Happy Valentine’s Day to you, my best friend.
It’s been 13 years since that first February 14, the one where you showed up at my apartment with an inedible chocolate cake and got a third degree burn on your hand picking up that lid I laid on the red-hot burner. I can’t remember much else from that night, but I do remember exactly how good it felt to just be with you. That’s really all I remember from that time with you – the being together and how good it felt to be loved so fiercely. That’s the stuff that makes you stupid, right? And then, like it does, one thing kept leading to another and then all of a sudden we couldn’t think of one good reason not to just be together forever. And so, like the two idiots we were, we decided we were ready. At 20 and 21, we jumped all the way in together and decided to figure it out as we went. We didn’t heed anyone’s warnings, did we?
I could never have imagined that our next Valentine’s Day together would be spent cancelling plans and going to bed early as morning sickness took over all my senses and my first experience with first trimester pregnancy exhaustion knocked me all the way out.
So much changed and it all happened so fast. I don’t think we looked up for 10 years. Just full speed ahead, nose to the grindstone, get the degree, make the money, nurse the baby, fight, make up, here comes another baby, make the money, cook the oatmeal, a seven year old needed us to make room, better make some more money, another baby, change the sheets, make the money, another baby, get the next degree, and so on and so forth and life just barreled onward. There’s been a lot of life happening here, while we were working and trying to live.
And so here we are, celebrating our 14th Valentine’s day. Look at who has grown up around us while we have been working and fighting to keep it all spinning. It’s happening just as it was meant to and not one moment has been wasted. We have made some right moves and a few wrong ones. We have spoken life into each other, and we have used our words like knives meant to tear each other apart. We have forgiven and held grudges for far longer than we would each like to admit. We have understood each other perfectly and at times it has felt like we don’t even speak the same language. We have given each other the benefit of the doubt and at times we have been less generous.
I would never have chosen the hard days that made up the long, dry stretches of this journey. I would have written a sweeter story, I think. I would have written a story with characters who don’t ever have dark days, or tired eyes, low balance checking account alerts, or heart pounding, anxious thoughts after midnight. I would have written about people who never say things when the baby is crying at 3 A.M. for which they have to apologize through locked bathroom doors at 6 A.M.
It’s kind of a mystery, isn’t it? Why on earth does it all have to be so complicated? Why does it have to be hard? Why can’t building a family and raising children and sticking and staying married through it all have to take more than we feel like we have to give sometimes?
And then I remember...that’s actually the very way God has moved through all of recorded time. God has always been moving through broken people, using their sin and lack to point to Someone greater. God uses our broken promises, failed plans, suffering, shame and disappointment to weave together better stories that point us toward our only true home, right in the center of the heart of God. And if the cost of seeing God more clearly and resting in God’s goodness more fully is walking through the dark, I don’t mind. I don’t mind walking through the dark anymore, at all. I've seen enough of the Promised Land to keep me walking with you, even when the night gets long and deep. I’m not afraid of much anymore, as long as I’m with you. There’s enough light here for my next step here with you, always.
The dream I had at 21 had to die so that something better could be born. And death is hard. And birth is scary. But no one would believe me if I made a list of all the ways God is making all things new under our roof and in our hearts. We are learning to drink now from the streams God made for us in our desert times. Our feet are walking homeward into the heart of God on smoother paths now than the rocky ones we chose before. We are opening our clenched fists, letting go of all we thought we were owed when we dressed up and met at that beautiful old church. We are actively unlearning the scripts we absorbed about who needs respect and who needs love and we aren’t fighting for our rights anymore. We are learning to lay them down on the altar of the better way. We aren’t worried about who gets the last say and it honestly never comes to that anyway because our Brother Jesus is here with us. He is kind and good and He is showing us how to walk in the way of radical submission to each other through the power of the Spirit of God. I will be your priest and you will be mine, forever and ever amen. I will point you to the Father God who holds all good things in His mighty hand and you will remind me that God is a tender mother, gathering her own and sheltering them forever.
We could never have known what was in store. We couldn’t have asked for a love like this because it’s nothing of this world. This is a love worth all we’ve given.
Look at these faces, these people we made. They are growing strong roots to withstand the heavy winds that will surely blow them, too. I know that our children won’t be safe in this world full of broken people. But maybe that’s ok, because nothing we’ve done has been safe and I don’t know that I would change any of it now. I can’t make the world safe for them, but I can trust the One who is writing their stories. We can keep holding onto each other and setting our feet on the narrow way, the only Jesus way. Let’s keep walking.