Space is not a word I associated with love for most of my life. I grew up longing for the freedom of stretching further away from the intimacy of my family and small, Saskatchewan town. I sat in the farm house window sill in my bedroom, staring up at the expansive, Prairie sky of stars, full of wonder at all the space in the universe for all of us.
This week, I’m celebrating fifteen years of marriage with Marc. We dated for more than four years before we married, young, barely into our twenties. In the months that led up to our wedding, I was excited to be into the next season of life, and also afraid – not of the commitment, but of the constriction – of a lifetime kind of love. After wandering out into a wider world, I was intentionally choosing a particular person to do life with, and knowingly narrowing my future experiences with the choice.
The scary part of the choosing for me has been articulated by Ronald Rolheiser: “Every choice is a thousand renunciations. To choose one thing is to turn your back on many others.” To sit in the window and stare up at the stars is a choice, in a clear if heartbreaking way, to not sit with my sister on the bunk bed and see her heart. What an impossible conundrum of this beautiful life: that to choose one wonder is to miss out on so many others!
My fear turned out to be real. Choosing life with Marc has narrowed my experiences to our particular life. We have lived only within the walls of our homes in three different cities, received four incredible children each of whom is their own remarkable miracle, wondered at the gifts of the particular friends that God has sent our way. We cannot live in all the places, have all the children, meet all the people. We can love the vastness of the world only by loving the particular and unique places and people we encounter along the way.
My heart isn’t big enough to love the whole expansive universe at the same time. It is fifteen years of married learning and loving that has opened my eyes to see the vast space created by intimate love of the one. Marc holds my exhausting passion, my relentless vision, and my complex (over)thinking. These constants give shape to our lives from the discernment of how we serve in the world to the arrangement of towels in the linen closet. (That is how we know I married up.) I hold Marc’s generous humour, his focused intensity, and his creative ingenuity. These ways of being hold true when we are resting and having fun and when he fixes the dishwasher. Together, somehow, a tangible honesty flows out of the love between us, and the whole world is bigger for the ways he invites me to see.
My fear was based in reality in that my choice gave definition to the space that is my life. Right in the same moment, however, I was wrong that a narrow way limits my freedom or reduces my space. Expansive, liberating space is found in intentionally choosing the particular way that we will walk through the world. Each frame we choose to see opens us up to the intimate details and worlds within that cannot be seen by passersby.
We have chosen all this particular space and it has held as many shadows as light. Hard edges have been worn by learning to fight kindly. We have clung to each other desperately – and nearly lost our hold more times than I would like to admit. Lost is a place we visit frequently within this world of ours, both alone and together.
Fifteen years of marriage to Marc has revealed to me more clearly this thing that has always been true: real Love creates limitless space for us to discover, to grow, to return love with love, even where there is profound risk. And with that vision, I see that all real love is meant to be both close and simultaneously full of space. I might have recognized the truth in my family growing up, in the grace of talking with my mentors, in cuddling my kids before bed, or on another walk around the neighbourhood with my dog, but I am grateful to have learned because Marc and I chose – and keep choosing – each other.