On 20 Years of Marriage, Becoming, and Continuing to Fall in Love

Twenty years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart. I know lots of people say “we were just kids when we got married!” — but that’s exactly what I feel when I think back 20 years. I guess we were technically adults (barely), but in our early twenties we knew nothing.

I frequently say to people about marriage, “Pulling off a wedding isn’t that major a feat. The real accomplishment is continuing to fall in love with the person you’re married to.”

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When I look back at our wedding photos and I think about myself, I seem like a stranger. I was twenty-two and had just earned my B.A. in Biblical Studies from a Baptist college! Yeah, I had some misgivings even then about my Baptist roots, but they were still (very) unformed thoughts. I was brash, confident, loud. I knew everything. I had God, religion, and ministry figured out. I had marriage figured out. I knew I was marrying an amazing woman and we would show the world how good marriage could be. I think of the size of my ego at 22 and it’s embarrassing!

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When I look back at our wedding photos and think about Jennifer then, I smile. She was as sincere then as she is now. Naive, to be sure — we both were naive about so many things. But she was disciplined and focused, organized and confident. All her best qualities, the ones that still attract people to her, were there.

And, despite the fact that it’s not really in her nature, she was willing to follow me into any adventure. I tell people all the time, “Jennifer didn’t marry ‘the pastor,’ she doesn’t love me because I’m ‘the pastor.’ She knew me, trusted me and loved me before all of that. And that’s one of the reasons I trust her so much.”

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When I look back at our wedding photos, those two people seem like strangers. Oh, there are a lot of seeds of things and characteristics and patterns of relating that are still recognizable today. But both of those twenty year olds have changed so much. Life has happened. We’ve laughed and mourned and suffered together. Just a couple of years ago, I remember lying in bed one night crying together because of stuff that was happening around us but fully confident in us — that we were in it together.

I tell Jennifer all the time, “I love the woman you’ve become.”

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It’s funny, we’ve often said that if our twenty-year-old selves could meet our forty-year-old selves, I don’t even think they’d really like each other much. I don’t know how much they would have in common. God, faith, religion would all be taboo subjects. Our 20-year-old selves would judge us for having too many kids, for being too liberal and for being too practical. (My 20-year old self would also be disappointed that I wasn’t ruling the known galaxy by now.)

Sigh.

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But this is the way of things. The real challenge of marriage is not to put on the best reception ever (ours wasn’t… no dancing, no wine…boring). The real challenge is continuing to become a better version of yourself, and to continue to grow in your love for who the other person is becoming.

This is why we leave jobs, leave friendships and sometimes move away and change our circumstances. We become something else, circumstances change, people change, we make mistakes, we get hurt and we move on.

Love doesn’t discriminate // Between the sinners // And the saints // It takes and it takes and it takes

And we keep loving anyway // We laugh and we cry // And we break // And we make our mistakes

And if there’s a reason I’m by her side // When so many have tried

Then I’m willing to wait for it // I’m willing to wait for it

“Wait for It” – Hamilton

But our marriage — 20 years in, today — is a commitment that no matter how much we break, no matter how much we change, no matter how much it takes, we will keep becoming and choosing to fall in love.

(I’m sure, if we’re blessed with another 20 years together, I’ll look back at even this post and laugh at who I was. That’s just the way of things. LOL)

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  • Sue T.

    Congratulations! And I love the photo. Just so you know, the next 20 years can also be a wonderful adventure and I’m sure you will continue to grow and change. Commitment is key. We decided many years ago that whatever life throws our way we will stay together and work it out. We’re still falling in love and still changing and still having fun!

  • Michael T.

    THIS
    /
    “But our marriage — 20 years in, today — is a commitment that no matter how much we break, no matter how much we change, no matter how much it takes, we will keep becoming and choosing to fall in love.”

    After God, to be the answer to staying married.
    Happy Anniversary!
    From Sue and I.

    Admit it, you expect to be ruling our galaxy within the next 20 though.