We stood under the large tree, an emerald carpet of grass stretching out from under our feet. In some ways, it felt like it was yesterday that we said our vows under that tree’s branches. In other ways, it felt as if too much life has been lived to fit into the years that stand between then and now.
I wasn’t sure exactly what Jimmy was thinking as we stood quietly, absorbing the scene before us and remembering the day like a movie flashback in our minds. But when we looked at each other and laughed, I knew that our thoughts were the same.
We got married fairly young and have never regretted that decision. Marriage at that time in our lives was a good choice for us. If we were having coffee with you right now, we would both tell you that we were prepared for marriage and knew what it meant to commit to one another. But aside from each other, we would also tell you that we had no idea what exactly we were committing to. We had no idea what our first handful of years together would bring.
Believe me when I tell you that as two Type A, firstborns, we definitely had a plan. We had a vision for what our life would look like for the next, five, ten, and twenty years. And we assumed that if we stuck to the plan, worked hard, and paid attention, t we could more or less make that plan happen.
But life quickly taught us that plans are meant to be held loosely and often look different than the set of expectations we tend to hold tight. We laughed because the vision we held on our wedding day is so completely different than what has actually happened. I guess our stories often unfold differently than the one we would have written for ourselves.
I recently heard a sermon given by Richard Dahlstrom from Bethany Community Church in Seattle. In the sermon, he reminded the congregation that we “marry a person, not a plan.” Yes! What I know to be truer now than I did on our wedding day is the fact that when we say our vows, we choose a partner, not a plot line.
As I share this with you, I have tears in my eyes. In just a few years, we’ve been given a glimpse of our particular brand of “for better or for worse.” This chapter of our adventure story has proven to be wildly different than the one we would have written together on our wedding day. A few of the tears are tears of grief – sadness over what has been lost. And I’ll be honest with you and tell you that a few of the tears are tears of fear – worry about what might not happen. Many are tears of joy for the countless gifts we have been given. The gift of holding James in our arms is a big blessing! But mostly, these are tears of gratitude. Because when we stood under that tree again a few weeks ago, I looked at Jimmy and thought, “I’m so glad I chose you…”
You see, “I choose you,” means something different to me than it did before. Admittedly, I thought I had a lot more control over my life than I actually do. Somewhere in my subconscious I had the impression that choosing a person also meant choosing a plan. My love for Jimmy never changed, but life gave me a fast and furious education on the fact that my control is actually quite limited and that Jimmy and I are meant to be partners, not planners.
Now, “I choose you,” means choosing “us” over “me.” It means feeling all the feels and committing to working it out together. It means being open to the ways that love is asking me to change – not in a way that makes me lose my identity, but in a way that asks me to grow. It means remembering that we are on the same team, even if that’s difficult to see.
It is worth noting that I fail at the above all the time. So for me, “I choose you,” actually means choosing God first. Because as wonderful as I think Jimmy is, he is not capable of meeting all my needs, fulfilling all of my longings, and healing all of my wounds. So for us, choosing each other means turning to God’s grace and truth first. And it is my prayer, that in our failures, we can point one another toward the God who has already chosen us by grace over and over again.