Twenty-five years ago this month on a sun-dazzled Saturday morning, Peter and I married. In the blink of an eye, it’s a quarter of a century later.
Counting the cost?
That morning we could not have known what would follow, any more than any couple knows the morning of their wedding, what life will unfold for them. We could not know how we would be tested to our breaking points over the years, nor count the heartaches that would shape us as individuals. We could not count then the tears we would both cry, or the number of days we would wonder how we would be able to make it through the rest of one day, let alone another week or month or year. We could not count the losses we would face together, or the things we would have to let go of in order to take one more step forward, or how much we would have to sacrifice for each other. We could not count the fights we would have, nor number the times we would both have to pray for grace, forgiveness, and a renewal of love. We could not count how many times we would say goodbye to friends, family, our children and eventually our grandchildren and how the ‘goodbye-ing’ would so deeply change us. We couldn’t count how many times I would be sick or for how many years. We couldn’t count how long and how hard Peter would work or the toll it would take on him and on us.
What we could count that morning were five children, two adults, and one God becoming a family together right there at that altar.
Countless graces ~
What we could never, ever have counted, nor can we still, is the number of times God would hold us steady, pour mercy over us, stand guard, defend us against darknesses within us and around us, tell us again Who He is, or remind us that He has good planned for us, provide for us in ways beyond our imagining, create beauty out of the ashes of our lives, raise us up in grace, and prove Himself faithful over and over and over.
And in those mysterious ways of grace, I could not count how many times Peter would make me laugh, or how profoundly his constancy would remake me. I could not count how many years I would experience stability in the midst of overwhelming stress and uncertainty because of God’s faithfulness to me through Peter. I could not have counted the humbling wonder of watching him learn to be a good husband over these many years and be transformed slowly from a wild and damaged man to my one true companion. I could not count how many years his love would give back to me pieces of my own self which had been lost to me as a child, or how I would grow younger inside every year with him than I was when we first married. We could not count how much each other’s love would be God’s instrument for mending us in turn. And much to our surprise, we have both equally anchored and expanded the world for each other in ways neither of us ever expected or knew we needed.
Counting on the unaccounted for ~
We could not count the continents we would travel to, the stars in the sky we would see, how many road trips we would take, how many times we would marvel at birds and bunnies, coyotes, wolves, and foxes, landforms and horizons, or how our hearts would hover together over an endangered species plant, or how we would both rejoice over the growth of one tiny oak tree. I could not count the ways Peter would push me to grow, compel me to reach for things I would not have, or to develop my own true voice, even if it meant yelling till I could calm down and cry.
That morning we could not count our son-in-laws yet to come whom we would love like our own, or the grandchildren that would yet be born, or the ways that all their coming and goings would sculpt the two of us into the two of us, not the seven of us. We couldn’t count the weddings, babies, ‘grand-dogs’, or the way that our children’s travels would spark our own as we followed after them around the globe. I couldn’t count how many desserts we’d eat, how many pounds we’d gain, how silver our hair would become, how many books we’d buy and give, or how many friends we’d make. I never could have guessed or counted the depths of how much I would grow to like Peter and be dazzled by his company, or count the years in which that would only deepen. What I never expected was how deeply happy I would be with him, more because I did not believe this kind of happiness possible with anyone – this deep abiding affection and contentment in keeping company with another.
What I mostly couldn’t have counted on was the great unfolding of goodness in our lives – couldn’t have counted on except for the unchanging fact that I believed the Lord when He said to me,
“For I know the plans I have for you, says The Lord; plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29.11
Everything that I can count as good in our life, our marriage, or in our very selves, I can clearly and without hesitation attribute to God’s singular faithfulness. I know perfectly well that Peter and I can stake no claim to anything good that has formed in us. I know us both.
Love is not blind. If it blind, it is not Love. Love sees and Loves anyway.
As a marriage we started out with baggage that seemed surely insurmountable and damage too deep to ever overcome. I married only with the hope and trust that the Lord never lies and is never wrong. When He says He will bless, He blesses and does not take it back. When He says He will carry, He carries across oceans and mountains, and deserts, across hurt feelings, exhaustion, despair, confusion, shame, anger, fear, poverty, illness, and death. When He says He plans for good He means He will execute His plans and they will produce certain good. Actual, true, real Good. When He says, “Fear not, I will deliver you.” He delivers. He delivers us from all our fears according to His Word, and sometimes He delivers us from ourselves. His Word never, ever fails. He heals what we cannot mend, and makes new what is irretrievably broken.
I still do not know what the future holds for us anymore than I did the morning we married. I do now though boldly hope for certain outcomes as fulfillments of long held dreams, even as I trust God if He says no. It takes courage to expect good from God. It always takes courage and faith to hope, to be vulnerable in holding your heart open, and to trust Him for the blessing. It takes courage to trust Him in seasons of darkness and waiting while He is working to redeem and restore, rebuild and renew. Losses mark all our days as a part of life in a fallen world yearning to be made new. Yet the losses don’t contradict His goodness. Sometimes in fact they are the very conduit of it. It remains true that the Lord rewards those who look to Him with thanks and trust and a heart willing to expect great things of Him. Especially when appearances indicate otherwise.
This I know. The Lord travels with us stooping low from Heaven to take us into account, and He counts us as His own because He loves us of His own accord. Because of this and really only this, we find our blessings outnumber our burdens. I can count on marveling at that long into eternity. And until then,
A kiss is still a kiss, and this one is still mine.
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, boards, and Art & Faith organizations over 30 years. She & her husband Peter have parented 7 children, & have a flock of beloved grandchildren. Lancia loves garden and website design, beautiful typography, road trips, being read aloud to by Peter, & cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.