Several weeks ago, I lost the diamond from my engagement ring.
I was driving to work. I looked down at my left hand and where the stone should have been, only prongs remained.
I had been going through a few “rough months.” I was waiting for an answer to an important prayer, and it was taking much longer than I expected. (What else is new? I eventually got an answer, by the way. It was no.) So as I looked down at my diamond-less ring, I reacted in the only way that made sense. After gasping with surprise, I laughed.
“Really?” I said out loud. “Really???” Then I laughed some more.
When I got to work I took off the ring and put it in my wallet. I didn’t tell any of my coworkers, and I thought about whether or not I’d tell my husband about it when I got home. I thought about the day he gave me that ring. We were 20 years old; I was pregnant and finishing my senior year of college. He had dropped out and was delivering pizzas. We stood in front of the Christmas tree at his house, which was decorated only with a cardinal ornament that reminded Aaron of his dad, who had died six years earlier. Aaron put the ring on my finger and I said yes, which at that point was really just a formality.
The diamond was tiny, but it was a marquis cut, which he knew I would like. He paid $500 for it, which was far more than he could afford. It had been on my finger for almost 30 years; since I only took it off a handful of times, my finger had “aged” around it. The spot where it stayed was much smaller than the rest of my finger. It was as if the ring hid a part of me, a part that was allowed to remain young.
Because I’m not good at keeping secrets or sorrows to myself, I told Aaron later that day. I was surprised that he wasn’t very upset. He tends to be much more sentimental than I am, one who embraces a significance in material things that I choose to downplay. This time, he was peaceful. “Don’t cry, honey. It’s all right.”
I took the ring off and put it away. I still have a tiny ring on my left hand – an “anniversary band” that we bought just a couple years after we married. The diamonds are so small they are almost invisible. It’s fine, I tell myself. I don’t need an engagement ring anymore, right? I’m an old married lady.
In a few months we will celebrate our 29th anniversary. In a time when families crumble more often than they stand, when the meaning of everything from gender to sexuality to marriage itself is being questioned and redefined, this seems miraculous.
How did two immature young people, unequipped for life, ignorant about everything, outlive the diamond?
I want to write with wisdom about the how. I want to say that I know now what it means to give yourself fully to another, to forgive unimaginable wrongs, to grow together instead of apart. I want to know why we have outlasted the diamond, so that I can tell my children and grandchildren. I want to be able to shout, “Do THIS! This is how you will survive! This is the secret!”
Instead I can only say that there is no formula to follow. There is only one thing you can do. Don’t quit.
When you have done something terrible, and you hate yourself and know your spouse should hate you too…don’t quit.
When you look across the table and wonder who is sitting there with you, and think you will never have another word to say…don’t quit.
When you are so tired, so, so tired of fighting or not fighting, tired of life, tired of struggling to pay bills or make money, tired of working, tired of the same four walls and the same sameness…don’t quit.
Perhaps there is one more thing you must do. Make room for grace.
Because there is nothing that you can do completely on your own to make a marriage last. And please know that I am talking about good marriages here, marriages that are valid and meant to be, marriages that have not been nulled by abuse or neglect. This is not an indictment of the divorced, of those who had to leave marriages that never really existed.
This is just a word for people like me; people who wonder how in the world we are actually doing this. Don’t quit. Make room for grace.
I have mentioned some challenges but grace opens my eyes and all I can see right now, in this moment, is blessings. When I look in my husband’s eyes, a fleeting memory is reflected: a young man holds out a tiny diamond and gives it to me, trusting that I will accept it.
I can see the joy and exquisite beauty brought into the world by each of our children, the unique people that would not exist if we hadn’t taken this outrageous risk and been open to each other and new life.
I remember the death of our daughter and the way that she forged a bond between us that will never be broken.
I find that I am a better woman because of this man. I believe that he is a better man because of me.
I look around my tiny house, my little world, and it overflows with brokenness and sorrow and so much love and joy and so many PEOPLE (how are there so many people?! The children! The grandchildren! Look what we have done!) and I realize that there is not a large enough diamond in the world with value to rival this: THIS life that we have because we do not quit and we make room for grace.
Today I found this. I wasn’t sure when I began writing what I would find, but that’s how it is sometimes. We lose many things, no? That isn’t what matters, when it’s all said and done.