My dearest love (whoever you are),
These past few weeks have been littered with emotions and pain. First came rejection from one of my closest friends and second came fear from an entire state away. It's now Easter weekend and I'm experiencing Jesus in ways I never have. It's Saturday, the day between the tragedy and the victory. It's a day of defeat and disappointment. It's not a day that's full of much hope, that's for sure. There's a stillness in this day that feels more like stagnant water on a hot summer day attracting nothing but mosquitos. Nothing is moving and the pain keeps cutting deeper.
Last night I spent the evening at a concert that my church hosts every year on Good Friday. It was beautiful and so incredibly done, but as I sat 20 rows from the front the only thing I could think about was how bad it all hurt. I sang with all my might to God although I really just wanted to scream at Him. I was claustrophobic, sitting in a weird spot, I wore the wrong shoes (which isn't new ... I hate to warn you,) and all I wanted to do was go home and change into sweatpants and a t-shirt and pout into my journal. And then Kari Jobe sang this line and every longing thing in my heart that felt unmet shifted almost as if she had gotten the code to the lock correct. "Gethsemane, where heaven met me."
Gethsemane. A word that literally means, "the place of crushing." Gethsemane. The place of pain and fear. "Gethsemane, where heaven met me." Pain and rejection both had to bow the moment I heard that line. Knowing Heaven had met me in the place of my crushing forced every other thing into alignment.
As I write this I'm listening to Hillsong's "Here Now." "Here now. Still my heart. Let Your voice be all I hear now. Here now. Fix my eyes on things that I can't see now. Spirit breathe like the wind come have Your way. 'Cause I know You're in this place." ... In THIS Place. The place where it all hurts so bad I can't see. The familiar place. The place where someone and something else was chosen above me. But He came. His arm wasn't too short to reach me. He inconvenienced Himself by stepping out of heaven and into flesh and THAT ... that would've been enough. But then He insisted on dying in order to save me from the eternal grave.
Heaven met me in the hardest places because we have a God who cares, and then Heaven wrapped flesh around its words and God came to empathize ... with ME, and then the One sent to comfort me in my mourning was betrayed and whipped and beaten until his flesh was unrecognizable ... and then they hung Him naked on a cross on the top of the garbage heap just outside of town in a place known for death. Oh, my love I only thought I had met my Gethsemane until I saw Calvary. It was the greatest of exchanges. The One who bent Heaven to meet my heart bore my every suffering ... but He wasn't finished yet. The day He came walking out of that grave and sent angels to tell the mourners of His whereabouts, He did a whole lot more than just wake up from death ... He invited me to live and equipped me to join Him in bringing justice and light to all the world.
On Friday I asked for this lesson in formative pain to stand down, not knowing that I would watch a movie today centered around a pain I never could've imagined. "The Zookeeper's Wife", set in Warsaw, Poland in 1943. The Holocaust. As I sat there in the fetal position sobbing, the lesson in pain that I had asked to stand down displayed itself on the screen in front of me and I broke. I couldn't understand why a God so good would allow such terrible things to happen. To allow a man who claimed to know Him to sentence an entire people group to perish and die when He actually commissioned us to take His love to the ends of the earth and make disciples.
He defeated death, and yet this man chose to inflict it and gave rights to his men in uniform to treat people however they saw fit. I watched as one family risked it all by hiding Jewish people in the basement of their home. But these weren't people who begrudgingly gave shelter to the endangered. They gave them a place to stay during the day that was hidden in plain sight, and at midnight the wife would begin to play the piano and the hidden basement constituents were cued to emerge into the living quarters and dine with their protectors at a candlelit dinner where their tea was served to them in crystal stemmed glasses. This was a family so bent on destroying fear, meeting real pain face to face, and nursing the broken back to health and liberty that they literally stopped at nothing. They joined the fight, they didn't cower in the face of opposition. They risked it all because life and truth are worth it. People are worth it.
So I vow to you, sweet valorous future beloved, to fight with you. To never cower in the face of any enemy because I know the position of authority I have been given. Good will overcome evil when we decide to join the fight. I won't turn my face when I see a person who has fallen prey to evil. I'll step up, right by your side, when the rest of the world turns it's face. Our natural instinct is to hide our eyes from things that make our souls ache, because we think we can't make a difference. I think the difference you and I will make is not necessarily that we overcome the oppressor of our neighbors, but that we choose to weep with the broken.
I've been praying for you for the past year. I'll turn 30 in two months and I've only been praying for you for the past twelve. I never really thought love could actually last until I knew Jesus. I met Him when I was four years old outside of a Food World grocery store in Cottondale, Alabama ... but I only recently became truly acquainted with Him. Until then, I saw marriage as something that adults do to satisfy the loneliness and sexual desire. But now? Now I know it is something so much more.
Knowing that Jesus chooses to relate to me as His bride tells me that love didn't just die and rise again as a one-time event. No, Jesus wants me every single day ... even when I'm bloated and groggy and gross and fussy and angry and even when I deliberately do things I know He doesn't approve of. And it's that kind of selfless love that draws me close and convinces me to lay it all down that I might fully embrace Him instead of holding on to the basket of baggage that I think defines me. If THAT is the picture of marriage, then I can't scoff at the line of wedding vow that reads, "for better or worse," anymore. For so long I scoffed because I thought that no one really meant it, and because I didn't think people really meant it I also believed that God really didn't mean it. "For better or for worse." If God says that over me, then who am I to not also extend that to you?
