Chapter 26

_MG_8854We slid down the icy hill hands laced together between the college book store and the dorm entryway. Our hands, still clasped, rested on the heater vent pumping out warm air defrosting our frozen fingers. An hour passed– sometimes two. This went on night after night, week after week, month after month. He just couldn’t pry his fingers loose and walk out the door to do his homework.

Next came the pearl promise ring at the end of a treasure hunt buried in the sand on the beach.

Then an engagement ring and wedding plans….all prequel to the story we started to write together 26 years ago today.

The pages were blank and new, an invitation to compose an original masterpiece ……..

Kneeling at the altar in a white dress and tux, naively, I read these words from Proverbs 31,

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies.
Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future……
When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.

That’s the kind of woman I imagined myself becoming on the arm of the man who made me feel safe, wanted and connected. I was excited about our future.

And I had no idea how relentlessly Satan would malign us.

That warm July day turned into a year, then a decade, then two plus six more. Our story included advanced educational degrees, all kinds of jobs, travel, babies, adopted pets. We bought a house and then built one and later moved across country. We buried a child and 3 parents so far. Then sent our first kid off to college. All these markers of time intermingled with a million other snapshots of daily life.

And life got messy in a hurry.

That connected, safe feeling vanished under the weight of expectations. The adhesive of affection and attraction broke down and we were undone.

In word and deed we trampled on each other’s hearts, left each other wounded and withdrew behind our self-protective walls leaving the other to bleed alone.

But God is always doing something redemptive and He delights to blow His warm breath of life into our empty, exposed, icy hearts, defrosting them until they beat again. This time with a better love—His love.

And His love is this:

God demonstrates his own love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners. (Rom. 5:8)

His love exemplifies costly personal sacrifice even when the recipient of that love hasn’t earned it, doesn’t deserve it and refuses to receive it. He provided a model for me to reproduce with that guy I chose to write my story with. And vice versa….

In a story, it’s really the ending that matters. Tragedies depict characters that start out optimistically exuding love and hope but succumb to adversity and are ruined by it. Comedies set forth obstacles that leave characters constantly at the edge of their seats. The future looks uncertain but they step into tomorrow one day at a time, smiling, resisting the temptation to be paralyzed by fear and they end with their own customized rendering of “happily ever after”.

One of my favorite songwriters, Sara Groves sings about how marriage parallels this literary construct in her song  Re-Write This Tragedy:

Tonight I forgot a line in the play that you and I
Have been rehearsing since the day we met.
It made me put down my script, made me look around a bit
And wonder how we came to play these parts.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell what to keep and what to kill
What of this makes us who we are?
All that we love the most, all that we cannot let go
How much of change can we survive?
So let’s re-write this tragedy.
One line at a time.
Hold on, we’re changing all the scenery.
It’s okay; we’ll be fine–
Cause we know how this ends.
We know there’s a better story–
Of true love
Of true grace.
There’s the hope of glory–
When we can’t stay where we are…..                      

That’s us– 26 years in. Re-writing our story. Making it better. Leaning hard on True Love and True Grace. Embracing the Hope of Glory.

Thank you Brian!  Thank you for marrying your story to mine.

Hopefully anticipating all the chapters yet to be written…

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