25 years today. I can hardly believe it.
The wedding pictures show what looks like two kids shining with sweat, standing in front of their community and making a gift of their life to one another, too young to fully comprehend what they were really doing, recklessly making promises to be faithful until death – that’s a long time when you’re that young.
I could hardly have imagined then what it would call out from me and demand from me, how deeply this covenant would forge the me I am today. My marriage to Betty has become the most formative, influential part of my life. Which is not to say it’s been without its share of pain because you know that’s always the way we are formed.
It began remembered as the “wedding from hell” (it was about 42 C with humidity off the charts that day in Chicago). But the story that’s unfolded has been far different, something rather magical and hard and baffling and tender and life-giving and messy and elegant and subtle and beautiful, sometimes all at once.
Entering into marriage you become a witness to another life, you give the gift of attention to the particularity of a person, taking note of the holy, peculiar beauty in that one life. This might sound lovely, maybe even romantic, but the trouble with a witness is that they see you on both your good days and your bad ones (and if you’re at all like me, you give plenty of evidence for the bent and broken side of yourself). You allow another person in close and there they see your cracked heart and all the shawdowy junk we mostly like to hide and photoshop out.
Chick-lit author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert gets at that reality:
People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other’s personalities. Who wouldn’t? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that’s not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that. I can make something out of it.’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.
The most remarkable grace in marriage is to be loved in all your incompleteness, accepted even in the face of all the crap that is our condition (after all, there is no other type of person to marry than someone who will disappoint you and let you down and probably hurt you along the way).
For 25 years, I’ve been given that stunning gift. Thank you for saying yes to the adventure, Betty, for calling out the good stuff in me; and thank you for saying yes everyday since, for writing a book of love and grace with me, despite all the crap you’ve witnessed in me.
I can’t think of a better song for this day than Peter Gabriel singing the perfectly serious and silly, quirky and beautiful “The book of love.”
Do me a favour – find four minutes and someone you love (your spouse, your roommate, your child, your cat), pour yourself a glass of the best wine you can find in the house, imagine yourself at a summer garden party with us celebrating our anniversary. Feel the grass in your bare feet, see the candles reflected in friends’ faces and white lights in the evening dusk. Now, join us for a dance to this song.