On this day, two years ago, I stood before the woman who was about to become my wife.
There was a unique type of nervousness in my stomach as I removed from my breast pocket the crumpled paper with my vows, smoothing out the creases in them and in my thoughts.
It wasn't because there were over 300 of our friends and family assembled, watching us with eager expectation. I've never really been a "crowd person," which is ironic since I play in a band, but in that moment, the people in the sanctuary didn't even exist. The wedding party didn't exist. It was just the two of us - me and Tara, standing in a spotlight suspended in the inky blackness of a vacuum. She: lovely, young, and inimitably graceful in her wedding gown; me: lanky and somewhat groomed for a change, dressed in the wrinkled slacks that we (she) still lament(s) not ironing; she, smiling ear-to-ear; me, pensive but overjoyed.
It wasn't because what we were about to do would take wholehearted commitment. The road to our wedding day had been an uphill affair, but the good kind - more a race against time than a trek through difficult terrain. We had worked out all the details in two months, which was an insanely short engagement, but exactly what both of us wanted. Why belabor what we were both ready to embrace? The steps to approach the altar had been natural, transitional, and necessary.
I cleared my throat in that absolute silence, and this is what I said to my wife:
Tara, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve reached the point in our lives which we both doubted would come. In the course of our story, we’ve spent time together, time apart, and time together once again. God led each of us down unexpected paths, teaching us while we were apart to rely upon His sovereignty and to sacrifice what we want for what He requires - all in preparation for coming together once again.
Tara, I love you because you make me want to love Jesus more. You have shown me over and over your strengths, your work ethic, your patience, and your indelible grace. You have given yourself unerringly to serving me. And so I stand before you today, right now, because I am ready and willing to dedicate my entire life to you.
There are some things I’d like to covenant to do, today and forever, before all of our friends and family, and before God Himself. Here goes.
Tara, I will seek to love you unconditionally, striving for patience and grace on the challenging days, and relishing the good days with joy.
According to God's holy ordinance, I will cherish our love and friendship - for better or worse, for richer or poorer, and in sickness and in health - not because I have to, but because I choose to.
I will live first for the glory of our Savior, so that you can do the same.
I will partner with you on every task we undertake, not expecting more of you than I am willing to give myself.
I will tell you when you’re wrong, because I need you to do the same for me.
I will at least... try... to like country music. Even though they all sound like Brad Paisley.
I will seek to be an exemplary, Christ-minded leader to you and our future children. All thirty-three of them.
I will listen when you speak, weep when you weep, and rejoice when you rejoice, in the same way that God himself “bears our concerns on His heart.”
Knowing that I will fail you, I promise to learn from my mistakes and do my best not to repeat them.
Tara, I will provide for your needs, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I will protect, nurture, and sacrifice. I will seek our best, and not my best. I will always hold you when you need to cry.
See, I wasn't nervous because I feared I couldn't fulfill these promises. I knew even in that moment that I would fail and need forgiveness, but that's part of what marriage is. Mistakes are just more stepping stones in the path across the river: only harmful if you don't move forward, because then your footholds begin to sink.
The truth is, I was nervous because this was truly the moment of becoming an adult. 18 and 21, first cars and first apartments, promotions and responsibilities - all of these mean nothing. The moment a man takes his wife by the hand and steps up to the altar is the moment all childish things are truly left behind. It is surrendering the "freedom" of singleness for the responsibility of togetherness. It is surrendering "mine" for "ours." It is humbling one's self to the point of being a full-time servant, the way Jesus did for us.
This is why I was nervous. Because life was about to cease being about me, and I held a doctorate in selfishness. I'd proven time and again that, although I claimed to love Christ above all else, I often yielded to my own desires before His.
But I wanted us. In fact, I'd wanted us since I'd first met Tara - four years ago, across a breakup, tons of soul-searching, and ultimately getting back together once again. We'd been through a lot - together and apart - and it had all lead to this joyful moment.
It's a journey we'll continue for the rest of our lives. Except now we are blessed to travel the path together.
To close my vows, I sang this song. It's nothing remarkable, but to us it is every bit the encapsulation of the promises we made each other on our wedding day. I'd been working on the composition even before I asked her to marry me, and labored over the lyrics until the night before the wedding day itself.
This was how I sealed my vows, and continues to be a reminder of how I will strive to uphold them every day, every year, from now until death do us part.
Happy Anniversary, Tara.
If the thought had ever crossed your mind
It was just a guess, just a glimpse of time
We all know the servant rules the proud
The stoic breathes, the poet laughs out loud
Are none of these
Are none of these
Patience is a virtue set in gold
The lesson learned; the joy to have, to hold
The more you have, the less that you will know
This periphery, or the warmth that fills your soul
We, oh we
Should know by now
Should know by now
We are waiting for our time
Time will always be ahead of us
This plan was never mine, I lost control
Our broken worlds, like sheep beyond the fold
But blessed are the ones who learn to mourn
You’re always beautiful in Sunday clothes
With God as our witness, and all of these
We stand as fractured jars, so incomplete
It's a mystery: these shards become as one
Let me carry you, and you can carry me
We, oh we
Have stood so long
Have stood for so long
We have waited for our time
The time has come to be
We have waited for You, Lord
You have always been
And You will always be