Thirty-eight years tomorrow.
The organist played the wedding march and I stood next to my Daddy in the foyer with my heart pounding like clapping thunder in my chest and wearing an ever so slightly off-white, nothing special wedding dress so as not to be a total fraud. We’d rented the dress for $65 and it never even occurred to me to mind. I come from very modest means and there was no world in which I expected my parents to spend several hundred dollars on a dress. They didn’t have it. And, except for the monthly stresses of bill paying in our home and overhearing my mom on the phone with bankers about overdrafts and loans and mortgages, we didn’t care that we made it by the skin of our teeth. It was normal to us and, for that matter, normal to most of the people we knew.
The congregation of about 200 came to its loud feet with the prelude and almost that many faces looked straight back at me and Daddy. My eyes darted up the middle aisle of that small Baptist church, shifting back and forth from smiling face to smiling face, many very familiar to me despite having been there a few short years. I served wherever I churched because that’s what I was raised to do. Never considered not. That day at Spring Woods Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, my wide-eyed gaze also fell on a few faces of those who filled the front aisles. Family members. And, trust me when I tell you, they weren’t smiling. Every year around our anniversary, Keith and I recount the whole ignominious scene with one another and mock the family scowls and laugh until our sides split. Nothing could have been less humorous on that particular day but the thought that we spited all of them by making it this long brings Keith and me no small glee. We were both in long term stable relationships when we met. I was engaged. He was soon to be. Each of our families loved our significant others. And, in a way I won’t go into trying to explain, so did we.
I’m not sure Keith and I ourselves completely understand why we dropped everything dependable and remotely stable in our lives and flew headlong into one another with all the tranquility of a pair of cymbals. The best explanation is that clamor attracts clamor and baggage attracts baggage and, boy, did we each have some. And then there was just pure chemistry. Had we been married to other people when we met, God help us, I trust we would have either ignored or resisted it or, by that time, never met but the fact was, we weren’t married, we did meet and we did not remotely ignore nor resist one another.
The words “wedding planner” weren’t even in my vocabulary or that of anyone I knew. The woman standing in the foyer with Dad and me on the day of the wedding was one of the very same women who brought a green bean casserole or jello salad every Wednesday night to fellowship supper. When the organ piped up, she nodded her head, touched my shoulder and said “Now.” She’d told us to go slow and Dad and I had practiced the night before but, for the life of me, I was either going to run down that aisle to that man in the tux or my hind end was going to flee to the parking lot where I’d holler like a wild hyena until somebody picked me up and hijacked me to Mexico.
I cannot say that it did not help that Keith Moore was the most beautiful man I’d ever kissed in all my life. Dad and I flew so fast down that aisle that my veil nearly took me to the wind like the flying nun.
A thought which carries impressive irony.
In seconds it seemed, the pastor said to the congregation, “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Keith Moore.”
And, just like that, the wedding was over.
Let the drama begin.
And I guess in a lot of ways it’s never come to an end. It’s just a different kind of drama these days for the most part.
I’ve been asked many times if I’ll ever write a book on marriage. I don’t expect to. I have no intention of setting us up as some exemplary couple. Keith and I have not had a great marriage. But, somehow, in recent years, we’ve managed to find ourselves in a pretty good one. And I guess it’s fair to say you’ve never met two people happier about being pretty happy.
We don’t just kiss on our anniversary. We high five.
I’m really reluctant to do what I’m about to do because what if he and I get into the biggest fight of our lives tonight and I maniacally hurl all his fishing gear and deer heads and forty pair of unders in the front yard? I’ve never done that before but I’ve always known I had it in me. I’ve always kept my pitching arm in shape for such a time as this. And what if one of the neighbors videos us and I end up on the YouTube cussing? I’ve never been one to cuss much but, if I’m ever going to have a cussing conniption, it will be my luck to have it on the YouTube. One time I did try to leave Keith and he said, “Go right ahead. Leave me. But you’ll look in your rearview mirror and there I will be and not because I like you any better than you like me. Because I don’t. But because we are married and married we’ll stay.” Keith never was a great Catholic except about the one thing I wished he’d been more Baptist about: splitting.
And so, like somebody pulling teeth, I’m reluctantly going to tell you with little commentary a few of the things that have kept us at it, every single one of which is nothing but the dripping grace of Jesus. We can’t even take credit for the things that have actually worked. So here goes and then I’m closing this post and publishing it before I change my mind.
If you don’t mind, I’m going to do this backwards and start with the bottom line because everything else comes back to this: We have both and each been willing, many times through bitter tears and against our human-hearted natural preferences, to choose to love each other again. Over and over and over and over. After some really harsh things.
We had Amanda nine months and two weeks from our wedding day after being told I’d need surgery to conceive. Liar, liar pants on fire. We may as well have named her Elmers. She was the glue God used to hold our first few years together. Then came Melissa, who was a dyed in the wool daddy’s girl. We still wouldn’t have made it even with them to consider, I’m sorry to say, if not for that one bottom line above.
We developed compassion for one another. We were both messed up and we each understood why. And, I really don’t know a better way to say it, we felt sorry for one another and started trying to help each other get better.
The fact that I could sob as I write this next one is fittingly ironic. We each think the other is hilarious. The only thing Keith and I have done as much as fight is laugh. I don’t know why we got that gift but we did. We even laughed at times in the terrible years. We tried not to but we couldn’t help ourselves. We are each the most absurd person the other has ever met. We are a cartoon strip and we know it.
One last thing. I told Keith before we were engaged that God had placed a call on my life at 18 and, if he didn’t think he could handle it, he better run for his life. Having no other paradigm for a woman in ministry, he looked at me with a measure of horror and said, “Are you going to be a nun?” (We’d made out for the better part of the last hour so the absurdity of this one makes me rub my forehead with no small delight.) No, I said, to which he responded, “Then I’m in.” And he has been. For somewhere around 15 Bible studies, numerous other books, 23 years of Sunday School lessons, many years of Tuesday night Bible study and two Friday nights a month with me on the road. Unwaveringly. And not as a weakling but as the strongest willed man I’ve ever met. Nobody need wonder who wears the Wranglers in my family. And you may as well not go to seed feeling sorry for him. He’d have to lie to say I ignored him and then I’d have to hit him with my purse and, considering all the lip glosses in it, it would hurt considerably. Him, not me. He just wasn’t the kind that would be ignored. When we were at home together, we were at home together. I didn’t hang out on the phone all the time doing ministry or study my commentaries in front of him – I did that while he was at work – or flip through magazines. To this day, if I’m messing around on social media on my phone when I’m with him, he’ll say, “Pay attention to me!” And I’m glad he will. And I do. Or we’d have nothing.
And, finally, after many years, I returned a certain spiritual favor after all he’d done to be supportive of my calling: I just accepted him like he was and quit trying to turn him into a deacon or some big spiritual beacon. He didn’t want to be one. Doesn’t want to now.
Thirty-eight years tomorrow. This one man and me. We’ve decided to stay in this dance a little bit longer.
Because, ladies and gentlemen, smilers and scowlers, we are Mr. and Mrs. Keith Moore.