safety. In letting go, he arrives at South Africa, ready for the experiences he will have and the community he will discover.
Likewise, we arrive at our 25th anniversary because we have learned to let go. Let go of selfishness, hurts and offenses, real or imagined. Let go of the myopic focus of single life and immerse ourselves in an unfamiliar culture. Oh yes, when you move from singleness to partnership there is culture shock. Things are different in Happily-ever-after-Land. The customs aren’t the same and the norms aren’t normal (take heart young lovers: you do eventually adapt to culture. After 25 years I can tolerate his heap of clothes on the floor, and he can finally understand why I need 100 pairs of shoes).
New culture always requires adjustment. Sometimes the adjustment can be very delightful, like when we travelled together to Spain and Morocco as a young couple; sometimes the adjustment can be hard, like when my husband retired. Didn’t I realize I had been doing the laundry the wrong way all these years?
Did we arrive at this juncture because we have a perfect marriage? Ha! Because we are really good at gazing into each other’s eyes? Uh, that would be no. Did we arrive here because we never have conflict? We can write a bestseller about that.
One Day at a Time
We arrived here because we did 25 years one day at a time. One joy at a time. One forgiveness at a time. One hurdle at a time. One thrill at a time. We let go of the day that just passed and look forward to the next one, anticipating blessing and navigating challenge. Really, that’s the only option any of us have: each day is doled out to us one at a time.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also say that letting go is only half of the process. When you let go you also have to latch onto something else otherwise you fall. So as we let go, we also latched on to the joy found in God, His grace, His promises and the community of family and home life.
Here we are then, looking back on the life we began 25 years ago and the children that have enriched it. As we let go of our son and bless him on his journey, we move forward on our own. We walk down the rest of the road in happy anticipation of what remains to be explored.
What have you had to let go in order to arrive?
Scrollbar image: Amie Fedora Photography/Creative Commons