Today is my 23rd wedding anniversary. This feels like an especially significant milestone because I’ve now been married for more than half of my life. I was just a few weeks shy of my 23rd birthday when Mr. Right and I said our vows. It was, up to that point, the happiest day of my life. I’d been in a couple of weddings by that time and I’d seen the wedding day jitters that can leave a bride stressed and crabby. I didn’t experience them myself. I remember on that day feeling like I was surrounded by all the love in the world: I was with my family, my friends and the man with whom I’d spend the rest of my life. Who could ask for more?
23 years is a long time. We have gone from a family of two to a family of seven. We have lived in four different homes. Together we have faced job losses, sicknesses, and the death of Mr. Right’s mom. We have both changed physically. Of course, we expected the physical changes. More striking are the emotional changes. What you can’t grasp when you are 22 is that you will not remain the same person as you grow older. And neither will the beautiful man who is beaming at you from the front of the church. You will be changed by life. Some of the changes will draw you closer together and some will pull you apart. It is a gut-wrenching feeling to find that where there was once agreement or understanding you have moved in different directions. No one is to blame. You are simply growing and leaving the past behind.
It makes marriage a risky proposition, really, even for those of us who see it (as we do) as a covenant, a promise before God. I knew who Mr. Right was when I took my vows, but I did not know who he would be, out in the future. Nor did he know what would become of that skinny, idealistic girl standing next to him. We were taking vows to love, forever, people we could not yet know.
In 23 years we have disappointed and hurt each other, but I can also say that I have learned what it is to be consumed with love for someone even in the midst of disappointment and hurt. And I’ve found that there are moments so powerful that they will serve as an anchor through the hard times. One of those moments for me was when Bee was being born. It was only my second delivery and during the first I’d been heavily medicated. This time I was experiencing the full force of labor pains. I started to panic, thought I wouldn’t survive it, and then Mr. Right told me to look at him. He was so calm. He looked at me with such love and such confidence that my anxiety immediately faded. Sometimes women in labor bring a photo of a “happy place”, or try to visualize one in their minds. I didn’t need one. My happy place was in Mr. Right’s eyes.
We are middle aged now, but God willing, I think we’ll have another 23 years together. Who will we be then? What kind of old man and old woman will we become? I don’t know. I can’t even answer for myself, much less for him. But I hope, I pray, I trust that I’ll still find a home in his eyes.