here, here and here.) That said, it causes me to reflect on the beautiful creature God has blessed me to walk beside for the last twelve years. I wanted to spend a little time speaking to some of my thoughts on that reality here.
As we mark the end of this cycle of chemo, I find myself remembering those first months we had together. We were very much in love, but we also didn't have a clue. One of the realities of getting married as young as we did was that I couldn't, at the time, name many of the things I have since found matter the most in marriage. When you are young, even if you think you know better, love is primarily a jumble of passion, romantic idealism, and sex drive. Those things are a part of God's good design for us, and they are certainly still there in our marriage, but they have been replaced at the center of my heart by other reasons to admire you. Those are the things I'd like to try to express here.
The first thing I have come to recognize as essential and beautiful in marriage is your faithfulness. That word gets short shrift because we think of it only in terms of what it avoids – to be “faithful” to one's spouse too often is reduced to not committing gross breaches of the wedding vows. I have something much deeper in mind when I say it.
You show a continual commitment to press into every area of life God has called you to. You are faithful in your walk with Him, always trying to learn and grow to be more like Him. Spiritual maturity is a long series of small choices pointed toward Jesus, and you exemplify the daily commitment to make those choices. You are faithful to the calling He has given you in the world. You use your gifts of kindness, encouragement, creativity, and listening to bless friends and neighbors. Lives have been subtly but radically transformed by your willingness to be present in them. You are faithful as a mother, pressing through the discouragements of parenting with an unswerving desire to grow these little lives into beautiful men and women. You have been faithful to love me, to really seek to love and build me up, even on days when I have been far from my best.
Joined with this, I have come to see the deep beauty of your humility and forgiveness. These two belong together because they are two halves of the same jewel. Humility drives us to recognize our own failings, to be quick to repent and own areas where we fall short. You have always been willing to do these things, seeking the fault you can own in conflicts and admitting your uncertainty and sin. At the same time, that humility also gives you a willingness to forgive. God alone knows you've had plenty of practice in this on my account. I know there have been things I have done and said and failures in my temperament that you could easily seize upon to grow indignant and bitter. Instead, you graciously overlook them. It is remarkable sometimes to realize that you look at me and don't see my very real deficiencies. More than that, you always remind me of the need to show this forgiveness to others. Often it is your gentle reply that dissolves the wrath I feel at some offense.
Lastly, and this is perhaps the most important but least commented on by those who discuss marriage, you show a commitment to delight. Life is given to us not simply to be endured but to be rejoiced in. You delight in the world, reminding me of the goodness in people and in the simple pleasures of being. You delight in our children and allow me to delight with you. For all the challenges of parenting, every day we still look over their heads and share smiles at the wonder of these lives we are shepherding. Somehow, you delight in me.
At root, the choice that daily confronts us is whether to celebrate God's goodness in our lives or to lose ourselves in pain and disappointment. The truth so many miss is that this is a choice. No marriage can survive if all that is kept is a record of shortcomings; any marriage can thrive if both members are joined in the mutual dance of celebration, looking for and therefore finding the glory God has placed in us as those who bear His likeness. You have consistently chosen delight.
The commitment we made in marriage was, in the end, to find our joy in this person. To rejoice in this person's body, even though mine is heavier and yours more scarred than when we took those vows. To rejoice in this person's vocation and giftings, even though parts of it were beyond imagining when we stood at the altar. To seek out and treasure the beauty in this human being. You rejoice like this in me and have always made it easy for me to rejoice in you.
The future is uncertain. Odds are, we don't have many more years to share this thing. Yet beauty is not diminished simply because it will pass, and the promise of the resurrection means that all beauties lost will be found again. It is in the sweetness of your beauty today and the faith that nothing good will finally be destroyed that I rejoice. You teach me the truth of love, and it has been a pleasure to learn it.