It’s Thanksgiving week, and on top of that, today is our twenty-third wedding anniversary. It is proper on this holiday to remind ourselves what we are thankful for. As I sit here, belly distended, still miserably full (yet strangely content) after the four-hour unbridled assault I launched upon my innards on Thanksgiving day, I find that my anniversary (aside from being yet another reminder of my advancing age) is symbolic of that for which I am most thankful.
I met my wife in 1983, while I was a fifth-year sophomore in college. I worked at a small pharmacy delivering prescriptions, and she was a receptionist at a veterinarian’s office. I would, on occasion, deliver vaccines and medicines to her office and never failed to notice how pretty and friendly she was. She had a very wholesome, girl next door look about her, and it was clear that the other workers there adored her. I started to leave flowers I’d picked from customer’s bushes (“Hey! Get away from my roses! And I’m missing three pills from my prescription!”) at the front desk. After a couple of months, she stopped by work one day; we talked at our cars and started to get to know each other.
We could not have been more different: she was sweet, kind, and exceedingly good-natured. Moreover, she was a Christian. I was, at the time, decidedly not. Up to this point, my exposure to Christianity had been mostly limited to the Bible-thumping evangelists on the campus mall. This approach I found less than appealing (some spittle-launching guy, veins popping, pointing his finger at me, a complete stranger, telling me I was a sinner and doomed to the fire for eternity); I thought I was a pretty cool guy, while he was creepy and scary and possessed by a spirit of another sort. This young lady, by contrast, was an ambassador of God’s shining love; she had a calm, sweet spirit, with the quiet confidence of faith set in stone, all placed in a gorgeous package and wrapped with a pink bow. She looked and acted like no other girl I had ever known. I was sold. On the package, anyway.
Five years later, we were married; I was tenacious, she a poor judge of character. Our five-year courtship was not without its problems, however. Her parents were pretty good at character assessment, and I was very slow to come around on the issue of faith. Many of the things I did back then were in direct conflict with being a Christian man. It’s hard to let go of what has come to define you; these issues seeped into the early years of our marriage, like broccoli juice into an otherwise perfect plate of steak and mashed potatoes (if you like broccoli, your taste buds were somehow compromised and you wouldn’t understand the comparison). I’m still nowhere near where I should be, but I hope I’m a better man than I was. If I am, it’s because she made me that way.
My wife is still the same package; she’s still so pretty, still an ambassador for God. He is revealed through her in many different ways: her devotion to her children and family; the six orphaned cats who have invaded my home; the way she kisses pictures in the newspaper (usually of an animal, child or elderly person who has touched her in some way); her love of nature and God’s creation, and her undying opposition to anything that threatens it; and her willingness to help anyone in time of need. We are the poster couple for the notion that opposites attract; where her heart is full, robust and exposed to all that might injure it, mine by comparison is shrunken, black, cold and impenetrable.
So this Thanksgiving, I give thanks that my wife is my wife. Honestly, I don’t bring much to the table; where I get breast and thigh (it’s a metaphor, filthy person), she gets neck and giblets (see?). She is a gift, my reward, though like most things He gives me, I don’t deserve it. Even better, because I got to be with her, she saved my everlasting life. There’s no question she’s gotten the short end of the deal; I hope she doesn’t often think of it. I’m pretty sure that rather than gift, I am her cross to bear; her reward will come much, much later.