You’ve been away for a week now, and I miss you so much more than I expected. I say “expected” because we both know what it’s like in this house: how busy, how loud, how full, oh, these days. I mean, I knew we would miss you but we have school and preschool, get-togethers, family, friends, church, work, life still happening. Surely I’ll be too busy for longings. Two nights in, I was standing in our closet, with my eyes closed, smelling your clothes. I did all the laundry, and I cried because I missed your gigantic jeans with the frayed hems filling up our old washing machine. I haven’t cooked a real meal all week, we’re subsisting on grilled cheese and pancakes, I guess you’re the one for whom I cook.
This week, I’ve been remembering the years of spiritual disunity between us, particularly around community and church, calling and vocations. Maybe it’s because you’re back in Texas, with our beloved friends-like-family, and the Great State was the scene of one existential crisis after another for me (or maybe I was just too hot, we all know how grouchy I can be when I’m sweaty). So I remembered how burned out and broken I was ten years ago, then, you joined me seven years ago, and we moved, then we went different directions somehow. Remember this?
I railed against institutions and organizations, wouldn’t darken the door of a “real” church, became fluent in fault-finding and cynicism, the word “orthodoxy” made my left eye twitch, while you tacked hard the other way, steering towards seminary, conservative denominations, structures, authorities, you longed for accountability.
Many saw me, and my questions, my wonderings, my wanderings, as a liability to your calling, they felt badly for you, I was holding you back. Why couldn’t I fall in line? I know this. (I felt badly for you, too.) And others on my side couldn’t understand why you were going back into the old ways, when God was moving as a fresh wind, beyond boundaries and walls.
Even though we were so far apart on so many seemingly vital things, we were so happy, weren’t we? we were still us.
People would raise eyebrows at you: What about your calling to pastor? The years were going by. They were concerned. And you would say, I’m trusting God with that one. And then you would laugh and say, Well, I’ll just send them Sarah’s blog, and if they still want us – you always said “us” not “me” – after that, I guess we’ll know it’s a good fit.
We were moving towards each other. But it took a while. You moved, and I moved, and God was moving, and we were meeting at a thousand points in the sky. Today, we stand together, all these years later, in harmony and in step, in agreement, in unity, oneness, even in the places where we disagree (still) (yes, still).
I looked back on that season of our marriage, the season when we were so different, and I remembered you telling me that this was not going to change us. We could give each other the gift of time, and space, room to change without fear.
There wasn’t an urgency of trying to convince each other, was there? I didn’t feel the need to make you believe and think in my ways. I understood why you were there. And you gave me the same grace, didn’t you? You even gave me the extra measure, the freedom to explore my struggles and ideas and weaknesses in a public place, you were not threatened by me. And when you were faced with the choice between full-time vocational ministry or a strong marriage, you chose me. Don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Don’t think I’ll ever forget how you stay here, in a small city in Canada, for me, for our tinies, even now. Don’t think I’ll forget how we each let each other be wrong, for a long time, each.
I had a friend ask me: but how? How do you disagree so strongly on something as vital as your spirituality or your expression of faith? How do you fall away from everything you believed, and yet, yet, not fall away from each other? because don’t you have to solve all your problems before the sun goes down? don’t we have to stay at it, marriage is hard work after all, until all is resolved and everyone is singing from the same sheet of music?
Maybe. But we didn’t do it that way. The sun has set on our disagreements, many times over. We’ve gotten a lot of practice at living in the in-betweens, we figure that’s where the life happens, and we figured we wanted to love well, even, especially, here.
The sun went down, we still disagreed mightily, and we kissed in our old bed anyway.
I remember you saying it to me, over and over: meant to be, Sarah Lynn. Meant to be. We were meant to be, we built it down in the foundations of our story, and so we were safe there. We knew that if we were faithful to God, faithful to each other, that we would end up where we were meant to be all along, eventually, even now.
God gave you to me, darling, and he gave me to you, for this journey, and we figured we both had a lot to learn, and so we gave each other the room to change.
You’ve given me so many gifts but I think of one often: you just aren’t afraid. You are never afraid, you walk in such trust, and expectation, in bold gentleness. Bri, this part of our story would have looked so differently if you hadn’t been so fearless. But because you weren’t afraid, I was not afraid, and we simply rested, even danced, there, in the in-between, and we talked a lot, and we waited. The Spirit moved me, and the Spirit moved you, and we moved together always, to now. We’ll move somewhere else – literally, figuratively – someday, I imagine.
You’ll be home tonight, we made you muffins. I call sleep-in tomorrow morning. Thank you for letting me change. Thank you for changing.