This is a picture of my wife and I kissing.
Yeah, underneath all of that flour and chocolate syrup and whatever flying insects managed to get trapped in the goo are myself and my bride, Rachel. We volunteered to be human sundaes if the kids at our VBS could raise $1800 for a mission project. It was a boys vs. girls competition; if the boys won, Rachel would get gunked. If the girls won, I was to go under the drizzle of death.
They raised $2000. $1000 per team. Dead even.
So everybody won. Our mission team got money to do some good work in the Dominican Republic, our VBS workers and kids got to have fun getting the two of us messy, and we got to do something outrageously fun together.
Of course, it's only natural for us to do this. Saturday marks our 11th wedding anniversary and I believe that we have celebrated our anniversary by doing VBS every single year. Without fail. We've never taken a trip, never gone out to dinner, never really done much of anything because we've been doing VBS. And loving every minute of it.
As a minister, this is my role. My purpose. To serve the church and its people, to sacrifice myself for the greater good. I'm happy to do it because I believe in the God I proclaim, and feel like it's the best way to spend my life.
But I also know that I am incredibly blessed to have a wife who'll not only tolerate my job, not merely support me, but will stand toe to toe with me in ministry. I've known plenty of men who sacrificed their marriage on the altar of ministry; some because they let the ministry become more important than their marriage, others because their spouse just couldn't stay. I'm not judging any of those who've gone through that - I'm just saying that I am eternally grateful for a wife who works beside me.
And that's the point of a marriage, isn't it? To be in a relationship with that one person you can't live without, to celebrate the joys and share the sorrows of life with someone who knows you in the most intimate ways possible?
While you may not go in for what the Bible has to say about marriage, the point of the institution is lay bare the human heart - to teach us how to be open and vulnerable with someone else. To be an illustration of what a relationship with God is meant to be: for better or worse, for rich or poor, in sickness and health.
Marriage is, in essence, a life of faith.
I know for me, I could not have put my faith in someone else besides Rachel. I don't claim to know everything, but I'm pretty darn certain that no one else could have ever been better suited to be my partner for the rest of our lives. And over the past eleven years, that truth has be affirmed and reaffirmed so much that I can't picture myself ever loving someone as much as I love her.
I mean, we can't even sleep if the other one isn't nearby.
I remember something I read about the late John Wooden, legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins, and his wife, Nellie. After her death, Coach Wooden would write her a letter every month and add it to a stack on her side of their bed. At the time the article was written, the stack was over three feet high. Coach Wooden slept in the bed he shared with his wife, but only on his side, and only beneath the cover - never between the sheets.
His reason? He wanted what he shared with his beloved wife to remain theirs.
Some people call that kind of devotion antiquated, impractical, unrealistic. I call it true love.
And I'm grateful that's what Rachel and I have. Happy anniversary, Rachel, if a few days early.
I'm glad we're together, forever, for better or worse, rich or poor, chocolate syrup or flour.