On this day twenty-five years ago, we got engaged. In a tiny, little beach cabin, with the wind blowing outside and the Oregon rain falling on the windows, we sat eating dessert by candlelight. The calm after the storm. My husband-to-be took a deep breath and pointed to a small seashell strategically placed next to the candles. “Your ‘real dessert’ is in that shell.”
Confused I picked up the shell and tried to open it. I couldn’t get it open. Forever practical, and worried that the ring might fall out at some point and get lost, he had placed a thin line of superglue around the edge of the shell. Four minutes and a butter knife later (life was unmastered and messy even in the middle of a marriage proposal) and I sat looking at the beautiful ring he had custom designed for me. Suddenly he was down on one knee asking me to marry him. I said yes. And just like that we had gone from dating to engaged.
It would be great if I could include pictures or a video of that moment. Especially the part where we couldn’t get the ring out of the shell. It was surely “America’s Funniest Home Videos” quality. But we didn’t have a camera with us. Twenty-five years ago there was no Facebook status to change, no Instagram to immediately post pictures of the “set-up,” proposal, and ring. No texting friends and family to say “WE’RE ENGAGED.” Not even a smartphone to take pictures to record the event. We only have our own memories of what that evening was like.
And it was amazing. Amazing because it was so memorable. But also amazing because it almost didn’t happen. You see, on the way to the beach we had one of the biggest fights of our entire lives. Huge. There were tears. Angry words. Even a “turn this car around and take me home!” What we fought about isn’t really important, although I still remember it vividly. What is important is that life can be messy. Imperfect. Even in the moments we think will be tender.
We could have decided that day that it wasn’t worth sticking it out. That the fight was bigger than our relationship, and bigger than our love. We could have walked away. But we didn’t.
I wish I could tell you that we stopped mid-trip and mid-fight to pray about it. Even more, I wish I could tell you that we’ve learned to do that over the past twenty-five years. But I can’t. Because we didn’t. And we haven’t. But I can tell you that was the beginning of perseverance in our relationship. The beginning of staying even when it’s messy. Even when it’s really messy. Through tears and shouting there was staying. Because even when we didn’t recognize what it was, there was grace.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” ~ Galatians 6:9
And in all the staying, all the persevering, all the sticking it out in the midst of the biggest messes, we are starting to see the harvest that comes from those first seeds, twenty-five years later. Staying brought more and more memories, more laughter and tears. More messy parts. More coming together. And it brought four of the most fabulous humans to ever be born on this earth. I look forward to what the next twenty-five years will bring. A few more messy parts maybe, but one thing I know for sure is we’ve gotten pretty good at enduring. And we won’t give up.