One Saturday not long ago, I was sitting in my living-room and Colin, my 5-year-old grandson, was on my lap. I don’t remember what we were doing — watching “Peppa Pig” on TV or reading a Dr. Seuss book or playing out another episode of “Good Guys vs. Bad Guys,” I’m sure.
Colin grabbed my left hand. “Pops,” he said, “why do you have two rings on your fingers?” I thought about telling him they are precious metals — at least precious to me — but then I would have had to explain the word “precious,” and who knows where that conversation would have led?
On my ring finger is a gold band inlaid with three small diamonds. I’ve worn it for 28 years, 6 months — and counting.
“This is my wedding ring,” I told him. “I got it when I married Mimi. It reminds me that I’m her husband and that she loves me.”
On my pinky finger is a silver band engraved with the words “May Prayer Strengthen.” Not particularly valuable, I paid a few bucks for it in a Catholic gift shop, wore it for quite a while, then lost it. I rediscovered it only a couple of months ago and have worn it every day since then. “This one,” I said, “is to remind me to pray.”
I have to be honest: both rings have seen better days. The wedding ring, though still attractive, no longer is a circle. It’s flat on the bottom; I must have banged it on something to bend it. That means it fits pretty snugly on my finger. The diamonds could use some polish and the gold some brushing to recapture the sparkle.
The prayer ring looks even more the worse for wear. It also is slightly misshapen. The shine is dim, with some of the metal coating chipped away so that the duller undercoating shows.
I’m not going to say that like my rings, my marriage and my prayer life have seen better days. But what is it they say about a house that has a noticeable amount of clutter? “It looks lived in.”
Well, my prayer life and my marriage look lived in. I think that’s a good thing.
Faith is a relationship. Like many relationships, our connection with God can get a little beat up. We can fall out of touch for a while, not feel like there is anything in common. We can find ourselves totally dependent. We can get angry, hurt, confused. We can have moments of indescribable elation in His Presence. I have been through all of that with God. And yet I can’t imagine a life without Him and our love.
As for my marriage, Donna and I are different than we were 30 years ago. Our relationship has evolved. There was a time when she spent hours every day home with four children, while I worked deep into the night. We didn’t have much time together. Every moment alone together was savored. We didn’t necessarily have goals — we were trying to get through life the best we could.
We each have different careers now than we did even 15 years ago and the kids don’t need us the way they once did. There has been sickness and health, richer and poorer, better and worse. We have had stretches where we depended completely upon each other, moments of incredible elation together. There has been anger, hurt, confusion. We could have separated long ago when encountering hurdles or challenges — thus giving ourselves a chance to start over with a shiny new ring and relationship with someone else. And yet I can’t imagine a life without my wife and our love.
My youngest daughter will be married in April, when she and her fiance will be 23. After hearing the news, some of my daughter’s co-workers tried to talk her out of it. They thought she was too young and didn’t see the point of getting married when divorce is so prevalent — like it’s inevitable. “You’ll grow apart eventually,” they said. Kara responded angrily that she looks forward to growing with Tom and thus closer together.
I feel sad for those people, just as I feel for those people who can’t maintain their faith during challenging times with God. They may never get to know the joy that comes from wearing a couple of imperfect yet comfortable rings.
The rings really are beautiful.