Twenty years ago today—November 7, 1996—I met Jenny Thayer. Twenty months and a few weeks later, she would become Jenny Schumacher, my wife.
In honor of these events, the first song I’m posting here is one that I wrote for our fifteenth anniversary—“Fifteen Years.” (Go ahead. Follow the link and have a listen. You can finish this post later.)
I wrote a song for our wedding, which I sang that day. It started:
Standing in a quiet sanctuary
I can almost feel your love for me
And if I could find a way,
I would have you stay
Forever here with me.
The sentiment of those lines (and the rest of the song) reflect the limited perspective of a twenty-one-year-old boy.
Our dreams of love and life together are often as manicured as a wedding day—dreamed up in every detail for maximal comfort and happiness. We imagine the joys, the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams, a life together as picture-perfect as that plastic couple on the top of the cake. Love will be decades of coming home from a satisfying work environment, ready to pour ourselves out for the good of the family. Love will be happy, healthy children who always make life sweeter. A perpetually passionate sex life. A Pinterestable home. A dog that doesn’t destroy anything.
Even when we dare imagine trials, they are equally romantic. Arguments will be shining examples of charitable communication and patient conflict-resolution. Disobedient children will receive calm, gracious correction and respond with repentant hearts and transformed conduct. Even death will be faced with unflinching faith. Being “in love,” we imagine, is a peaceful, perfect paradise.
Then you have a fight on the interstate two days into your honeymoon (that night when there literally wasn’t a vacant hotel room throughout the entire province of Quebec and you finally slept in the car at a rest stop after driving until 4am). And you disappoint each other without knowing it. And you wound each other in word and in deed—sometimes on purpose. And then a child vomits in the top bunk of the bunkbed and down the ladder and the wall next to the ladder and the floor and hallway and bathroom. And there are fights that leave you struggling to speak to each other for a week (or more). And four children die in the womb. And the church becomes mired in conflict. And a child mops the garage floor with root beer five minutes before the birthday party. And you battle depression and anxiety and burnout. And you change jobs and leave friends and move and move and move again when all you ever wanted was to put down roots and enjoy life in one place. And a father gets cancer and suffers and dies. And…
I was wrong about love. Love is not staying forever in the serenity of a quiet sanctuary. Love is never picture perfect. In seeking to love Jenny, I should not have sought to stay in that moment forever.
Love is dying to oneself for the good of another—and death hurts. Love is a hard thing to be in. Love is forgiving when we have been wronged, even as we have been forgiven. Love is facing together pain and failure that are far beyond our capacity to fix so that we learn to rest in the love of the One who is bigger than it all.
No one earth has loved me more or better than Jenny has. It hasn’t been easy. (I’m far more difficult to love that she is.) But I would do it all again. She loves me. And, I love her.
“Fifteen Years” is my attempt to say to Jenny a little of what I’ve learned in our first fifteen years of marriage (and now twenty years of knowing each other). You’re welcome to eavesdrop.
I hope it blesses you. I hope it helps you love.
Thanks for listening,