You aren’t the man I married. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. Some of the changes happened so gradually I didn’t notice them at first, while others came all at once, but the fact remains: you’re different today than you were on that cold, snowy January day twelve years ago when I walked down the aisle to meet you.
Remember that day? I looked into your eyes and saw you moved to tears and then I couldn’t meet your gaze the rest of the way for fear I’d break into sobs myself. I wasn’t sad; tears are my deep, heart response, and marrying you was the deepest heart event of my life to date. The tears would come, but I wanted to hold them off for a little while longer.
You’re no longer the rail-thin 24-year-old I met at the end of that aisle. The one in a black tuxedo and a cream-colored tie, with broad shoulders and soft hands and kind eyes.
For starters, your hands aren’t the soft hands of a graduate student anymore. They’re calloused now, cracked and dry. They’re the hands of a man who spends his free hours digging post holes in the backyard, fixing sprinklers and mixing cement and spreading mulch. The hands of a man who comes in from those tasks to scrub them clean and cradle a newborn daughter.
Gone is the young theologian who sometimes loved academia just for academia’s sake. The new-Apple-products-obsessed young 20-something is nowhere to be seen. Nor can I find the man who needed to hash out every marital disagreement right in the moment, even if we were pulling up to a party or one mile away from the in-laws’ house.
In his place is a man I didn’t marry: a man who said he would never be a pastor who now shepherds his church with vision and wisdom and prayerful care.
The man I married said he didn’t like camping. We just booked a trip for June.
The man I married would have been a liiiiiiittle squeamish at the thought of being in a birthing tub with his laboring wife. Now, twelve years hence, you’ve done that not once but three times, giving me the rock hard, steadfast support I needed to bring our children into the world.
The man I married had never changed a diaper. You’ve now changed thousands of them, nearly always volunteering before I can even get up.
The man I married had never cradled a newborn, sat up all night with a sick toddler, or disciplined a misbehaving kindergartener with grace and firmness and tenderness and care.
Gone is the man who was self-conscious about his singing voice, having never considered himself musical. Now you sing with passion and fervor, teaching our sons to do the same.
Gone is the man who wasn’t very comfortable being goofy. Goofy is now a daily event for you, and often I am drawn into a room by the sound of our kindergartener’s chuckle or our toddler’s squealing giggles, one or both of them being wrestled or entertained or thrown into the air by daddy.
The man I walked down the aisle to never read novels. This year you’ve read several, enjoying a few of them so much you’ve read passages aloud to me.
The man I married loved Jesus with all his heart (I wouldn’t have walked down the aisle to any other type of man), but he hadn’t yet been tested in that faith the way you have. Tested with sleepless nights and financial fears, with children who wake up at night with fevers, with the existential questions of the middle 30s, with the highs and lows of ministry. He hadn’t followed Jesus into the daily grind of parenting when a person is running on coffee and fumes alone.
You’ve been through the fire and come out strengthened, purified, and more certain that the God who created you is worth giving your all. You’ve spent hours on your knees. I’ve seen those hours, and I know there must be many more I haven’t seen.
The man I married was fussy about how he did his laundry. You now throw everything in the washer in a single load because the dual vocations of pastoring and parenting don’t leave a lot of time to worry about wrinkles. Well, everything but the reds. You’re not crazy.
You are a little bit grayer than the man I married. There are smile lines around your eyes that weren’t there before. Lines of worry, too. (The man I married had not yet paid a mortgage.)
The man I married didn’t know what a morning grouch he would move in with when we got back from the honeymoon. (I’m sure the man I married thought I was practically perfect but now you are well aware that is not the case.)
Gone is the man who hadn’t yet acquainted himself with my love for fuzzy socks, deep hatred of raisins, or borderline-phobic fear of large spiders–a fear that would force him into the position of primary arachnid-killer for the rest of his years.
The man I married didn’t know how often he’d be the first to apologize because he was marrying someone whose stubbornness knows no bounds. (I’m sorry for that. See? I can apologize!)
Sweetheart, you are no longer the man I married. I loved you then, but my love has grown with each of the days we’ve lived together. Today you are stronger, funnier, braver. You are more worn and weary but infinitely wiser. The past twelve years have done their work on us both.
On this, a few days short of our twelfth anniversary, I am so very grateful for the man I married.
But I am even more grateful for you.
All my love,
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