To the romantic sound of the typhoon-dishwasher, I am glowy with our wedding all over again from sneaky-peeky pictures the photographer posted on Facebook.
The Pilot is in San Antonio to withstand 9 G's tomorrow, and I was feeling sad and bluey in the empty apartment that didn't seem very much like home without him there, and bags and bags of groceries to be put away but no one but myself to cook for tonight. And then, pictures on Facebook! My breath catches and my smile is as unforced as it was all day on our wedding day ten days ago. The moments stand breathless, caught forever; we are outlined in the love of the day.
It has been ten days since we left who we used to be behind and brought us into who we are now, married, forever, in the bond of vows so enormous that only God's grace will allow us to stand true to them. It's easy to forget that words mean things. To break a word is to destroy something; thus to stand by our words, to hold true to them, is the preservation of something beautiful, of something meaningful. Ten days ago I stood before my husband and I promised to love him unconditionally, to honor and respect him, to cherish him as my friend, my lover, my partner in life, to submit to his leadership, to follow him in his path, to laugh with him, to go on adventures with him, for the rest of our lives. I spoke with a grin on my face because his eyes were sparkling at me and the love was thrilling between us in the firework joy that we were finally marrying each other. But the words I said, and the words he said, are solemn, sacred, gargantuan in their meaning and implication. In fact, for weak, broken, sinful humanity, the words of marriage vows are truly absurd unless looked at in the context of grace.
The Pilot and I married the day before New Year's Eve. We poor humans make New Year's resolutions every year to eat more healthily and exercise more and read this book and be kind to that annoying person, only to shatter our words, though heaven knows how sincere we were when we spoke them. What hope can we possibly have when we stand up and make a preposterous promise to do something we are entirely without innate power to do? Unconditional love? I had to bite back exasperated words enough times, just going through my husband's old clothes to make Goodwill bags, to know I am incapable, in my own strength, of even loving him well, much less unconditionally.
Unconditionally means without conditions, absence of ifs, buts, or excepts. In what other sort of relationship, any relationship at all, do we promise to do anything without conditions? You do this, I'll do that. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Don't do this or that, or I'm out. Even in the closest friendships there can be contracts of this sort. Our marriage vows threw that all to the wind. My husband could come home on Wednesday and tell me that he's not interested in going on dates with me any more. I've promised to love him no matter what. I could refuse to do any cooking. He's promised to love me anyway. There are other things, things that seem unthinkable: lying, hurtful words, cheating, abandonment, terrible things that either one of us is capable of committing against each other. Yet ten days ago we willingly and joyfully vowed that nothing will separate us. No outs. No conditions. No clauses. No pre-nups. Nothing. We're in this forever, no matter what.
How can we not fail?
Grace to fall into; grace to cling to. Grace to wrap ourselves in, to sing to ourselves; grace to preach to ourselves morning noon and night. Grace to clothe ourselves, radiance of sunshine. Grace to taste and touch and trust. If it was amazing grace that set us free from sin, it is amazing grace that will allow us to stand by our words and make them true. If unconditional Love died for us on the Cross to save us from our sin, it is that same Love that will make it possible for us to die to our own selfishness and love each other selflessly day in and day out. Our tiny capacity for love will exhaust itself and wither quickly if it is not fed by the depthless river of God's wild, endless, astonishing grace. Grace makes our marriage possible and grace will feed it, grow it, and blossom it. That's why the wedding is just the beginning of the marriage: the beginning of a story of grace.