Who really knows how to love another person for an entire life? Marriage is a furnace, a refiner’s fire made hot by God’s bellows, for melting the will into liquid resignation as the dross of sin and self surface. It would have been so easy for her to pull out, to quit those vows, to take back promises, to choose an easier path. I did not know how to listen, was not fluent in the language of the heart. I was too wise in my own eyes. I loved her, but she had a fierce competitor in the person who daily stared back at me from the mirror.
Fourteen years must seem short to our parents and grandparents who have persevered for thirty years or sixty, who have known more of the "for worse...for poorer...in sickness" than have we. But it has been long enough to test the mettle, to sleep in the flames of this furnace, and to see the refined silver begin to emerge. Enough to move through both the warm naivety of love’s first blush and the cold disillusionment of frustrated expectations on to the fierce white-hot passion born of determined commitment and self-denying love.
I knew then, but understand now, that there are seasons in marriage. There are seasons of breaking fallow ground and of sowing in tears and of reaping in joy. There are seeds of sacrifice that must be planted in hope and watered with prayer and fertilized with forgiveness and compassion. And after the seeds grow and the fruit ripens, there is the sweet taste of joy in the joy of the other.
I love her more now than I did fourteen years ago. I love her because her common sense keeps me grounded. Her smiles and songs brighten my days and nights. Her laughter pulls me out of my sometimes too fretful solitude and tethers me to the gift of life. Her tenderness sensitizes me to the needs of our children. Her courage emboldens me, makes me brave. Her forgiveness reassures me that grace is real.
Holly, you are my best friend and the love of my life. Thanks for saying yes, and then I do, and then I love you and I forgive you ten thousand times. Thanks for staying true to me, to us, to our Lord. Thanks for carrying and bearing and nurturing and teaching and loving and being with Stephen, Matthew and Susannah. You are a beautiful woman, an excellent wife, a loving mom. We’ve had fourteen years. I hope we have fifty more. Happy anniversary.
With all my heart,