It was a difficult place to find, and we are both the sort who have difficulty finding most places. Finally, we spotted the unassuming, humbly small sign and then stepped off of the bright concrete of an unfamiliar cityscape into a dark little romantic restaurant. It wasn’t the kind of place we frequent, and maybe that’s one reason that we loved it so much. We sat at a tiny table with fresh flowers on it and laughed at how little we understood about the menu in front of us.
We were celebrating twenty-two years of marriage. That’s roughly 8,000 dinners together, yet this one felt especially memorable. We stayed for a couple of hours, enjoying several courses of delicious food that we couldn’t identify or pronounce, and during that time we took notice of the other couples in this beautifully tiny restaurant.
One pair fidgeted in their seats, struggling to interrupt awkward silences. They broke into spontaneous and enthusiastic discussions, only to find that they quickly ran out of things to say on the topic. They ate with much deliberation and care, trying not to be too messy, trying hard to make impressions on each other through shy smiles and interesting observations. That’s not who Chad and I are at twenty-two years. At one time, we said careful and measured things, so conscious of what kind of impression we could be making. There was a time for awkward pauses. Now we can happily sit side by side in comfortable silence.
Another couple held hands and read some sort of hand-written promises to one another in voices too quiet to discern. They both wiped tears away as they held hands across the table. That’s not who Chad and I are at twenty-two years. We made the promises long ago when we were only babies. We held hands in the candlelight back in 1999 and pledged passion and solidarity and faith and love. There was a time for making vows. Now we are in the long stretch of life where those promises are kept.
We sat together at that little table without an ounce of self-conscious scheming. Not a single part of us was dying to make tearful proclamations to each other. We just had fun. We tried to muffle our laughter so as not to disturb the other couples, and we talked about everything that came to our minds. There’s an easiness to twenty-two years.
We have slept fitfully with backs turned to one another in defiance, and we have learned how much we hate it. We have struggled with old words that caused pain, and we have chosen to forget them. We have accepted habits, quirks, and personality flaws. We have tried withholding forgiveness and clinging to a sense of entitlement, only to see that it caused us both misery. We have tested all of the ways to be selfish and found them unsatisfying. Two decades into this life-long commitment, things are infinitely simpler. It seems that the longer we live side by side, the more likely we are to love deeply, to forgive quickly, to laugh easily, to trust fully.
We are the people in the tiny romantic restaurant who are having the best time. And I wouldn’t trade that for the butterflies of that first awkward dinner or the sweetness of the teary confessions of early life together. God continues to sanctify us through this miracle called marriage, and with each passing year, I guess we get more and more convinced that we’re just right for each other. I’d say that’s a pretty perfect place to be at twenty-two years.
Happy anniversary!!! We will be 40 this year and I count it a true gift of grace that we are all those things you described still. And then some.