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Dec 6 2013

On Our 10th Anniversary, Discovering a New Meaning of Faith

By at 12:23 pm

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We got married on Sunday, December 7, 2003. (Yeah, yeah, I know, the Day That Will Live in Infamy. In our case, it was more like the Day That the Rabbi Was Available.) It was a sunny, beautiful day, with nearly three feet of snow on the ground. One of the largest Nor’easters in recorded history had passed through New England in the days before our wedding, but our wedding morning was perfect.

I recently got a copy of the words our Rabbi said as we stood with her under the chuppah:

Now I want to talk about this snowstorm. I think there’s something auspicious in it, perhaps a teaching here. Planning a wedding is a vast exercise in the delusion of control. There are so many details, so many things we want to get just right. And then, something like the snowstorm occurs and suddenly we realize that we’re not really always so in control. Sometimes that realization brings disappointments, frustrations. But it also uncovers something important: that to a certain extent, we just need to have faith.

We can make our plans for future happiness, but we can’t be sure things will unfold exactly as we hope. And that’s really the beauty of the commitment you’re making here today–the statement of faith that each of you is making about the other. That even without knowing exactly how things are going to turn out, even with not being able to control for every eventuality, you have faith that this is the person you want to be on this journey with.

And now we have been on this journey for 10 years. A decade. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we got here, to this place of love and stability and occasional squabbles and frustrations. And I keep coming back to faith.

I still remember the moment when I found my faith in my husband, in us. It was the late summer of 2001, and we had been dating since the second night of Passover the spring before. Josh was living in D.C., and I was moving from Boston to New Mexico for a social work internship. We were driving across the country together, and somewhere in the middle of Kansas, we got in a fight.

We were fighting over what Judaism’s motto would be, if it had one. I had asked my day-school-educated husband to capture the essence of our religion in a bumper sticker, and he refused. He insisted that Judaism just wasn’t as simple as “Moses loves you” or “Got Torah?” but I kept nagging for an answer.

You see, I was anxious. I had started to create a life on the east coast, an adult Jewish life that made sense for me, and for us. But now I was moving back to my home state of New Mexico, the land of my agnostic, chaotic childhood. My past and our future were about to clash, and I didn’t know if our relationship was going to survive it. I wanted a mantra, a motto, something to ground me in the storms that were going to come.

But Josh has always had much more tolerance for anxiety and uncertainty than I do, and he refused to boil down the beauty and complexity of our faith and culture to four or five words. Of course, he was right. No bumper sticker or pithy phrase was going to quell my anxiety or save our relationship.

We made it through Kansas intact (although I very nearly left him at a gas station), and when we got to Santa Fe we learned that the Palace of the Governors Museum was hosting an exhibit on “The Jewish Pioneers of New Mexico,” men and women who moved west from the east coast, much as my great-uncle and father would do generations later. We went to the museum, and as we wandered through the displays, I felt a deep sense of relief. I remember thinking that it might just be possible for my two worlds to coexist.

In that moment, standing there in front of cigar boxes and silver tea sets from the 1840s, for reasons that I still can’t explain (because who can really explain the source of true faith?), I found my faith in Josh. In us.

It has been unshakeable ever since.

Just weeks later, the Twin Towers came down and our country’s faith was shattered in a way that it never had been before. In the years since that moment when I stood alone in an apartment in the middle of Albuquerque, sobbing and waiting to hear Josh’s voice on the phone, to know that he was safe, we have lost beloved family members, endured the confusion and fear of starting a life together, and struggled through the pain of infertility and the challenges of starting a family. For the past decade, we have weathered the storms, large and small of building–of living–a life together.

It hasn’t always been easy, and God knows we’ve been far from graceful at times. I am endlessly frustrated by his seemingly complete inability to get his dirty laundry into the hamper, and I know he would like nothing more than for me to actually rinse out the damn sponge properly. But unlike the rest of my life, when I can get so completely immersed in my anxiety about whatever is going on in the moment, and all of a sudden my worries become my reality, with Josh, well, I know it’s just a pair of underwear on the floor or another fatigue-induced squabble, and that this too shall pass.

I still don’t have a motto for Judaism, and to be honest, it still irks me. But I guess I have always had a mantra or us, even though I didn’t always realize it.

I have faith that just on the other side of each storm, real or imagined, he will still be here. I will still be here.

We will still be here.

Happy Anniversary, Josh. I love you.

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