Hope at 50

Marriage is glorious when married to a woman proud of turning fifty: Hope Elizabeth turns fifty and I am proud of her joy. Saint Paul urges Christians to follow his example. I honestly can urge all of us to follow Hope’s example in many areas.

Hope is holy, but not sanctimonious, pious without prudery. Everybody has “fun friends,” but sometimes an evening leaves a bad “aftertaste.” Most of us have “serious” friends, but an evening with them can leave the heart starved for joy. Rare is the person who can holiday and then have a holy day without contradiction. Hope can. She is not perfect, but she is getting better. She is not always joyful, but she is getting happier. I think she has found the balance through moderation and music.

She is disciplined as musicians always are, but the very music she makes lightens her heart. Music is her deepest language: she incarnates her words, but not by speaking. She is not quiet or shy: she does not  verbalize often. If you learn the language of service and of music, then she has deep wisdom. Fools like I was might limit “thinking” or “reason” to arguments or verbalizations, but Hope can teach the patient fool this wisdom: the mind has reasons that cannot be expressed in words.

Hope works hard. She is not too proud to start at the bottom and stay there if that is what ministry takes. Our first job together was cleaning toilets and we made them shine. She never complains, to this day, when she arrives from a banquet in fancy dinner attire and instead of bed must stay up helping a hurting student. She takes joy in the menial that this happiness has protected her from false pride in the glorious.She can ignore fancy and plain, austere and gilded.

She has heroically persevered in painful times all her life. Hope has had health and personal challenges. Like the rest of us, Hope has not handled all of it perfectly, but she has allowed pain to keep perfecting her. Partly, this came from a willingness to accept her own imperfections, acknowledge them, and get appropriate help. She has no false shame and is willing to the truth about herself to herself.

Oddly, all this virtue does not prevent failure toward her on my part, but she is forgiving and helps me change. She does not not tolerate my sins or errors, but she is patient with my pilgrim’s progress. Her balance is wonderful: she would never enable evil, but she does not anticipate perfection. If you want to do right, but find it hard, she will be true. If you want to do wrong, and justify it, she is strong. For any prodigal, she is the caring friend, mother, wife that makes the most of even the smallest change toward the good.

The two of us, both of us, have high aspirations for marriage. High aspirations mean when we fail, and we do fail, it stings. And yet we press on toward the high calling and through failure find improvement and deeper happiness. Hope’s patience, holiness, and endurance are reasons that this long journey can work and be more than “good,” but also romantic. We don’t have a perfect marriage, but we have one growing in happiness!

There is a reason she has a special love for Elizabeth, the new martyr of Russia.  Elizabeth was beautiful, but more interested in service than jewels. Elizabeth knew human imperfection in her relationships, but she loved those God had given her. Elizabeth was a normal human being, full of foibles, who became saintly. Hope is right to choose her path.

Hope springs eternal poets and greeting cards say. Hope’s soul is eternal in soul and I see her  transforming to a soul fit for Paradise. Happy birthday, dearling!

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