“During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
“Footprints” is a famous Christian poem about a person walking along a seashore with Jesus. They see scenes of their life as their walk, and most often there are two sets of footprints: one for them and one for Christ. But in the most difficult, terrible times, the person only sees one set of footprints in the sand. They ask Jesus why He abandoned them, but He responds with the words above: it was then that I carried you.
On our wedding days, we all vow to have and to hold our spouse all the days of our lives, to love each other with fidelity until death do us part. We promise to love and to cherish our spouse in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse.
We promise to walk through the sand with them.
I wonder what the sand would look like if I could look back on my two years of marriage, my one year of engagement, and my 3 years of dating. I know for certain there would be times I would only see Joshua’s footprints. The number of trials he has carried me through is too many to count.
But would I ever see my own footprints, alone? Have I been able to die to myself and carry my husband through his sufferings? It is so easy, even years into a relationship, to be selfish. To be the weak one. To ask for help but forget to offer it.
According to Fr. Mike Schmitz, “Marriage is where good people go to die. To themselves.” This is the truest and hardest thing about marriage. We get married knowing it will involve sacrifice. But at our weddings, we more often think about the joy we find in our relationships and our hope for the future. And there is joy! Marriage is absolutely amazing. It’s living with your best friend. It’s becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be. You get to build a beautiful life, have children, and make a home together.
But all of that requires sacrifice. While you live with your best friend, you must learn to respect someone else’s needs and preferences in your living space. You need to be willing to forgo certain things and prioritize others, even if you don’t want to. You must make decisions you’d rather not make when raising children. In short, there will be a lot of times when you see one set of footprints.
But marriage is never, ever about keeping score. It’s not about taking care of your spouse so they can “pay you back” next time. It’s 100/100, all the time, both of you giving what you can when you can, allowing your spouse to carry you when you’re weak and carrying them when you’re strong.
What footprints do you need to see in the sand right now? Do you and your spouse need to walk hand in hand? Do you need to ask your spouse to help you? Or do you need to step up for them?