(Note: This posting will be a departure from my usual offering. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of marriage to my wife, Teresa, I feel moved to express something of the grand journey we have shared.)
To find someone who loves you with patience and commitment for three entire decades is an astounding gift. I lived with my parents until I was 17; I have lived with Teresa for 30 years, nearly double that earlier pivotal relationship to my parents.
We met at a Pentecostal college when I was a freshman and she was a senior, both of us music majors. To this day, we share a passion for music together, taking in the latest television singing competitions with pleasure, despite their often superficial character. In college, she dreamed of becoming a full-time worship vocalist; I longed to become a rock star for Jesus.
I imagine that many young men such as myself were despondently looking for a soulmate, that one romantic companion who would dispel all loneliness and complete oneself as “two become one flesh.” Such idealist illusions may be necessary for young love, but I imagine that only a very few lovers ever survive the disillusionment that real life delivers to us. One learns early on that one’s lover is still yet their own person, with their own needs that you could never fulfill, just as your needs cannot be fulfilled by them alone.
Love is not a magical cure for the emptiness within us. It is nevertheless a real bond that remakes those who are granted the grace to persist in making a life together out of both the brokenness and richness that is within each of us. It takes more than the sheer will and gifts of two imperfect people in an imperfect world to make a lasting romance, it indeed takes a whole village to raise a marriage into a mature condition.
As Teresa and I were both immersed in the path of Jesus from our births, we have usually found our most important village to be within our faith-communities. For much of our marriage, we shared enough religious conviction that we had many fellow-laborers and guides to help us in the difficult journey of becoming more whole persons. From my perspective, the most crucial of these communities was Reba Place Church, a charismatic Mennonite church and intentional community. My desire to follow Jesus by living communally and renouncing all wealth led me to seek out a community that had been living that way successfully, and Reba Place was where my search led us.
At Reba Place, we found a neighborhood and church within which to raise our two wonderful children. The values of peacemaking, generous sharing, and honest love made what would have been a disaster for someone as broken as I was to undertake, into something quite lovely. Reba Place’s gifted ministry for inner healing was life-changing for both of us in distinct ways. Speaking only for myself, healing the wounds of a traumatic childhood in a cruel world was no small task, one that is never truly finished. My marriage to Teresa was surely doomed from the start by the baggage I brought into it. It still amazes me that she has endured so much of my insanity with untiring faith.
Looking back over the years, I find myself awestruck and sometimes befuddled by this thing called love. The animal kingdom reproduces itself without many species undertaking a lifelong pair-bond, and yet I can barely imagine my life without this sort of marriage. Surely the modern nuclear family is far too isolated from the need for a larger community to strengthen and nurture families through life’s struggles.
“Two becoming one flesh.” Of course, this sexual biblical imagery is poetic, not literal. The powerful pleasures of erotic intercourse are a deeply important part of this journey of love, though in themselves, they cannot solidify a lifelong partnership. After all, why not just live with one’s best friend for a lifetime? Because a love that is both genuinely committed to mutual respect and partnership and which includes physical intimacy is among the most powerful and passionate of all human endeavors.
My love Teresa, thank you for all you have given to me over 30 years and counting. I have never deserved your love, and yet I am bound to be forever grateful to you. I do wish I’d been a more loving, caring person all along. I know that learning to love you has brought me closer to that desire.