Five years ago today, I married my wife, Brandi.
I remember seeing her in her beautiful, white dress for the first time that day. Hair done up like a goddess, makeup like accents that highlighted her perfect skin, barefoot on the church’s carpeted floor. Irises hazel as the day I began calling her my Chocolate-Eyed Angel, nearly five years before that. This December, we’ll have been dating for ten years.
I could not have married a woman more different than I am. We talk about that sometimes. Ten years ago, both of us thought that we were more alike than we think we are now. And maybe we were. I used to have a really hard time with that, honestly. I equated difference with disunity, and even though we have our fair share of shouting matches, I no longer believe that is the case. I think that I had a skewed view of marriage, where love was synonymous with compliance, and if it didn't translate appropriately, I'd feel threatened instead of gifted with a helper who was strong enough to push back. Disagreement is not the equivalent of dishonor. It doesn't have to be, anyway.
When I officiated my sister-in-law's wedding this January, I shared with their guests how my wife's favorite response when asked about marriage is: it is hard. Personally, I like to enjoy a vast array of slightly more positive descriptors than hard, but hard is certainly one of them.
"The reason marriage is so painful and so wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared to believe, and at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Christ Jesus than we ever dared hope." - Timothy Keller
Brandi loves and forgives me beyond the pornographic residue that I brought into our marriage. And I'm not talking sexuality, primarily, but sentimentality.
Or idealogical unanimity.
Does such a thing even exist?
And who's conviction will transcend the other's? What a discouraging thing to discover the ways in which you thought headship meant "control." The things that I would take back. The subtle manipulation. The quiet degradation. The chauvinistic authority that I would champion as a Pharisee unto the law.
In recent months, I have been learning patience that used to terrify me as passivity. And I grow to understand, little by little, just how patient my bride has been beneath a hand as heavy as two stone tablets that never empowered the reader to live up to their inscriptions.
And in that way, Brandi has once again taught me the gospel of grace that she embodied in 2006, when I'd all but abandoned its hero. She is resilient in the simplicity of her faith, and patient while I muck up mine, falter all over the place and come back to her prayers.
Marriage seems more and more a miracle to me. It's a belief strengthened by those fifty years in, and those who've already abandoned the ring. By the grace of God, I pray that Brandi and I will find ourselves the former forty-five years from now.
If I have learned anything - if there is a tree that I long would deepen its root systems in my heart - it is that our rings are a symbol of freedom, not restraint. That we would fight to resist the lie that Eve believed in the garden: that "obedience" is "constricting." That is a serpent's lie. God is not a snake, and God is not suffocating us. Jesus turned water into wine. I have spent too much time trying to turn it back to water. The goal is to rejoice in the wife of my youth. Our rings are not burdens, but symbols of faithfulness and dedication to freely delight in one another.
One thing that's funny about my wife is that it takes her a really long time to read anything that I write, if she ever reads it at all.
But Brandi, whether you read this today or next month:
I delight in you.
Thank you for calling me your friend so many years ago, and being there for me on that day when I thought I'd lost everything.
Thank you for introducing me to what have become some of my best friends in the world.
Thank you for your faithfulness even when - and perhaps especially when - I fail to embody the confidence I'd like to lead from.
Thank you for forgiving me when I sin against you rather than resenting me, or stabbing me in the head, or something.
Thank you for reminding me that life doesn't need to be so loud all of the time. People don't have to praise me for everything. Thank you for growing exhausted with my constant need for validation. For reiterating the freedom of it is finished.
Thank you for introducing me to the hardcore scene, and pushing me to pursue every single worthwhile thing that I've ever done. For encouraging me to get out on the road. For coming out on the road with me. No one would ever read any of these words, or agree with them or get offended by them or decide that I've gone too far or that I haven't gone far enough, if it wasn't for you.
Thank you for your family. They have been more to me than I could have ever asked for.
I loved the girl who'd smoke Reds with me into the morning at the park by your place, but I love the fitness guru with the dirty glances at my tobacco-infidelities ten years removed just the same. Thank you for the differences. Thank you for change.
Inside, there is a deep longing for holiness. Our friend Donovan said that while we were hanging out at the brewery yesterday. And there is. It seems my sanctification is directly tied to your promise to "always be a butthead" that you read in your vows to me on April 2, 2011. Never make a promise you can't keep. Let your yes be yes. Haha.
One thousand, eight hundred and twenty five days ago, I was determined to reverse-engineer our entire existence like the god I can only assume I thought I was. I could have never imagined what these years would hold. If I've got a five year plan at this juncture it's simply to walk through it as one who believes there is life after survival. Buddy Wakefield gets the credit on that one, but if life, eternal, begins here and now, I think he's onto something.
I am a better man for the decade that I've spent with you, and for the five we've spent as one. Different and learning and disagreeing and loving and failing miserably, and forgiving and forgiven.
Thank you, B.
I love you,