Today is a special day. Seven years ago I married my husband in a little church on a rainy afternoon. We walked down the aisle holding hands, moving toward the future side by side. A bit unorthodox, perhaps, but fitting. It was a walk on a rainy night that started it all.
My husband and I met at Emory & Henry College in SW Virginia when we were just teenagers. We were 17 and 18 years old and took a few freshman classes together. I recall his keen sense of humor and quick laugh. He recalls my propensity for wearing overalls - he once said to me, "Who wears those things anymore?!? You do, Girl." He often calls me "Girl" with a capital "G."
It took us two full years on campus (and a bit more) to connect the dots. By the time we recognized each other we were juniors.
We found each other not knowing what our future would be like. We had some guesses, but almost all of them were inaccurate.
These days we have a beautifully full, confusing life (like most people). During these seven years of marriage we've had ups and downs, changes in work and housing, a baby boy, and a plethora of "passion projects" between us.
It's hard to know what to say as we begin our eighth year of marriage (which will be our eleventh year of togetherness). I've thought about this a lot lately - What is it about this shared life that most sustains me and him . . . and us? The answer comes out easier than you might think - It's the ampersand. The third strand. The presence of the Spirit of the Living God in our midst. And that sounds like a "churchy" answer, but it's not. It's not a cookie cutter existence or an easy solution to all of our problems. Actually, I believe that this third presence in our marriage urges us to practice painful, sacramental honesty in our toughest moments. It's a force that draws us together, into conversation, when all we want to do is sit in silence, seething under the surface. It pushes us to consider the infinite tomorrows before making today's decisions, and to humbly beg forgiveness when consideration is forgotten in the heat of a stressful moment.
The "&" in the middle of us changes us. The "&" is the space God uses to break our "hearts of stone" and "give us hearts for love alone," and this work goes on every single day. We aren't always successful, but the spaces between our words are filled with the potential for new life, springing from the breath of God.
God's love, which is more constant than our human love, pushes against our stony hearts, breaking them apart each day until they're dust again . . . growing new life in the wake of loss, disillusionment, and frustration.
Those in between spaces are our best and worst - we can't pretend to be perfect. But even when the harsh word escapes or the prickly silence stretches, there is continuous potential for redemption . . . there is hope.
Like any good E&H alum I'm always a bit moved by the thought of the ampersand because it stood for so much during those college years. My husband and I were educated by professors who were passionately committed to the idea of community service through excellence in vocational work. We heard an awful lot about the ampersand - the space between, the drawing together of things (or ideas or people).
Today I'm so thankful to be sitting in a dorm room on the campus of E&H as a visiting church musician, almost 30, but feeling 17 again. I'm grateful to have the chance to walk where we once walked and to think about all the ways we've been preserved by that holy in between space over the years.
Happy anniversary to us, the "Boy" and the "Girl" who met in freshman writing class, walked in the rain, and looked for excuses to sit at the piano together all those years ago at E&H. May we have many more years of late night piano jam sessions and conversations about the pretty and not so pretty things. And may we always have a sense of that holy in between space, that ampersand, so that we'll continue to be drawn into community with each other and God . . . and the world around us (that's tough for two introverts!) - it's a beautiful life.