I think these were the words I mistakenly uttered when Heather told me she wanted to surprise me with a night away. “I can’t go away for a night…there’s too much to do” were my next thoughts that came to my mind. Gradually over a week, I wore her down and asked for details so I could plan.
Details emerged….mother in law in town could help with kids….Group On helped for amazing deal on a hotel room…the night had been reserved on the calendar with a “dummy” event. It was all coming together. Unless we get away once in a while, we fail to focus on one another and dwell in the blessing of true love.
We got to our hotel and hiked the grounds and viewed a beautiful waterfall. We marveled at our beautiful room and sat down to an amazing dinner. On our napkins, sat 3 smooth stones, a design “feng shui” element to the experience. “Look at this one,” Heather said, pulling one stone close and examining it, “it looks like a heart.”
Indeed it did. The stone looked like a heart. But not a heart cut perfectly from the pages of a Hallmark card with big perfect shaped curves. No this heart looked like a real heart, one that had been through much. The stone had obviously had water carried over it for thousands of years and had probably known it shares of tumbling over other rocks. A chip here, a small crack there, but the rough parts were all worn smooth by the passing of the water. This is like our hearts, worn and shaped, parts and pieces missing from the difficulties of life’s journey. Shaped by the roads we travel and the places we have gone along the way. But this life is beautiful, and the heart remains true and sound, and I would argue tonight, made more beautiful by the difficulties of the journey. Perfect Hallmark hearts are a thing for elementary classrooms. Real hearts, real marriages, real relationships are way more beautiful. The challenges and hard things we face strengthen us and make us smooth.
Later we danced to one of my favorite songs right now, Stones Under Rushing Water by Needtobreath. The song states,
“Why don’t we dance anymore,
I’m not okay with that.
Why don’t we smile anymore,
I’m not okay with that.
The years go by, like stones under rushing water,
we only know when it’s gone.”
For my beautiful and talented and graceful and strong and silly wife, it had been too long since I had danced with her. So we turned up the music in the fancy hotel room, not worried if we were bothering the neighbors, and we danced. And we held each other tight. Like two stones that have been through much in recent years, we are holding on to our life, to our identities in Christ, to our love for each other. In 1997 I had a crush on a brown haired girl who spoke about her love for Jesus and for reaching high school students at a Young Life auction, and my life forever changed. I asked her on a date (mostly from a dare from my friend Alan) and I fell in love. Fourteen years later, we have lived in 2 states, had numerous jobs and challenges, have had 4 beautiful babies, one of whom I am waiting to meet in heaven someday, and still we dance. The years do go by, and it is easy to stop seeing each other through the haze of busyness. There are hard days and difficult weeks, and even sometimes, challenging months and seasons when love is a choice, when your commitment anchors you more than romantic nights away. But like the stone at our dinner table, our life in Christ holds us strong.
This morning we read together in 2 Corinthians, “My grace is sufficient for you. For when we are weak, then we are strong,” and I thanked Jesus for my amazing wife. For markers of the journey. For the places we have been. For the promise in Christ that pulls us forward. For the years that go by, like the water.