In the past year and a half, a lot of doors have opened and closed. I finished school at OU, college ministry with CRU, life in Oklahoma, working at K20, and living with some great friends. I picked up a new chapter in September in San Francisco and was soon off to another one in Seattle. Since I’ve gotten to Seattle, my life has been a lot of work and church, and it’s been a thrill to see an intersection between the two (seeing church intersect into work, not the other way around).
For Suzi, her life is changing rather rapidly as well. She’s closing out four years in college and five hot and humid years in Oklahoma. Now, fearlessly, she’s about to enter into a new chapter in Seattle, welcoming new challenges, friends, lifestyle, and weather. I think that’s what makes me the most nervous about marriage. I feel like I have a lot of confidence in Suzi and her character and commitment, knowing that she is “being renewed in knowledge after the image of her Creator” (Col 3). I have confidence that she’ll love and respect me, more out of obedience to God than desire for me. But as for new circumstances, the unforeseen issues we’ll face, the adjustments to intimacy and proximity… I know we don’t have a choice but to persevere… but I’m nervous as to how it will all develop. Maybe the hard thing about relationships is that they’re not without cost and struggle.
Some people ask if I get nervous about getting married, but I feel like I have a lot of confidence - in God to mature me and teach me to lead and in Suzi to love me and submit to me. I am, though, getting a little nervous about the new circumstances and what they will mean for Suzi and me, simply because I have no idea what to expect and the issues that we’ll face.
I’ve come to realize that much of my identity in Seattle (and in general) has revolved around me being engaged (second to my identity in Christ). Rightly so - at the most foundational level, my association with her will trump my association with almost anything else. My church fellowship has been eagerly waiting to meet Suzi since the engagement in February, and so we’ve had a good 6 months to talk about her and what she’s like and how wedding planning has developed. (Everyone gets a good laugh from learning that we met at the gym, envisioning over-the-top pick-up lines that were about the exact opposite of what actually happened.)
Church won’t quite be the same as it was for the last 8 months. Work won’t be the same. Home won’t be the same. I won’t get to do everything that I grew accustomed to doing and some of the changes will just seem really weird and I’ll want to resist. But I’m certain things will still be better, knowing that “better” and “happier” or “better” and “more comfortable” are sometimes antonyms.
It’s helplessly frightening to know that I’m not supposed to keep secrets from Suzi and to be forced to consider my shortcomings and mistakes and the direct impact they will have on her life. I shudder at the thought of the fights we’ll have and how painfully aware I’ll be of my sin, the things I’m capable of when I have a bad day or simply when I’m tired or haven’t eaten. But how restoring and reaffirming it is to be loved, independent of my action or ability or potential value to Suzi. How much more significant it is to come face to face with myself and my sinfulness - not how capable I am, but how helpless. Not how loving I am, but how selfish. I’ll no longer have to think of humility in an abstract manner… but in fact, it will be all too real.
There are definitely things that I will remember fondly from these past 8 months in Seattle despite being separated from Suzi. There was the community we developed at church, on top of late night Friday fellowships (thanks to Lisa and Lauren’s tireless cooking) and Saturday night get-togethers (of herb burgers, birthday celebrations, and Catan). It was the small activities that made a big difference for me, as an outsider being invited into something bigger. There were things as trivial as sitting through the UW graduation, helping out in the puppet show at VBS, and passing out goldfish in the International District street fair. I’ll remember those first critical weeks playing ping pong with Chris on Ruby 5 and spending the night (and the only time Bean jumped on me when I was asleep) because home didn’t yet feel like home. I’ll remember the climbing sessions with Fred, eating a baby-sized burrito at Gordito’s, a late night talk at Pike Place and the first hangout at Sushiland, and, of course, the night he proposed to Julia at Gordon’s show. And, of course, the 12 egg omelette we ate at Beth’s Cafe. And Lisa and Jonie’s perfect game. And the day we’ll get our pictures on the wall at Burger Madness… (that hasn’t happened yet, but it will). I could go on. There was the time I had Ivan’s cooking, all of the times Tammy drove me back home, the time James went blind nil at Pastor Matt’s house, and the time we locked ourselves out of Pastor Matt’s house using floss.
Out of everything, there were still bigger things than just having friends and good times. It helped to see Christians who took Christ seriously and really believed in what He said - that we will lose our lives if we try to save them and that we can’t identify with the world and that persecution is a sign of a healthy walk. It helped to see people who believed in God even though they weren’t raised in Christian homes. We talked about a lot of things. I learned that I didn’t have much of an excuse for not giving my money to church or to people in need. I learned that relationships with non-Christians don’t make much sense if they never produce presentations of the gospel. I learned that we should always be spontaneously talking about God, out of genuine desire and joy - and I saw us begin to actually do it. We talked about philosophy, dinosaurs, sex, predestination, the validity of the Bible, abortion, drinking, speaking in tongues, and then some.
I love the way things turned out. Last year, when I had changed my mind about marriage, I began wondering what kind of story, what kind of life I was going to invite my future wife into. I wondered how things would be different from when we dated - when we stalled spiritually and isolated ourselves from others. As we talked about community in a guy’s group Bible study last night… I think that what has given me the most confidence is thinking that I am welcoming Suzi into this kind of community. I’m not inviting her to move 2000 miles away to spend all of her time in our condo, working a job, and enjoying each other’s company in our free time. I’m inviting her into community, into an environment where I really feel like God is actively moving, into a church that welcomes and encourages and provides opportunities to serve Christ as a body.
I’m still nervous… but I’m just as confident, more confident than I thought I would be.
Countdown is 16 days. I’ll be back in Tulsa this weekend.