Tucked in the midst of our everyday kid hubbub, we let our glances linger longer, our kiss hold just a bit more sweetly. For we knew it was no small thing: we were celebrating 20 years together.
Yesterday morning, as I sipped my tea over Nehemiah, my eyes landed on the repeating phrase,
Next to him, the repairs were made . . .
The Israelites were stationed around the wall of Jerusalem, each one working to repair sections that had been broken and burned during their time in exile. Their names are listed, each man (and some daughters, too!), side by side, shoulder to shoulder.
The poignancy of that phrase touched me as I thought of the last twenty years I've spent with the man I love: Next to him.
I've written about those years. The early years when I was a blushing 11-year-old, stealing sly glances toward a tall boy in the youth group.
I've also written about the difficult years. The years of growing children and growing older . . . .
And about the early months of our marriage when we were down with mono . . . .
And I realized we couldn't have done any of this without holding onto that very phrase: Next to him. Side by side, shoulder to shoulder, we've faced brokenness and burns in this wall that is the Lawson family -- even seasons that felt slightly akin to exile and bondage. Yet by the grace of God "the repairs were made" and we've been able to meet each season next to Him, next to our Master builder.
Last night we grinned wryly over the eternal busyness of this month and as we tried to determine when we'd celebrate our anniversary Jamie said, "Why did we get married in June???" I reminded him that we were in college, so it really made the most sense at the time. I also reminded him of my more sentimental reason, straight out of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: "Oh, they say when you marry in June, you will always be a bride!"
After 20 years, I can tell you that there's another way to "always be a bride," and it doesn't matter when your anniversary lands. Ladies, stand next to him. Stand next to your husband, stand next to your Savior. Men, stand next to her. Stand next to your bride, stand next to your Savior. Face that wall together, making the repairs as they come. Don't let breaches and burns turn into bitterness and bondage. Rather, face them as the Israelites did and proclaim, "Let us start rebuilding."
As we drifted off to sleep last night, me next to him, Jamie said, "You know, we really could be only a third of the way through our marriage." My mind looked ahead to our eighty-year-old selves and I knew that our age would never matter. I'd always want to be right there, right next to him.