15 years. Has it really been 15 years?
Where did we imagine that we’d be in 15 years, back in 2000?
Overseas, probably. In some tribal village, with a couple kids or three.
Or maybe working with youth in a city somewhere.
Or church planting in a college town.
Pastoring a small country church in rural West KY, homeschooling six kids? Yeah, we didn’t see that coming at all.
Do you remember our dreams? Do you remember the nights and car rides when we would talk and dream and plan and wonder? I don’t think this current situation was ever even discussed as a possibility.
But you know what?
This is everything I’ve ever dreamed of without knowing it.
I found a song earlier this spring that makes me wonder if Andrew Peterson has been spying on us. It tells our story so accurately, so completely.
“I was 19, you were 21 the year we got engaged.” True.
“Everyone said we were much too young, but we did it anyway.” Very true.
“We bought the rings for $40 each from the pawn shop down the road. We said our vows and took the leap now fifteen years ago.” Well, we got our rings for $20 each from a jewelry store going out of business, but close enough. And I don’t think it was a coincidence that I happened to hear this song for the first time weeks before our 15th anniversary.
When we were being so stubborn, insisting we were ready when everyone else thought we should wait, we were so sure that even if it wasn’t always easy, that our love was strong and that our relationship would keep growing stronger through every storm that came our way. And we were right.
I have absolutely no regrets about getting married so young. None. I am so thankful for the history we share. We have literally grown up together. We’ve been together since I was 14, you were almost 16. Married since before we graduated college. We have walked together through more of our lives than not. As we’ve been figuring out life, we’ve had the privilege of being able to figure it out together.
“So let’s go dancing in the minefields. Let’s go sailing in the storms. This was harder than we’d dreamed but I believe that’s what the promise is for.”
Sometimes I’ve wondered why things just didn’t seem to work out for us for so long. We entered every job, every church, every house–well, except for that lovely Jeffersonville townhouse–with fresh hopes, fresh dreams, fresh expectations. And time after time, it just didn’t work. There for awhile life did, indeed, seem like a minefield for us. If we were going to sail at all, it would have to be through a storm.
But God was working. He was working in you, He was working in me, He was working in us. And He was using the storms and the minefields to accomplish His purposes in us.
We grew up together, yes, which means we had much growing up to do. God took us on several detours because we weren’t ready yet. He tenderly led us through the minefields, through the storms, where we saw our dreams blow up around us, saw lightning strike our expectations, but He was faithful and good. None of it was wasted. None of it was for nothing. He knew exactly what storms were necessary to make us into who we are right now. And just the little we can see now about what He was doing then, convinces us to trust Him to use whatever storms are still ahead to make us into who He still wants us to be.
“‘I do’ are the two most famous last words, the beginning of the end. But to lose your life for another, I’ve heard, is a good place to begin. ‘Cause the only way to find your life is to lay your own life down. And I believe it’s an easy price for the life that we have found.”
Growing up together has sometimes rubbed us the wrong way, it’s true. Most people in their early 20’s are still living up the single life, living completely for themselves. We were learning how to consider another person’s needs instead of just our own. We were juggling school, work, and now a marriage. And sometimes, we dropped one of the balls. Sometimes, we acted like we were still single and hurt each other’s feelings. And sometimes, we still do. But over the years, we’ve been learning what it means to lay our lives down for each other. Restricting my liberty for your benefit is hard in the moment. Dying to self, even for the one you love the most, is always a painful process. But it is only in that death of self that new life is found. And God has given us such a beautiful life together as we’ve learned to lay our own lives down.
“So when I lose my way, find me. When I loose love’s chains, bind me. At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days, when I forget my name, remind me.”
As we’ve walked together for fifteen years, there have been times when one or the other of us has lost our way. I’ve needed you to help me find my way again. You’ve needed me to help you bind love’s chains again. You’ve needed to remind me of my faith. I’ve needed to remind you of your faith. And there may come a day when I need you to remind me who I am. Thank you for living out the promise on those hard days. Thank you for loving me when I forget.
“‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man, so there’s nothing left to fear. So I’ll walk with you in the shadowlands till the shadows disappear. ‘Cause he promised not to leave us and his promises are true.”
There is so much comfort in knowing that you are walking with me here in the shadowlands. But there is even more comfort in knowing that one day the shadows will disappear. The purpose of our marriage is to reflect the love Christ has for His bride, the church. When we keep our promise to each other, which we can do only because He keeps His promises to us, we show the watching world that His promises are true. Our marriage is about far more than just us. Let’s use our marriage to show the truth that even more than me never leaving you, and you never leaving me, Christ will never leave His bride and that’s a promise far stronger than any we could make.
“So in the face of all this chaos, baby, I can dance with you.”
So here we are. Dancing in the minefields. Living out the promise. Walking together. Growing up together, or maybe now we’re growing old together, I’m not sure.
And I love you, Clay Hall. I love the dance. I love the life we’ve found. Happy 15 years. Let’s keep sailing.