Today, I and Haley celebrate our second anniversary—what seemed like three years ago an absolute impossibility.
Ten years ago, Haley and I began dating in high school. At that time, neither of us sought the Lord (evidenced by the way we consistently lived our lives), though you could find us in a church almost every week. We were both foolish, typical teenagers and believed that our lives were defined by high school, being cool, and each other. We, being the petty American adolescents that we were, dated off and on during those years, to suit whatever particular moods we were in or whatever fancies we had, and never truly established what one might called a meaningful and intimate relationship.
Upon our graduation from high school, we were together but found ourselves heading in different directions. Haley began taking classes at Meredith College, and I, after a semester off after high school, began my first and last semester at Wake Tech. It was at that time that the Lord started working on my heart, using the things that I thought I had ignored from my parents and at church to convict me of my sin and to reveal to me my hopelessness without God. It was also at that time when I was perhaps the most attached to Haley that I had ever been, and, if I recall correctly, she was quite the opposite. Upon those feelings of her heart, we broke off and went our separate ways—she to her particular path, and I to mine.
My grief at that time shaped me profoundly, and at times brought me closer to Christ and at times had me shaking my fist at him. And though I had discarded the secular path in which I was heading and began going to school at Southeastern Baptist Seminary and working at the sacred bookstore called LifeWay, my life was far from stable. In retrospect, I know now that my life was founded on religiosity instead on the Rock who is Jesus Christ, and that foundation, as it should have, crumbled from underneath me.
During this time which spanned several years, passions between Haley and me were on and off—seeming at times as though high school had never ended. At some points, Haley would terribly miss me and seek me out while I was practically apathetic, and at others, I would terribly miss Haley and seek her out while she was practically apathetic. This time of fickleness was continually hit and miss and is perhaps best summed up in three words: two broken engagements.
It was after all these things that it seemed as though our lives had finally and permanently separated. I was particularly bitter and hostile toward the thought of us getting back together, and we managed not to talk or to cross our paths for at least two years. During this time, the Lord finally began to make himself the foundation of my life, and I, after a wicked sabbatical, was back in school at Southeastern and was dangerously close to finishing my degree. Meanwhile, Haley was at Montreat College doing her thing, which I found out later was the same thing that God was doing in my life.
After these two years of avoidance, I received an invitation to attend Haley’s brother and sister-in-law’s renewing of their vows ceremony in February 2006. I was quite reluctant and hesitant to go and still a bit bitter and hostile, but I loved Haley’s family deeply and did wish to see them again.
Upon the arrival of that fateful day, I suited up in the pants, shirt, and tie that I had bought at Kohl’s the day before and drove, with a Yankee Candle air freshener dangling from my rearview mirror, from Raleigh to somewhere in the greater Zebulon area off of NC 96 to the church where the ceremony was to be held. I sat myself on the left side of the church, and gazed at Haley, who was standing up at the front, and was struck by a beauty robed in the dress of a bridesmaid—a beauty that somehow had all but faded from my memory.
Long story short: third engagement’s a charm.:)
Sometimes I regret not having the simple relationship with Haley that I see others have—where they meet, date for a short time, and get married and know little apart from that. From start to present, our journey to arrive at our second anniversary has taken over ten years and is laden with struggles and strife, and grief and happiness. Yet, on the other hand, I am extremely grateful for the way in which our marriage has come about, for while others who are married in the more common way can affirm God as sovereign and might seem glimpses of his Providence here and there in their relationships, Haley and I cannot look at our relationship apart from the Providence of God. Every time that I look into her beautiful face and every time that I kiss her lips, I cannot do so rightly without thinking about my sovereign and merciful God.