For the last twelve months, I have been praying for you and I've heard so much from Jesus about the man you are becoming. You are being transformed into a new level of glory with Jesus. You are an incredible man who doesn't stop because he doesn't know how to do something. No, you're a problem solver. You fight on behalf of those you cherish. You are going to be one who teaches with a meekness that gives your students the freedom to learn and grow at their own speed yet encourages them to run faster and harder to better themselves.
You aren't going to be a man that is ever satisfied with what you know now when there is a world of knowledge out there sitting on bookshelves waiting to be investigated. You are going to be valiant but also tender. You are going to be a safe place to land and a springboard that launches people into their destiny. You are going to be decisive and incredibly wise. You're going to be an intense man, hell-bent on seeing Jesus' will done and being one who carries it out. You're also going to know how to have fun and laugh when it's time to laugh, but you'll know better than to use laughter as a tactic of avoidance when you don't want to feel something. You're becoming a man who is emotionally extremely intelligent and healthy. You're brave, a warrior for good, an ambassador of hope, a deliverer of the freedom Jesus gives, a life long learner, an intercessor, one who hears from God, a believer in people, an incredible protector, the friend that no one ever wants to lose, and you are going to be the best daddy to our kids.
I'll compliment your strengths by championing your gifts and cheering you on down the road of your destiny as I run mine parallel to yours. Your destiny will never rest in the things you accomplish, but in the hearts that you serve and I will gladly serve alongside you.
I dreamt about you once. I couldn't see your face but I knew you were a safe place. We were standing in our back yard around a fire pit and all of our children were running around playing tag. You were wearing a plaid button-up. As we stood there in the sweetest embrace, I knew that because you knew Jesus in such a tremendous and life-changing way that you would always be a safe and selfless place to land. And I knew that I would be yours for as long as Jesus wanted us here.
I will expect you to lead me back to Jesus, and you should expect the same from me. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all fruits of His beautiful Spirit. So I promise to realign when I'm out of line and to never be afraid of telling you that I was wrong and ask for your forgiveness, because I know that He who is faithful and just to forgive me lives inside of you.
So, sweet valorous future beloved, I vow to fight with you. Alongside you. To have your back as you fight for good. I vow to pray for you until I meet you and forever after and to never settle for less than what Jesus has told me about you.
It won't be perfect. It'll be messy and glorious and it'll be the holiest work we will ever do together. There will be times that I want to scream at you just like I wanted to scream at God last night. You might want to tape my mouth shut so I'll quit singing Disney songs all the livelong day and you'll likely be sick of Home Alone 2 by year one of our marriage because I start watching it in September. And prepare yourself for pumpkin season, because all things pumpkin will be in and around our home. I hope you're a good cook because when you don't think you'll ever get married, you tend not to learn to cook. I can bake, though! So we will need a solid workout plan in place to earn our excessive carbohydrate intake temptations.
I hope you're ready to watch Fixer Upper on repeat and that you're ready to ship-lap all of the things. Also, my ringtone has been the Peanuts theme song for the last six years and I don't plan on changing it so just go ahead and settle that argument in your spirit right now. You won't win. Christmas starts before Halloween. (Glad that’s settled.) I danced in the Macy's Day Parade once upon a time and I'll just say this: if you want to take me to walk the streets of New York once a year with big warm coats on, warm coffee in one hand and your hand in the other, I won't buy a single thing as long as we can ride the horse-drawn buggy around Central Park like all the lovers do and take pictures of all of the places and giggle the whole way around the park. (I hope you're not dreading this already.)
And I hope you're ready to actually pick the place to eat when you ask me and I say, "I don't care," because I really don't. Just don't take me somewhere crazy like a fancy French restaurant where the waiter has to read the menu to you. I wasn't made for fine dining, babe. I was raised on casseroles, steak, and potatoes. If I can't read the name of it, chances are I'm not eating it. For example, BIG fan of Chick-fil-a. Your girl is not hard to please. ANNND I can't dance unless an 8-count is involved, so no dance floors please unless we are far away from all the humans we know.
I joke about what to expect, but I'm leaving out the hardest stuff because we'll meet those obstacles when we get to them and they'll be just between us and Jesus and whomever we've entrusted as our wise counsel. I'm excited about doing the hard things that marriage offers. It won't be easy, but everything worthwhile is uphill. I asked Jesus last January not to introduce me to any man that would distract me from Him and 2016 became a year of complete heart transformation. It was a year of complete surrender and vulnerability and spiritual growth. It was a year well spent. Sometime in October I looked around and realized that nobody had been interested all year long and I started to get insecure about it when Jesus sweetly spoke, "You asked for this. You're welcome."
So, to my someday husband: I promise to fight with you. To fight alongside you. To fight for love. To rest in the Love that fought for me. To build a beautiful family with you that is encouraged to dream and to do and to be brave with their one precious life.
Looking forward to the fight,
Your future bride