On Tuesday, May 26, 2015 I will have been married to Monique for 25 years. To many in our culture, this is a significant anniversary. From one perspective, it seems a bit arbitrary: Why is 25 years more meaningful than 24 or 26? Those are pretty darn close to a quarter of a century, too, right? But from another perspective, it is a symbolic representation of a longevity not seen in very many areas of life anymore. Who today stays at the same job for 25 years? Who lives in the same house for 25 years? Who drives the same car for 25 years? Who wears the same underwear for 25 years? Don’t answer that last question…
As I consider the 25 years of water under our marital bridge, the most shocking thing to me is the speed at which that current is flowing. When I was a young boy and we marked my parents 25th while traveling in Europe in 1977, 25 years sounded like 250 to me. “Wow! My parents are old!” I couldn’t conceive of that vast amount of years! Now, I consider 25 years with my wife and think, “Wow! How in the name of my giddy aunt did we get here so fast?” Our perception of time is a funny thing. Certainly it doesn’t slow down or speed up but each of us has moments when we could swear that time is either crawling or sprinting. The last five minutes of a playoff hockey game, when your team is up 2-1, seem to last an hour. The past 25 years of something way more meaningful, like your marriage, seem to hurtle by you in a blur of life, work, play, sex, kids, meals, trips, bills, talks, spats and hugs.
The events and experiences that make up our 25 years have flashed by. I see them in my mind’s eye as quick snapshot memories, like a slide show clicking by way too fast. But where my 25 years slows down, where I can feel my feet on the ground again, where everything that swirls around in my brain finds a center, is when I look at my wife’s face; that most familiar of all faces, maybe more familiar to me than my own image in a mirror. In her eyes, in the lines and shapes that make up the person that I fell deeply in love with, I find time at a standstill. At the 25 year mark, this truth is taking my breath away.
Monique is a beautiful woman (or as young woman put it to me last night “She’s a babe!”). She is not “model” beautiful or “actress” beautiful in the modern sense of how we label these things. But I have always considered her a beauty in the timeless sense. That is, comparable to the women painted and drawn by artists throughout the centuries; the women they were inspired by and drawn to, not because of perfect proportions but because of a beauty that comes from a deeper place; a beauty that seems to be a reflection of Beauty itself; Beauty that gives image to hope and love and peace and dreams.
That all sounds very poetical but, of course, I was first attracted to her ’cause I thought she was hot! But even in those crazy head-over-heels days, I saw something in her face that I could easily imagine taking in for my entire life. Even as a love-drunk twenty-something, I realized that I found the person whose face I would gladly look at for decades and never grow tired of it. That wasn’t because she was gorgeous perfection personified; it was because I found a home, a place I wanted to stay for as long as possible.
Of course, over the years I have been attracted to other women. As the saying goes, I may be married but I’m not blind… or dead! But every time I consider that other woman I may be attracted to, I realize that no one can take Monique’s place. Again, not because of her perfection, but because there is no one else like her for me; no one else I am meant to be with; no one else that could possibly mean what she has meant to me in my life. After 25 years this feeling just gets stronger and stronger. After 25 years of being together through all the amazing times, frustrating times, painful times, beautiful times, I can honestly say that I am on this journey with the one and only person I am meant to be with as a traveling companion.
I want to make something abundantly clear, however. All the above may lead you to believe that either I am delusional or that I am in the kind of marriage most people can only dream about. Neither is true (at least I think the delusional part isn’t true; but if I were delusional I’d think so anyway because I’d be so deluded… Hmm). The fact is that our relationship has been subject to all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that any relationship can be subject to. We can annoy the hell out of each other at times. We have had tough days and bitter arguments. After 25 years we can still be miffed and mystified. We have never endured unfaithfulness or any kind of separation but there are times when we can behave like roommates who are fed up with each other. Any couple who tells you they’ve never felt like “The Odd Couple” is lying. I don’t believe in the perfectly compatible person. I don’t believe in the romantic ideal that is pitched to us over and over again in our movies and TV shows. I am weak and petty at times and so is Monique.
Yet after 25 years there is an undeniable strength to our marriage; there is a faithfulness that keeps us tied to each other no matter what happens; there is love that has gone from gaga to grounded over these two and a half decades. To what do we owe these resilient qualities of our marriage? To our own upstanding moral character? To our fine personalities and intellectual capabilities? To the simple fact that we’re just superior human beings?
OooKay… I’m kidding. After 25 years it is clear that the strength, faithfulness and love at the core of our marriage has very little to do with us. I know this is true because we are as fallible as anyone, if not more so in certain areas. After a quarter century together there is really only one thing we have in common that I could point to as the X Factor in our relationship: Our commitment to Jesus. There may be some reading this who will think I’m slipping into delusion again. But after all these years I simply can’t point to the perfection of my spouse or to my own outstanding-ness as a reason for our marital longevity. I know us too well. We are neither perfect nor outstanding. We are very human. Very much like you. We are as much in need of saving as anyone else. And it is only my Savior that I can truly credit with the strength, faithfulness and love at the core of my marriage. Why? Because only he is perfectly outstanding; only he is unshakable and perfectly solid. He is the only explanation that makes sense to me for 25 years of wonder I can celebrate with Monique.
So much of what I’ve written here seems pathetic to me, as if I can’t summon up the words to really communicate what I’m thinking about. But I hope you understand. I believe that there can be a person who is meant for you. Not in a “you complete me” sense but in a “God’s purpose for me” sense. I also believe that I am that person for Monique. And I believe that there is a spiritual reality to all of this that can’t be easily explained but also can’t be easily explained away.
On the occasion of this significant anniversary I find myself thankful for the face of Monique, the one I get to see every day that keeps me grounded despite the frenzy of life; and I find myself thankful for the saving grace of my God, that keeps my marriage sound and solid despite our weaknesses and failures. On one hand, that doesn’t sound all that spectacular. But on the other hand, it sounds downright epic.