I didn't know what to expect of this book. Gift of the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, has been a well-loved classic for several generation of women in America. Ann Voskamp said she reads it every year (if I remember correctly?). I figured I better give it a try.
Such gentle writing. Such humble, beautiful wisdom. In chapter four, where she writes about the first stage, initial romance of a relationship when two people "stand as individuals, without past or future, facing each other"(p 66) Lindbergh gave me a clearer (sweeter) vision for what we can aim for in our alone time together. What we're after on a "date night" (if that were ever to happen!) or on a "connecting night" (what Matt and I call our stay-at-home dates, the nights we try to tuck the kids in early and focus entirely on each other for the rest of the evening) is something of a reforming the original, pure focus and delight in each other. That sounds stars better to me than just catching up on what's been happening in my man's busy days. For sure, some of the time, that'll be what we need... but hopefully we can carve out enough opportunity to reform the original beauty.
"It is true of course, the original relationship is very beautiful. It's self-enclosed perfection wears the freshness of a spring morning. Forgetting about the summer to come, one often feels like one would like to prolong the early spring... One resents any change, even though one knows that transformation is natural and part of the process of life....(p66)" and growth. *
"Both men and women feel the change in the early relationship and hunger nostalgically for its original pattern as life goes on and becomes more complicated. For inevitably, as the relationship grows, both men and women, at least to some degree, are drawn into their more specialized and functional roles... Functional relationships tend to take the place of the early all-absorbing personal one. But woman refinds in a limited form with each new child, something resembling, at least in its absorption, the early pure relationship. In the sheltered simplicity of the first days after a baby is born, one sees again the magical closed circle, the miraculous sense of two people existing only for each other, the tranquil sky reflected on the face of the mother nursing her child. It is however, only a brief interlude and not a substitute for the original, more complete relationship." (p67)
Lindbergh writes of the joy of a vacation for a couple alone together. "Most married couples have felt the unexpected joy of one of these vacations. How wonderful it was to leave the children, the house, the job and all the obligations of daily life: to go out together, whether for a month, or a weekend, or even just a night in an inn by themselves. How surprising it was to find the miracle of the sunrise repeated. There was the sudden pleasure of having breakfast alone with the man one fell in love with. Here at the small table, are only two people facing each other. How the table at home has grown! And how distracting it is, with four or five children, a telephone ringing down the hall, two or three school buses to catch, not to speak of the commuter train." (p71)
Such wisdom in this! And it overflows beyond marriage, to bless also, our relationships with our children. "Actually, I believe this temporary return to the pure relationship holds good for one's children too. If only... we could have each of our children alone [for some times]... would they not be happier, stronger and, in the end, more independent because more secure? Does each child not secretly long for the pure relationship he once had with the mother, when he was "The Baby," when the nursery doors were shut and she was feeding him at her great alone? (p71)"
What sweet joy to aim for reforming this "pure relationship" as she calls it... with each of the ones that I most dearly love. How sweet to have this new picture of what we can build into, of our relationship, in alone time I get with my husband and each of our children. And oh! To make such alone time, even if only brief moments together, a graced goal and priority in my time and lifestyle. Lord, please build up my husband and each of our children as you pour into us grace and strength and more, please more of your best love, in the alone together moments that you give us in relationship.
* And for just a bit more, from a few pages later, on Anne Morrow Lindbergh's view of what marriage grows into, beyond the first stage of gazing deeply on each other: "Marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually... many bonds, many strands of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm. The web is fashioned of love. Yes but many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow-growing devotion and, playing through these, a constantly rippling companionship. It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments. It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of lack of language too; a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physical and mental. It is a web of instincts and intuitions, and known and unknown exchanges.... In the [deeper] stage of marriage, romantic love is only one of the many bonds that make up the intricate and enduring web that two people have built together." (p83)
May it be, Oh God, that you would build us into an enduring, adding-strength-and-joy-to-each-other marriage where others can behold a glimmer of the three-in-one, in us: the two-woven-intimately-deeply-beautifully one.