This picture is worth far more than the thousand words you’re about to read.
It has more to say than I’m able to express and achieves what language cannot: it tells a story without words. A photographer’s lens captured this quicksilver moment like lightning in a bottle, preserving in his instantaneous flash all the things we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to say aloud to each other.
We were no longer “young and in love,” as we like to say, and life had already started to take its toll on us. Raúl and I met twelve years earlier at a church picnic in Boston, which quickly led to a romance that ended with a ring and a walk down the aisle.
When this photo was taken, that seemed like ancient history. We were now a lifetime beyond skipping hand in hand down lover’s lane, but this picture is proof that what we professed on the altar had bonded us more deeply than the word “love” can imply.
I knew from the beginning that this was the man God had chosen for me, the man who would make me a mother. Five years later, my premonition was confirmed: our son was born on the feast day of St. Cecilia, the name of the parish where we met and had fallen in love. It was a beautiful affirmation from our heavenly Father that His hand was guiding our family.
As I look back now, I realize just how important our faith was about to become.
Raúl and I had only been married three years and our son was just eight months old when I was diagnosed with cancer. Needless to say, we were totally blindsided. We didn’t expect to face a crisis like this before at least climbing over the hill together first.
When we vowed to be there in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, we naively assumed that those things would happen in the distant future. We weren’t expecting to pause for a cancer break until we’d bought a house, raised a family, retired and spent a few decades together. (Ignorance was such sweet bliss.)
My brain surgery happened just as we were supposed to be gearing up for babies number two, three, and possibly four. Instead we were forced to stop all forward motion for an indefinite period of time, waiting for whatever would happen next.
Raúl and I did our best to hold our fragmented reality together but we were both slow to get back up. The future was suddenly tentative, cloudy, and we were hesitant to plunge into it full steam ahead.
Fast forward five years, and we had managed to scrape ourselves off the pavement. Life was moving again, albeit at a reduced speed. Raúl took a job with Southwest and we relocated to Dallas, which was a nice change of pace. Our son, Daniel, had started elementary school and was off to a good start. I had made it past the five-year survival marker and in His mercy, God had pulled us through to the other side.
To celebrate, Raúl proposed we take on the challenge of running a 10K. Not just any 10K: the BolderBOULDER in Boulder, Colorado. Established in 1979, this massive road race draws more than fifty thousand runners from all over the world.
Despite the fact that I had recovered my ability to be a fully functional mom-of-all-trades, I hadn’t done so much as power walked in at least ten years. How was I going to manage to run a six-mile race at altitude with only four months of training?
Luckily for me, I had an excellent pacesetter to rely upon: my husband. I learned to match his pace, align my stride with his, and together we ran as one. He helped me prove something to myself, and in doing so, created this image that Andy Colwell so beautifully captured at the finish line.
Like the picture itself, we were silent. There was nothing but panting breath between us, yet so much was being exchanged. We didn’t need words to communicate the thoughts running through our minds, rushing through our veins; we heard them in our beating hearts, felt them in our shaking hands.
Our embrace was just as much a physical need as it was an expression of love: without leaning into the supportive arms of the other, we both would have collapsed. Raúl was with me from the very beginning of this journey, leading the way and challenging me to keep going when I would have given up on my own.
Jesus has always had this vision for our lives. He sent His own disciples out two by two so that their evangelical journey might be shared. They were there to support each other, encourage each other, lean on each other.
Ideally, marriage is designed to work in much the same way.
When I started using the Mother’s Prayer Companion, it was the first time it had ever occurred to me to intentionally pray for my husband. Sure, there was a period of time when I prayed for a husband and then later thanking God for giving me my husband, but what I hadn’t prayed for was Raúl.
Raúl is not just some random man who has been cast as the “husband” role in my life. He has been blessed with many unique gifts and qualities that complement my own. His story has been, and always will be, inextricably woven together with mine in a way that only God could design.
When I first looked down at the diamond ring on my finger, I imagined raising a family and growing old together in wedded bliss. The reality of life, with all its complications, is significantly different.
Thankfully God has blessed me with a husband to run beside me on this amazing race we call life. I don’t think I would make it on my own - neither of us would.
That’s why we’ve been sent out together. After every triumph and every trial, every uphill battle and backward slide, there are loving arms to fall into, restoring and reaffirming the unity God created.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother
and hold fast to his wife…”
(Ephesians 5: 31, ESV)