Tuesday, March 20, 2012
With This Ring: How to Keep a Mid-Life Crisis at Bay?
It first fit the hand of her great, great-grandmother.
Hand engraved before there were machines to do it, vintage script reads "Norman to Marie 1898". This simple band of gold saw the turn of the 1800's into the 20th Century.
Queen Victoria sat on the throne, wielding her broad influence in fashion and furnishings with unprecedented longevity. Here in the U.S., President William McKinley faced unrest at home with the Spanish American War, economic challenges, and inherited problems from a still-smarting division of a nation lingering from the American Civil War. Some things never change.
Living, breathing men and women created that history we only read about in books. Those in our family tree had their hands full making a living the best they could, I imagine.
Marie wore this ring as Victorian gave way to Edwardian. She made her life raising three children in Alabama and Mississippi. Her large, capable hands must have worked hard in those days before dishwashers and automation. I see whitewash on the old home place in the photo we have, and I remember whitewash comes only after moving up in the world. There was no extra paint to spare in those days.
Her youngest child, Minnie, came to possess the ring, who passed it on to her only child, who gave it to his son.
This is where I -- though only for a fleeting moment -- come in, if you'll permit this point of personal reflection.
My husband, upon our marriage in 1982, wanted to wear this ring of his paternal great-grandmother. We had it engraved in the only space left to reflect our initials and date. I still see his tan hands wearing this ring in my mind's eye, though time does a number on us and has its way of enlarging joints. As time moves on, so do we in a manner of speaking. I have outgrown my wedding ring size too.
He is sporting another substitute band that fits now, and our youngest child chooses to wear this family ring daily, along with my too-small ring my groom placed on my finger on this day years ago.
Thirty years ago today to be exact.
She wears them as a reminder of a love that promises to endure.
When we pass along truth to another generation, it is difficult to know what will really last and what will be like chaff in the wind in their own times. Fierce winds blow now. I feel it all around.
I pray this ring will remind her that Love does not love 'as long as I feel like I love you'.
It does not love 'until a better offer comes along'...nor does it love as long as its needs are met.
Love -- we have learned and are still learning every day -- is an act of the will: Love is not a feeling; Love is something you do. Do the things love does.
We learned this from our friend and pastor, Dr. Maxie Dunnam, in our early years of marriage and have drawn from that fount of wisdom many times over the years.
We have needed the reminder too many times to count.
Just this week my husband brought home a book, LOVE is Something You Do, by John R. Bisagno. In the center of the book - half-way through exactly -- stands a chapter on the mid-life crisis. Read from this, all who think they are too young to be affected and those who believe it's too late, I urge, because it is never too late to do the right thing if given the opportunity.
We might be squarely at middle age -- who is to say? -- but this chapter has some nuggets I'd like to share, mixed with my own thoughts.
We need its common sense and wisdom, as this commodity is not so common anymore. Perhaps it was prevalent in 1898, but our social context today has an overlay that is "all about me."
Can we do anything to keep the mid-life crisis from eroding a marriage?
1. Rejoice in the stage you are in right now. Mid-life has many reminders of fleeting youth and attractiveness. Some grasp desperately to cling to virility and desirability as they see it. When we learn to accept with grace whatever stage we are in, we do well.
2.Seek out wisdom and learn from Godly people, not just from those who support what you want to do; that's the easy way out.
3.Remember there is no perfect marriage. Ours will not be either.
4. Counteract the allure of the affair. Face up to what you have to lose.
5. Stop rationalizing. Those excuses are the voice of the tempter.
6. Face the facts. Do not compromise your honesty.
7. Follow the Biblical prescription: Repent. Remember your first love. Do the first works. This is what Jesus said in Rev. 3 to his bride, the Church, who had forsaken him.
For those who do not successfully navigate the mid-life (or early-life or late-life) challenges of marriage, know that God's grace is sufficient for us.
There are so many who are suffering the heartbreak of a divorce that they did not seek and do not want. I wish to be able to bring more healing and wholeness, and humbly show the way to the only Way I know to receive reconciliation and forgiveness and grace for the rest of the journey. This, too, we try to pass on from one generation to the next so that each will be equipped for the challenges of a new day.
From 1898 to 1982 to 2012 and for each day thereafter.....bread for the journey!
(and, yes, I know that merely by posting this reflection, I am setting myself up for increased challenges/frustration/temptation -- whatever you might call it -- on the homefront. I believe that is a price we pay when we take such a stand. It's nothing new. I pray to be faithful and not give a foothold to that avenue of attack. )