Some celebrations are better done in quiet. I don’t mean as in keeping them a secret–I mean as in keeping the voice down, much as you do when you enter a sanctuary. Pasts are sanctuaries of a kind, especially those that contain so much love, so much intimacy, so much shared understanding of our fallen nature, and so much of God.
May 8, 1981, Anjie and I married.
At that moment in time, I never dreamed we would be alternately fulfilled and tested in the ways that were to come. No one can really explain what life is. It can only be lived. Surprise constantly presents itself; cars breaking down, children coming in pairs, money running out, heart quickening–no warning, death brutally intruding, best friends fading, opportunities demanding change, failure nipping at your heels, discovered graces revealed in desperate times. On the down side, temptations of every kind present themselves for your consideration. Communication seems ridiculous, the pride of both parties gets battered, fights can last for five to ten years, and even the sweetest of children can sometimes not be tether enough to hold an unhappy spouse to their vows. Secrets kept, strangenesses ignored, follies forgiven…the ongoing life of marriage enriches sometimes with sweets and sometimes with bitter tincture. On the up side, it’s all attraction, beauty, passionate kisses, the long holding of hands over years, and laughter so abundant that it would fill a thousand stadiums of hilarity. Life in love, with love, and about love is a lot things: sexuality, finance, property acquisition, parent management, career-hopping, child rearing, inspiration, teaching, and even (depending on how you look at it, and depending on what you’re willing to fight for) happily-ever-aftering.
Love is so not what the culture says it is.
The rush of adrenaline and heart rate increase that comes when you encounter your lover is a real and vital part of life under the marriage canopy, but American culture makes such a reductionist move when it fixates on such “passion.” To equate love and sex–an equation the media culture thrusts into our brains and spirits every single day–is to tragically miss the full-bodied nature of love. The word “love” is a poem all in itself, and if we do not lean into the multiple layers of the word (which advertising never does) every time we use it, we tend to get a notion in our brain that somehow love means “the happy feeling you give me”, and in the absence of said “happy feeling”, love is assumed to either absent, a false construct, or worst of all, something that is just not possible between folks who used to have happy feelings and now they don’t. In that case, whatever commitments have made must be somehow flawed, open for discussion and revisiting, and ultimately disqualified. The words of grace and necessity collide, and we keep hoping that vows can really be vows even when we decide they’re really not. What harm is really done when love is abandoned for the great good and peace of my life, we wonder, and we turn backflips psychologically to make it all turn out okay.
And the truth is, we live in a world of grace in which God, does indeed, somehow allow us to land on our feet after all said backflipping, and often times, that “happy feeling you give me” can happen with someone new, and more fulfillment than a person had before drops into place, and we wonder at the craziness of human beings in search of love, companionship, trust, intimacy, a ’til-death-do-us-part life.
I didn’t mean to preach, really. Life is hard, and each day, I trudge again out of the judgment arena. We do what we must to survive, and yet we also know that that is often far less than what we are capable of.
All I really meant to say was how thankful I am that I’ve been saved by love in all its multiple layers of meaning and experience. Anjie and I have been around the block, as they say, and our marriage is long and deep, high and wide, and full of all the stuff that marriage is full of. Our quiet conversations over the weekend reflected on what we’ve discovered after all these years, the ways and means by which we navigate this journey, this country called love and marriage. I once told a young couple that love was a country, its terrain vast and lush, and dry and full of crevasses. Which is all nice and poetic until you land in said crevasse. Our reflection this weekend included ample amounts of humility as we gazed back in wonder over what God has done. We’ve wept plenty; we’ve even, on occasion, thrown a thing or two, fairly harmlessly. For years, we’ve talked over cups of coffee, held our tongues when it was important to do so, said hurtful things when it seemed important to do so (was being hurtful ever important enough to actually do?), and generally stood shoulder to shoulder together facing the world. We pray angels be on the corner of our house and our pathways, and we walk in song with tears ever-ready, knowing that tears are a kind of breath by which new life is gathered.
And we are focused on the future. The decades to come will bring…who knows? Well, we do know, actually. The coming years will bring moments of thrilling achievement, and lonely failure. Death will visit our house, as it does all houses everywhere. We will worship, pursue, struggle, dance, laugh, decide, and on some days, just hold on for all we’re worth. What we’d like to have happen is for our lives and our marriage to somehow grow into a living testament, a lyric poem of whatever God meant when He designed the nature and truth of love, relationship, and at-oneness.
We are one.
I love you, Anjie. The layers cannot be counted or known…
Let the mystery, and the poetry, continue…