It was thirteen years ago today that we stood before family and friends and I happy-cried my mascara away underneath my veil. It had been such a long and difficult journey to reach that sacred spot at the altar in that little church tucked beside highway 101… That wooden platform may as well have been the peak of Mt. Everest! It may as well have been the silvery surface of the moon! But it wasn’t the moon, it was California. And we were finally, finally a family.
Since that day, marriage, for me, has been much less like an arrival and much more like a departure. It has been a long departure from a self-focused life, and a departure that I will continue in until my very last breath. I will never arrive. I will never “get there”. But that is the beauty of marriage and the beauty of ALL relationships! They require great sacrifice of time, comfort, control and desires. But, oh, what great gains you receive in return! The gift of learning to look outside of yourself and put the needs of others before your own is a gift worth any cost. It pulls you into life and out of the bleachers. It pulls you into the game! It invites you to roll up your sleeves and jump in to the nitty-grittiness of life and love. The invitation to this selflessness can be found in friendships or parenthood or family or community. Where there are others, there are opportunities to grow bigger than yourself.
As I have reflected on the last thirteen years of my own life, I have been both encouraged and challenged. I have come so far, but have infinitely farther to go. It is still so hard for me to think of Chris’ needs or my kids’ needs or my friends’ needs before I think of my own. It’s so hard for me to sacrifice my time in order to help someone who has hit a rough patch. It’s so much easier for me to just focus on my phone or the TV than to put myself out there and pour myself out for others. Relationships can be messy! But real life is at stake! I have been given great examples to follow in my husband and my friends. They show up time and time again to encourage, help, and push me when I need it most. They model hospitality, loyalty and service. They aren’t looking only at themselves; they are also looking at ME. And that, in turn, causes me to want to look to someone else who needs to be seen. Feeling seen in our hardest moments buoys us. It starts a beautiful chain reaction, if we’ll let it, and I’m so grateful for those who have linked me into such a chain over the years. We must find people who link together like this and join in.
Today, especially, on my anniversary, I am thankful for my husband Chris for doing this for me. Even when I refuse to meet his gaze, he sees me. He puts his needs on hold and moves mountains to meet mine. I am who I am today because of him and because of this path that we started together thirteen years ago, and I hope to become more and more like his example with each year that is to come. This long journey of “departure” is taking me much farther and to much more beautiful places than I could have ever gone on my own, and I’m grateful for each and every step.