Jean Valjean paid 19 years of his life for stealing a loaf of bread. 19 years in the prison and in the galley. A slave. He emerged a bitter, angry man in an unsympathetic, unforgiving world. It wasn’t until he stole from a priest that Jean Valjean experienced love. His life was forever changed.
Julie married me but did not enslave me. Quite the opposite. Julie gave me love and acceptance and forgiveness. Julie filled an emptiness…satisfied a need. I married Julie and my life was forever changed.
It is counter to our culture for me to equate my marriage with freedom. We typically refer to our mates in disparaging terms and to continue with the prison example we may refer to a spouse as “the old ball and chain.” In our media husbands are presented as dopey, wives as narcissistic. Why did that self-obsessed woman marry that idiot?
I joke sometimes that Julie married me because I am intelligent enough to get a good job and dumb enough to go to it every day.
But that is not fair to either of us.
I was twenty when we were married. Looking back 19 years I can’t define what, specifically, I was looking for in a spouse. We dated for years. It was pretty casual. She was intelligent, pretty and shared similar values and family culture. But that describes other girls too.
Could I have married any of those other theoretical women? Maybe. But Julie and I selected each other. I can’t tell you why. But I would suggest to you that I would not be “me” if I had married anyone else.
I can also tell you it has been wonderful.
My reference to Les Miserables is finished. There really is no further comparison. No person from my past hunting me down to reveal my true identity. Julie knows everything about me.
There is no effort to fulfill a vow, protect the innocent and sacrifice myself for the sake of others. Oh. Well. There is that, isn’t there.
I vowed to love, honor and cherish her. Richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Forsaking all others.
Honor is an interesting word…as in, “Honor your father and mother that you may live a long, full life…”
Respect is earned. I respect my chainsaw. It can kill me. Julie can kill me too but that’s no basis for a relationship.
I honor my wife. Not because of what she did but because of who she is. She is my wife.
But what does “Honor” mean?
It means I hold her up. It means she is special to me. It means I take time in my day to tell her how important she is to me and how lost I would be without her. Her. Specifically her. It means I am patient. It means I listen. It means I consider her needs, her wants, her dreams. It means I take time to find out all I can about her…who she is…today.
The woman I am married to today is not the girl I married 19 years ago.
But I am not the same either. And we have suffered through things I never imagined we would go through.
I am more free now than I was when we were kids. I am loved now in a way I was not loved then. I am able to love in a way I was unable to love then.
Julie has been married to me for fully half of her life. That’s kind of a big deal.
And it’s the kind of a big deal I don’t take for granted.
I love you Julie.