“My soul takes pleasure in three things, and they are beautiful in the sight of the Lord and of men; agreement between brothers, friendship between neighbors, and a wife and a husband who live in harmony.”

Among these three beautiful things, the third perhaps stands out as most notable and worthy of honor and remembrance: when a wife and husband live in harmony.

But what exactly is living in harmony? Surely there are degrees, and there can still be real harmony even in a relationship regularly dogged by misunderstanding and dissension.

It’s not uncommon that young newlyweds resolve to have a better marriage than those they have seen up close. And perhaps this is fitting. Yet often a husband and wife, sometimes sooner and sometimes later, come to a more nuanced view of the complexities and challenges of marriage. They learn that even good intentions and hard work are not in themselves a promise of living without strife, disappointment, and failure. They come to new insight into the couples they have known, and perhaps they find it easier to appreciate—and honor—those couples for what they did achieve, even amid their shortcomings.

Yes, clearly there is something especially ‘pleasing’ and ‘beautiful’ about a deeper harmony that married couples might attain. May more couples discover it and live it! But even those that don’t stand out as living in such harmony still may have attained something pleasing and beautiful. Indeed, this might even be said of those that exhibit notable and ugly failings.

Wedding anniversaries are like birthdays. The day is an opportunity to notice, remember, and reaffirm in a special way what is the case every day. On a birthday we rejoice and give thanks for the very existence of this person. On a wedding anniversary we rejoice and give thanks for the existence of this marriage, this shared life, and whatever good is in it and has been born from it. On that day we recollect ourselves and cultivate a spirit of gratitude, as well as a willingness to keep striving. And indeed, are not such a spirit and willingness, which can re-animate every day of marriage, already in themselves a powerful and beautiful harmony between husband and wife?

There is a deep inner connection between birthdays and wedding anniversaries. They go together; and to celebrate them well takes us to the very center of existence and life.

This New Year’s Day is my wife’s and my twenty-fifth anniversary. For all that our life together has been, is, and ever will be, I raise my voice in deep gratitude to God, and to all who have been a part of it, great or small, most especially my dear wife.

Photo: The beginning of a household, a quarter century ago.

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