It very well may be that in addition to the grace of God, I owe my marriage to many, many cups of coffee. How in the world? I don't even drink coffee much anymore.
Three years ago, however, this was so not the case. I was a junior in college and in the middle of my first serious relationship, which, though prayerful, was intensely physical and often left my heart much more confused than aflutter. I knew I was being used far more than I was being loved and I felt a constant sense of anxiety, but I was afraid to even consider the possibility that this might not be it. Amidst this confusion and among discussions of 19th century British writers and the philosophy of literature, I met my husband Andrew. In the two classes we shared together one semester, to which I usually brought enormous cups of coffee with hazelnut creamer, I admired Andrew's wit, ideas, and originality daily. Though I wouldn't have admitted it until recently, I remember thinking several times that I knew we'd end up together. He later told me that during those same hours, he'd hope his future wife was someone like me.
Andrew graduated at the end of that semester. Over the summer, we stayed in touch and watched our casual acquaintance deepen into an affectionate, virtuous friendship. I saw his character for what it was: honorable, truthful in every sense of the word, and fixed on the Lord. That summer, I encountered John Paul II's definitions of authentic, sacrificial love in Love and Responsibility for the first time, while my relationship with my boyfriend remained static and misguided. I'm not proud to say that my weaknesses contributed to the state of things between us. I know now that slowly, patiently, the Lord was pulling back the veils I'd put up, the ones I'd been afraid to look behind and see that my relationship lacked any solid foundation. He was readying me for authentic love that would bring peace to my soul and draw me, weaknesses and all, out of hiding and fear and back into His light.
There's a poem my husband loves. It's T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." This poem has a line in which the speaker, a lonely man, describes how he has "measured out [his] life with coffee spoons." As Andrew worked and prepared for grad school, we had coffee together a few times. One time, he showed the poem to me and we talked about it. Now. There's something you should know. Andrew is a born poet, a lover of beauty and sadness, and words flow from his mind like water. I am not. Somehow, though, this sweet boy inspired me. My first finished poem began,
Surely you're familiar with that poem,
the one about measuring your life in coffee spoons.
Is this how I've come to measure my own?
A measure not of monotony,
but of talk that breathes,
and constantly inconstant...
This is how it ends:
Surely you're familiar with that feeling.
By then, I'd finally realized I couldn't be dishonest with myself anymore. I needed to face the falsehoods in my relationship and be fair to my boyfriend now that I knew I'd fallen, however gradually, for someone else. It wasn't simple from there on out. My breakup was, like most, messy, emotional, and not extremely charitable. When Andrew told me how he felt about me (over coffee), we agreed to wait for a period before beginning a relationship. The next few weeks taught me patience and discernment in a new way, although even now, months later, I know I remain a spiritual newborn. I felt a peace about Andrew that I'd never experienced with any other boy.
I asked Saint Therese for a rose, unexpectedly spotted a real one on the ground a few days later, and by the time Andrew took me out to dinner, I think we both knew we'd never go on another first date. He proposed after a rosary walk on our college campus less than a year later, and after almost two years of marriage, I still marvel every day at the miracle we've been given in each other. I have my very own love of my life, a man who calls me dozens of ridiculous nicknames, always does the dishes, and writes me letters that say things like "All these words are an inadequate attempt to express to you how entirely I am yours, how deeply I am attached to you, how much I appreciate you, and how greatly I thank God for your beautiful, radiant, brilliant self." He calls me on, cracks me up, and is my heart's greatest fulfillment on this earth.
Every day I think I couldn't possibly love him more. Every day I'm proven wrong.
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