With This Ring…
My grandmother gave me her engagement ring last year.
Well, technically she gave it to my parents the year before, and for a while they thought they might be gifting it to my boyfriend at the time before it made its way to my finger. Instead, it was presented to me by my parents with little fanfare and to my complete surprise at a mundane dinner down the street from their house this past summer. It was given to me in the original ring box my granddaddy used to propose to my grandmother back in the early 50s. The engagement ring has been fused with the wedding band, so there are actually two bands. I’ve since had the ring resized so I can wear it, and now the two bands fuse together into one at the bottom, a tangible representation of two becoming one, which makes me smile every time I see it.
I’ve loved this diamond since I was a little girl. It’s an emerald cut diamond in a simple solitaire illusion setting. The first thing I ever said about the type of engagement ring I’d want is that I’d like an emerald cut diamond “just like my grandmother’s.” It had always been my hope that my grandmother might gift me her diamond, but it was also something that I felt weird asking for, and I felt even weirder hoping to receive it while she was still alive. I also presumed that it would be something I would only receive if I one day got engaged and married. Which, if we’re being transparent, I always assumed would have happened by the time I hit 30.
And here’s the thing. A year and a half ago, I thought that right now, January 2019, I would be newly engaged. That was the plan. It was a good plan, I thought. It was a plan that fit in perfectly with plans I’d already made for school and my career. A plan that both scared and excited me. It was all lined up in my mind until, after Thanksgiving 2017, said boyfriend abruptly announced, with no discussion or warning and after a year of telling me the exact opposite, that I’m “not what he’s looking for in a wife” and walked out of my living room and my life. He instantly ended our relationship without any opportunity for collaborative discussion that a mutually respectful and healthy relationship between equals should entail, and I was left trying to make sense of how things went from going home with each other for the holidays to over in the blink of an eye.
There’s a part of me that looks at the diamond on my finger and sees the dashed and broken hopes that I would be wearing it on a different finger. But it’s just one small part, and the thought fades quickly, because looking at this diamond means so much more to me.
I spent a couple of hours with my grandmother when I was home this Christmas, my first chance to spend extended time with her since I had her ring resized and started wearing it regularly. She hadn’t realized I’d gotten it resized and said it made her so happy to know I was enjoying it as much as she did.
Later on in the visit, she started talking to me about the years before she met Granddaddy. In 1953, at the age of 26 (a late age for her generation) she married a man four years younger than her. She lived in a boarding house in downtown Atlanta and met him while he was a student at Georgia Tech. I’ve heard some stories about her time between college and marriage, living as a single woman in the heart of a city in the late 40s, but to be honest, I never feel like I’ve heard enough; I would love to spend hours with her telling me about these years. This visit, she shared how she had had the opportunity to marry before granddaddy (at least in theory, I don’t think there were other proposals!), but that she hadn’t ever been in love, and she didn’t see the point in marrying someone if she wasn’t in love. Her life was full, and she was happy; she thought it better to stay single than marry without love. When she first met Grandaddy, she didn’t think it would be a romantic relationship, but he surprised her. Her feelings surprised her. And obviously the rest is history — my history.
I’m thankful they met and fell in love, but I’m also thankful she took her time. That she didn’t rush into something just because it was what society expected of her. I’m thankful that, even now, she encourages me in my singleness and in the fact that I don’t need anything more for my life to be whole and full. That she wants to know about anything that is important to me, not just if I’m in a relationship, yet she still acknowledges that she hopes I might one day marry, because she knows the happiness that brought her and longs for happiness for me.
When she shared these few simple thoughts with me last week, I suddenly found my eyes welling over with tears, and when I tried to explain I found I could barely speak. I felt such an intense kinship with her heart — with the longing and the confusion and the peace. I, too, could have married if I had stayed with past boyfriends I didn’t love. I, too, have wondered if I have the capacity for romantic love; the question of if it will ever happen for me while also having an intense longing for it. I, too, have found so much fullness and joy in my life without needing a romantic relationship. I saw her heart, and I saw myself; I felt seen and known and not alone.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the right balance between hope and contentment. I feel it acutely as a woman who longs for marriage and a family of my own, but I think it’s a universal theme regardless of situation. We all have deep unfulfilled longings we are trying to balance with finding fullness of joy right where we are, with what life has brought us right now.
So how do we balance it? How do we long for the “not yet” while living in the now? How do we practice contentment while also being honest about the deep desires of our heart?
I’ve found, surprisingly, that the answer for me is demonstrated perfectly through this gift from my grandmother and the daily grace of getting to wear her ring.
In wearing this ring, I celebrate the deep love and commitment my grandparents had for each other. I celebrate their strong and beautiful marriage — a testament to God’s faithfulness and goodness, and a pillar of strength to me. They helped build the strong, solid foundation of unconditional love that I have been surrounded by my whole life.
In wearing this ring, I commit to enjoying my life just as it is right now. I will not wait for some grand event or someone else to give me permission to live fully and completely right now. I will not delay my happiness for some unspoken milestone that may or may not be coming. I am no less of a mature adult woman than my married friends, and my singleness has been as strong a tool of sanctification and grace for me as their marriages have been for them. I will own a KitchenAid and buy dishes I like and plan trips I want to go on and purchase single serving champagne bottles to pour into the champagne glass I bought from Anthropologie because it made me smile. And I will wear a diamond ring if I want to. Life is happening right now; it won’t wait for me, so I won’t wait for it.
In wearing this ring, I recognize daily my deep longing for something more. For one day having someone love me enough to ask for the diamond that represents the promise my grandparents made and to reset it, creating something new to signify our own promise to each other. It will be a sign of covenantal vows we will take together before God and our families as we continue to hope for more, lean on all that’s come before, and live in whatever our present reality is.
This ring is a gift: a daily grace, a daily prayer, a daily petition, a daily commitment, a daily choice.
So thank you, Grandmother, for this gift.