Our family attended the wedding of a former student near the end of August. I caught some of it on video; the bride gave me her blessing to share it with you. If you choose to watch it, you still won't be able to see what I saw. For, like other married persons, I experience weddings as a time of personal reflection. This day was no different. Well, other than the fact that on the way to the wedding, Mark and I argued in the car - loudly. Yes, we exposed our children to the nonsense of a marital fight. I would use the word "disagreement," but who would I be kidding? When a husband and a wife argue, it is a fight with words. Someone wants to win.
Am I ashamed our sons were captive to such? Yes. Does that mean Mark and I will never do such a thing again? I hope so. But odds are against it. We love intensely; we fight intensely. We make up reluctantly, but intentionally. We try to be sure our sons get to see the "it's all better" part too.
Of course I cannot remember what was so important to be right about. After all, winning is about being right. Right? It was something totally stupid, I am sure. I have a feeling if I ask either of our sons, they could tell me. But I won't ask. Who wants to dredge then reexamine stupidity? Not I.
What I do remember from that day is realizing that Mark and I are extremely different from the blushing bride and bursting-with-pride groom we were in 1986. On the Friday of Memorial Day weekend that year, we stood arm-in-arm, listening to the officiant of our wedding, Rev. Larry Trachte, declare that May 30 was "a day marked with joy." Then, as newlyweds during Mark's seminary years, we became Mark and Joy. I'd even say that the experiences of that time period turned us into Mark&Joy - a symbiotic couple whose relationship further deepened and solidified after a miscarriage and the birth of our first child only a few years later.
Nearly 25 years since we said our own "I dos" (I believe we actually said "I will"), it remains difficult to know where one of us ends and other other begins. That isn't necessarily good.
During the summer of 2000, we treated ourselves to some marriage counseling sessions and discovered how intensely entwined our relationship had become. We had not lost our individual identities, but we had to admit that Stross had caused Mark&Joy to become exponentially more important than either Mark or Joy.
That is still true today. In fact, I can't imagine it not being true, and I'm not sure if that is necessarily good, either. But it is, what it is, as they say.
Here is what I do know. When Mark takes a hit, I get bruised; and when I get cut, Mark bleeds. What's more, if someone dares to bare his or her teeth our direction, it is not clear which one of us will have the most difficult time not biting back.
On the day of this wedding, once we had time for tempers to cool - courtesy of a wedding aura - Mark and I welcomed the opportunity to come together at the invitation of the dj: "All married couples, come join the bride and groom for a special anniversary dance." And had we not willingly walked to the dance floor together, our sons would have insisted.
What occurred next, however, brought even more perspective. The dj kept announcing criteria for which couples could remain on the dance floor: "Everyone except the bride and groom who has been married X number of years or less, please have a seat." Finally, four announcements of time increments later, guess which couple was almost the last one dancing? Mark&Joy. According to the bride's estimate, we outlasted everyone but the groom's parents.
This silly dancing game reminded us that long marriages are, indeed, rare. And that, at nearly 25 years, our marriage might be as rare as we have always believed it to be.
When we vowed to spend our lives with one another one quarter of a century ago, we had no ability to comprehend how different we would be from the young man and young woman who stood facing each other, hand-in-hand that day. If that tall, handsome, smiley, Southern Baptist man came to find me today, I'm not sure I'd know what to do. I'm confident Mark would have the same difficulty if he found himself face to face with the dark-eyed, daintier, dimpled darling I used to be.
I wish I could have done a better job capturing all the moments that have shaped who we have become. But I would have needed a Flip camera capable of capturing faith. No piece of film, no byte of data can ever make that come to be. Memory even fails. But that doesn't matter, I will never forget what I have. It is exactly what I hoped for nearly 25 years ago: a life partner who continues to stand beside me no matter what life threatens to throw our way. And his faith in us and our future remains as fierce as it was so many years ago.
For a guy who grew up not going to dances, he's sure an incredible dancer. And I'm incredibly blessed to be the one who gets to dance with him. I sure hope we aren't taking it for granted that - as on the night of that wedding - we are becoming some of the last ones still dancing together.
"For I know the plans I have for you ... plans to prosper, and not to harm; plans for hope and a future."
Dear God, search us and know our hearts; test us and know our thoughts. See if there are any wicked ways in us, and lead us in the way everlasting. And, dear God, please keep us close. Allow us to keep feeling your heart while we dance for we wish to remain with you through it all - until the last ones dancing.