September 4, 2014 (in Tammerie’s words)
It’s a calm and quiet day. M is at work; I am in the Philly apartment tailoring a simple order of service for our marriage. Next year there will be a wedding celebration in North Carolina for our family and friends; this one is just for us, and the law. But, as always, we find the silver lining in the hoops we jump through. There is an ease in this simplicity and smallness. It lets us focus on what is happening rather than hoopla.
Pastor Amy will welcome and pray for us. We will read Psalm 139 together, reminding us once more of that day in Duke Chapel. After M’s oblique proposal, we had wandered the ornate building, ending up in the basement among statues and headstones, carvings and bays. Finding a large Bible on a lectern, I waved M over to join me, turned to my favorite text and began to read.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
Somewhere along Sheol, she turns away, and I think I have offended her, pause for a moment. She turns back, her lips set, and nods at me to continue. When I finish, she turns again and this time walks away. I follow her. We are silent, walking through and back up into the sanctuary. We sit in a pew about halfway back, quiet, breathing together. She begins to try to explain what happened, earlier, when we stood before that Bible. How something inside unfolded, at the thought of an every-when, ever-present God who has somehow ordained our presence in this time and place. As she gives up trying to find the words, I say the ones at the top of my mind. “How are we going to do this?” I am aware of the children back in Texas, the not-yet-complete Ph.D., the aging parents. We stand and walk back down the aisle, out the enormous doors, into bright sunlight. Standing on the steps, blinking, words pop into my head.
“Way will open.”
That’s all. No guidance as to how, or when … just, “Way will open.”
I feel as if I have been given the gift of a promise, a gift to share. I turn to M, and say the words. “Way will open.” We walk on into the surprising and yet ordinary day, just a day, but one that it feels our lives are pivoting around.
The part of the service where we will say our vows is blank. M is deciding what she will say. I am unable to decide. Words are so inadequate. I have been living my vows with her for years already. I have moved. I have not moved. I have brought my children into our relationship; sometimes I have kept my children out of our relationship. I have introduced her to my parents; we have buried my parents. I have left her in order to work; I have turned down work in order to stay with her. I have held my own in our disagreements; I have held on to us in the foundational agreements that structure our life. I have created and held a safe harbor for her in my heart, believing that – odd as it sometimes seems – God has entrusted her to me for safekeeping. God willing, I will care for her until one of us breathes her last.
What else is there to say?
My cell phone rings. It is the hospital where I have interviewed for a job. They say they want to offer me the job. Joy erupts within joy, because a way has just opened that we have worked and prayed for for years. I will be able to keep my promises.
I hold this joy inside until M and I meet for lunch, where I surreptitiously order two glasses of champagne. I sit down with her, and we begin to chat about the morning. The two sparkling glasses arrive, and she looks up at me. “I changed your drink order, because we have to celebrate. I got the job!” Her face crinkles into laughter and tears all at once, and then we are both laughing. How are we going to hold all this joy? It just sizzles over into everything.