With a bright smile Father Jacob lifted our crowns, placed them on our heads and sung thrice, “O Lord our God, crown them with glory and honor,” and with each making the sign of the cross over us both as one, uniting in God what previously was separate. Then pouring blessed wine into a golden chalice, he extended the cup first to me to drink three times, then Caroline, all the while singing thrice “I will drink the cup of salvation; I will call upon the name of the Lord.”
Nearly one year has passed since our wedding, and in this short time, so much of life has happened. Caroline and I have settled into our new home on the east side of Atlanta; a house purchased at a price that continues to light smiles on our faces, feeling that we have successfully navigated the turbulent seas of a down market. The two of us, Caroline and I, we’re city folk, having selected our location in large part for the parks nearby, its proximity to the neighboring communities we love, the abundance of surrounding restaurants, and its relation to our parish – Saint John’s. Since expanding our roots in this house, we have placed a lot effort and energy into making it uniquely ours, which by now it feels to be truly so. Our living situation has its challenges too, of course: several big projects have hit our pocketbooks harder than we would have preferred, we battle traffic to and from work most days, and make a conscious effort to live cautiously knowing that crime can be a reality of our neck of the woods. In spite of such challenges, however, our home is our joy, albeit a joy that must be fought for in some ways.
Our first year of marriage has come with the introduction of a new dog into our home. And not just any dog, a 6 week old German Shepherd who we named Leo. As you might expect he came with all the intellect commonly found in his pedigree. His capacity to learn, and learn quickly, was and is truly impressive. Leo’s heart’s desire is to please and be near us, and really nothing further. There is no ball he won’t chase, and no knock at the door that he won’t try his hardest to intimidate. He is a good boy and has brought much joy to us as a couple; however there are moments when he can be very difficult. Having left Leo alone for too long, he has been known to turn our nice, neat home into his private disaster area. Sometimes when beckoning a command his response is to stare in defiance, knowing exactly the nature of my request. The amount of exercise he requires could exhaust a Roman Gladiator – I swear it it could – so I do what I can to meet this need, often in defiance myself. In light of the difficulties that naturally come with a puppy as he grows, Leo enriches our lives and adds wonderful things our home. Any struggle is worth the joy that comes with having him around.
Upon falling in love with Caroline, not much time passed before I knew my life would never be the same. Soon enough my desires stretched beyond myself to include someone specifically. My hopes were no longer for “a girl” but to share life with “that girl.” After a relatively long period in bachelorhood I was married at the age of 31; by this time, one could say I had many habits and patterns firmly in place. However, be that as it may, uniting in marriage with Caroline under a single roof in the last year has been absolutely wonderful – the best thing in my life, in fact. Whether the two of us go out for a night on the town, or for a slow walk in the park, whether we take off for a weekend get-away, or stay in for a relaxing night at home – the experience of sharing in a single common life with her has filled me like nothing else.
Bliss is not the end of the story, however, because marriage has come with its challenges too. She would say the same, I assure you (I did mention I was set in my ways about many things, right?). Even so, at the end of the day, I’m thankful to have found that these challenges are not something that need to be feared. As difficult as they might be, it is through them, in Christ, that we are transformed and transfigured into persons of deeper love and greater unity. It is through them that we are able to more clearly see our own shortcomings, and in humility seek forgiveness. Through our difficulties we are given the opportunity to freely forgive, as we ourselves have been forgiven. In this way we enlarge our hearts, purify our souls, and solidify our earthly and heavenly relationships with the divine love of the Holy Trinity. Although I have been known to avoid our challenging situations because of their difficulty and my sin, I am learning to no longer fear them, because I know that having come through them, Caroline and I will deepen in love for one another, and in turn deepen in love for God. Christ is faithful to purify us through these, gradually brightening our hearts with the eternal joy of His Kingdom, should we only “in faith and love draw near.”
I believe I would have the support of our Church Fathers in saying … everything that is good, true and beautiful must be fought for in this life; it is the nature of reality in our fallen world. Hell’s war is waged against exactly these, but greater is He in you than he who is in the world. We can rest in peace knowing that everything good, true, and beautiful, grows in beauty, truth, and goodness as we fill ourselves with their Author and Source.
Our guest author today is Ryan Harbry. Ryan is a layman in the Orthodox Church of America. He and his wife Caroline attend Saint John the Wonderworker parish in Atlanta, Georgia. They were married in May of 2012 and currently live in East Atlanta. Ryan studied at the University of Louisiana Monroe, where he attended on athletic scholarship for Springboard & Platform Diving. While there he received a degree in Business-Marketing, and has since taken up a career in sales. Ryan is a marathon runner and an avid reader.
This post is a wonderful and timely reflection on marriage following the Celebration of Marriage retreat last weekend. We are excited that Ryan is our first guest author! If you would like to submit an article as a guest author, please contact us for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org