Our romance began three years earlier at freshman orientation. I was smitten first. The very moment I first saw her on a clear starry night I knew I would marry her. With one glance, I knew the path of my romantic life was trod. Now to get her to travel that path with me.
You see, I was smitten at first sight but she played it cool. She thought I was just another goofy college freshman. Imagine that! Me… goofy?! Are you kidding? As I recall that freshman orientation class, I was the coolest brutha there! In the parlance of the day, I was “fresh.” “Dope” even. So I put my mack down and asked her out.
Would you believe this woman stood me up six times in that four-day weekend orientation?! She left me looking and hanging for every meal… twice. I’m convinced this is some kind of Guinness Book of World Records entry–“most times a man has been stood up by a woman in a single weekend.” Yeah, I own that title.
So, what happened? How did we become Mr. and Mrs. Twenty Years Later? At the end of orientation, I asked for her phone number. She asked for mine instead. Ouch. But two weeks later she called. Seems we really were meant for each other, and that vision of marriage still had life. Since our hometowns were separated by four hours’ drive, we didn’t see one another for the remainder of the summer. Instead, we spoke by phone nearly every day and sometimes a couple times a day. By the time freshman year began, we were friends who delighted in one another and we were committed to going out when we hit campus. During our first two years in college, we were so joined at the hip that people thought we were married already. Well, except for those people who thought I looked old enough to be her father and sometimes had the gumption to ask, “Is this your daughter?” or “How old is your daughter?” My wife still loves those stories!
Anyway, she said “Yes” when we were juniors in college. We were flat broke and full of hope, confident that we were meant to be husband and wife.
We didn’t know the Lord then, but He knew us. As we look back, I’m certain that He had prepared this life for us to walk in. I’m not saying couples should wait for some magic moment or look for some sign. But I am saying, the Lord knew what was best for me. Her name is Kristie. For twenty years of marriage, I have been the happy recipient of only good and the Lord’s undeserved favor (Prov. 18:22).
Last Christmas, while driving through North Carolina, my wife and I took the kids back to our alma mater, N.C. State University. I took my oldest daughter, Afiya, to the very spot where I first saw her mother and knew I’d marry her. Afiya has heard me tell that story probably hundreds of times. We stood on the brickyard just outside the “free expression tunnel,” now modernized with handicap accessible ramps, new steps, and a new flower bed with metal sculptures of the school mascot, The Wolfpack. I pointed to the spot where a payphone once stood, showing her the exact positions Kristie and I occupied that night in July 1988. Then I wept. And wept. I cried that big-balloon-of-gratefulness-in-your-chest-but-try-to-hold-it-together-because-you’re-a-man cry, the one where you’re suddenly overwhelmed with emotion and can hardly get your breath–but you’re deeply happy. So happy. Shoulders convulsing, eyes flooding with sweet tears, vision blurring.
Afiya and I stood on holy ground. It had been holy ground in July 1998. God had been there that summer night, and He gave a young blind man enough vision to see his future. His wife. That spot has been my Ebenezer for over 20 years. In those few minutes I had the privilege of telling Afiya, “This is what these stones mean.”
That’s how it all began. My wife has her own version of things (mine is the official version). But on this we agree: It’s only gotten better year after year. The Lord put us together. The Lord saved us together. The Lord uses us together. May the Lord be glorified for these twenty years.
My only beloved, on our twentieth anniversary, here are twenty things I have only grown to love and appreciate more and more about you and our life together:
1. The way angels play and sing inside your laugh.
2. The southern graciousness and hospitality you show everyone you meet, with that country twang.
3. The unfading beauty, precious in God’s eyes, of your meek and gentle spirit.
4. The toughness you show when you persevere through the family’s fevers, runny noses, hurricanes, and my absences, only to revert to squealing at the tiniest bugs you need your man to kill. I know you kill them when I’m not at home.
5. The joyful contentment you demonstrate in almost everything. I’ve never met your equal in contentment.
6. Your earnest love for Jesus and His word. I’m not your equal in adoration for our King.
7. The way you disdain light, fluffy “women’s” books for meaty, meaningful, rich biblical truth, only to curl up later and watch a chick flick.
8. The feeling of being cared for and listened to that you leave behind everywhere you go.
9. Your unwavering faith in the promises, goodness, and grace of God.
10. The way you make me want to live more fully, and the way you make me “go outside” when I’m closing in on myself.
11. Your gentle, simple, courageous honesty–always telling the truth and always loving at the same time.
12. My heart safely trusts in you.
13. The way you laugh at your jokes long before you get to the punchline, then you’re so doubled over with laughter you can’t finish the joke.
14. Your sold-out partnership in the gospel of our Lord, your zeal to make Him known, and your faithfully teaching the children to love the gospel ministry and partner with us in it.
15. I can’t express appreciation enough for the ways you pray for me, soothe and comfort me, bandage my wounds, heal my bruises, check my sin, inspect my heart, and point me to Jesus when I need it most. In human relationships, only you can and should play this role, and you do it so skillfully and lovingly.
16. Your faithfulness as a mother, teaching our children the most important things about God, His Son, themselves, eternal life, modesty, service, joy, hope, and glory.
17. You’re my best friend, and that doesn’t keep you from offering your friendship to many, many others.
18. You’ve never dishonored me, even when I’ve given you reason and others would have understood.
19. The way you sometimes just sit with me, saying nothing, knowing everything, expressing clearly.
20. The way you keep looking with me to whatever future the Lord has for us, embracing it hopefully, preparing fearlessly, praying “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”
Iseeyouwithmyeyes. I love you with an everlasting love. These twenty years have been but a daydream. May the Lord give us many more years of life, love, marriage, and ministry. Or may He call us to himself together.