Three years ago today, a crazy 21-year-old still in college walked down an aisle and said “I do.” She was crazy not because she was unsure of herself but because she was so. darn. sure. She took a leap without an ounce of fear or hesitation, which is perhaps the craziest thing of all.
That 21-year-old is obviously me, but the third person sounds so much more writerly, doesn’t it? I had every reason in the world to be scared out of my mind– as the child of divorce, I know all too well the reality of a broken marriage, the odds that things won’t work out, the possibility that something that began in eye-gazing wonder could end in screaming and the crashing of a box of wedding dishes into a driveway. But after three years of dating, in which we saw each other at our best and our worst, and after a seriously in-depth book I highly recommend called 101 Questions to Ask before you get Engaged, we knew we were ready, that we could face whatever came our way as long as we were facing it together.
In some ways, when we were getting ready for the wedding, I realized that we had already been becoming married. I know that sounds strange, but if marriage is the merging of two into one, we had slowly been knitted together, heart-string by heart-string, over the three years before. Married wasn’t something we suddenly became with the incantation of vows in a ceremony on a wedding day, but something we had been and are still becoming, day by day, intimacy upon intimacy. As someone who grew up in the Presbyterian Church, the wedding itself reminded me of what I had always been told about sacraments. They are outward signs of inward graces. They’re our way of acknowledging things that had already been at work within us, just like baptism isn’t a magical act that confers salvation, but a ritual that recognizes salvation which has been freely poured out like water.
About 9 months after we got married, I graduated from college and went on a two-week trip to England with my English class. It was an absolutely wonderful trip, full of hiking across the Brontes’ moors and up peaks that inspired Wordsworth and around lakes that spoke to Ruskin. We kept journals throughout the experience, as a way of receiving our grades, and in many ways I used my journal to pour out my heart as I was missing my husband terribly during the longest time we’d spent apart since our wedding. I remember wondering what my professor would think about these ramblings, because I wrote about this strange feeling of not being able to enjoy the trip to the fullest because the one person I wanted to be sitting next to on double-decker buses, strolling hand in hand through Kensington Gardens, and just talking to about everything was not there with me. It was on that trip, I wrote, that I started to begin to realize “just how married” I really was. It was like I was having a wonderful experience while simultaneously feeling like half my heart was across an ocean. Thankfully, my professor did NOT think me a sad sap, and wrote that she had really enjoyed my journal.
Now, three years after my wedding day, I can see how these passing years have made us even more married, ever more tightly bound together. These past three years have been some of the hardest of our lives, living far away from all of our family and friends, suffering the stresses and indignities of residency, and the emotions and frustrations that come with sleep deprivation and schedules that don’t always line up and the difficulties of loneliness. And yet, more than anything, these three difficult years have shown us that we can face anything that comes our way so long as we face it hand in hand. In a few months we’ll get an email or an envelope informing us where we’ll be spending the next three years of our lives as Jon does a fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine, and it may be here, it may be one of our homes (Little Rock or Denver), it may be a completely new city altogether where we have to start fresh all over again (Nashville, Birmingham, Salt Lake City). But instead of being afraid of that challenge, as I was at the beginning of residency, I’m excited for it. I even welcome it. It’s completely out of our control, but I know that we will thrive and be closer and better for whatever the next chapter holds. Because we’re doing that now, and we’re going to keep on keepin’ on. I’m excited to see how much more married I feel after the next 3 years, and the next 30…