Someone recently asked me if I loved you more now than when we got married.
Since that was exactly 11 years ago today- Happy Anniversary, babe- I thought I would answer that here as an anniversary gift to my man, since we can't be together.
When we got married, I had known you for a total of 6 months. 6 months filled with dates where we realized that we may be the only people attending our conservative Christian school who shared a mutual appreciation for the new “Lauryn Hill” unplugged album. You took me to a cool coffee place and sushi on our first date. I told you funny stories to get you laughing that awkwardly loud in social spaces laugh you do. I asked you what you thought about controversial topics just to see how you would answer. I found out that you have a love for words. Not in the “I am a poet” way but in the “I think words matter a lot and I think about what a word means for days on end sometimes.”
I realized during our dating that you were gonna kill it in Scrabble with that word-love. I found scrabble boring.
I also realized, during what was almost an ill fated date, that you didn't love games like Cranium, where you may be asked to hum “Hotel California” during a humdinger. I, on the other hand, have always found it enormously entertaining to make a fool of myself in front of others. We were alike in so many ways, and yet so different. You, with your Sonic the Hegehog hair spiked all over your head and me with my pink and purple streaks trailing through my locks. You, being one of the only males I had ever enjoyed talking to beyond...2 minutes or so. I found you so interesting and yet unlike anyone I had expected to love forever.
Maybe my favorite thing about you then..and now…is the way you loved people and people loved you. It didn't take more than a short conversation with you to know that you were authentic and sincere and naturally focused on the person you were talking to. And the best part was that this quality you had with people was for all people. The ones you knew and the ones you didn't. The ones you agreed with and the ones you didn't. You just genuinely like people and like talking with them, about anything. I have always found people to be the most beautiful and worthwhile mystery on this earth and well worth the attention that seeing them takes. And so, when we were together, we could literally go anywhere and meet anyone...together. I think it's still the funnest thing we do together.
These and so many other things drew me to you and had me saying, “Yes” when you proposed in front of our small group on that summer night in June. And then, on that afternoon in October, I said yes again...not to an idea but to faith in a reality. Not because I knew what the future would hold but because I knew who held our future. It was a glorious day with not a single regeret (except maybe for how much money I let my parents spend on me...they are so good to us...sorry mom and dad...I'd go cheaper today, I swear).
I loved you deeply and hopefully on that day. But mostly, I really liked you. We had never had any major conflict. It's not that we didn't disagree. It's just that when you like someone so much it's easy to be a peacemaker and move on. Remember that, y'all. If you are struggling to make peace in your marriage, what is keeping you from liking your spouse? It's not hard to not argue with a friend. Besides, what did we really have to argue about that mattered?
Now, 11 years later, do I love you more than I did the day we were married? It's a bit of apples and oranges if you ask me. The past 11 years we have made and given birth to 5 children together. We have moved so many times I have literally lost count. We have lived cross culturally multiple times. We have faced the possible loss of a child and lived in a hospital for months with him. We have taken home and cared for a special needs child for years together. We have done many years of draining, at times gut wrenching ministry, towards God's people together. We have always never made quite enough money to just sit back and relax. We have disagreed on how and when we should spend that little bit of money. Or worse, just not communicated well about it and both spent it only to find out we didn't have it. Not that that has ever happened...just sayin' it could. We have seen our different upbringings be exposed in unexpected moments. Yes, we have lost jobs we thought we would have and got jobs we thought we had lost. We have made so many beautiful memories together. 5 times we cried and fought to bring our children into the world and you held my hand and cried and fought with me. Then we held our person. A little bit of you and a little bit of me. We held those miraculous people whom we had just met face to face for the first time and marveled at them in a way no other person possibly could. We have seen God show up and provide for us when we thought we may not be able to buy food or pay bills and we were reminded that God loves us...this. You and I together. When Shepherd came home and I couldn't function after 5pm, you would gently send me to bed and let me just sleep away the stress in a cold room on a hot summer night in the pitch black dark, while you waited up for the nurses who didn't come until 11pm. You, holding your little tiny boy with a tube in his nose and a feeding pump and a trach in his neck to breath. But you were brave and you cared for him without “needing” me so that you could care for me. We have argued over your discomfort and my love of dancing in social situations. At one time, we got so worked up we had to cut the evening short and go home... an event which was planned for an elite group of “spiritual leaders” to have a fun night. The irony gets me a good belly laugh every time. We huffed off and then sat in a parking lot and heard eachother out-argued-whatever. I think we understood each other more after that night than we had for years before that. At least as it pertains to dancing, my love. We have argued, a lot some times. Sometimes it was worth duking it out. Many times, it wasn't. 11 years later, we have seen so many good days together. But we have also seen so many hard days that wore us down- flat out weary- and stressed completely out. It's kind of like date night. When we “get away” and it's just you and I ,and I'm like, “Woah, look at that! I like this guy! He's fun!” but in day to day life there are just so many stressors and it's just so unfun sometimes, ya know? When we got married,11 years ago, I loved you. The way I love you on date night. But today, I love you like war buddies love each other. We have been in so many situations, more and more all the time it seems, that break us down to the raw us that often hides beneath a polished exterior. And I think we would both agree that when the worst of us comes out, we don't like it much less love it. There are weaknesses to who I am and weaknesses to who you are that we would never have seen until we were trying to figure out how to speak kindly to the disrespectful ten year old while the eight year old was breaking stuff in the other room and toddler is crying which just woke up the baby who just got to sleep. It's kind of like 11 years ago we married the handsome smart doctor version that Hulk is in his human form, but occasioanly... we are actually married to ugly,destructive Hulk. Sin is just like that, all inconvenient and messy and always there.
Do I love you more now than I did 11 years ago? Totally. That Dr. Scientist with the green skin and glasses and compassionate look in his eyes...that Hulk..He was great and it was fun and easy to love him. But today, you and I both have tears in our white jackets from all the metamorphisizing we've done in and out of so many seasons. We don't look so...perfect...to each other, I am sure. I know you, Noah Joyner. And I love you, deeply. Not just cause you're like totally the coolest guy I've ever met. But because sometimes I don't think you're cool at all but I am, with every fiber of my body, comitted to learning to love you better all the time. And not just out of duty. But because you, my wonderful man are a beautiful creation of God, a wonder to behold and the mining of your heart I will have to do in this lifetime to see you, and know you, and then see you and know you all over again day after day. That. I'm in for that. Forever. You are worth any of the effort and you have shown me that kind of love for 11 years straight. Yep, we had every reason to be all doe-eyed on October 2, 2004. Because just as we had hoped, God would show up, and carry us through. Whatever the future held. And He has. And he will.
Let's do that again. Every day.