For Who We Will Be

God Himself looks at us, not as we are, but as we are to Christ; and loves us, not for our sake, but for Christ’s sake, and for His own sake, because of something in Himself which cannot help loving even the unlovely. And then, God always looks beyond our present to the future ideal, which His love has for us, and to which, it is bringing us. God sees us, not as we are today, but as we shall be by and by, when He has accomplished the purpose of His grace in us, and we shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father” (A.B. Simpson).

I am grateful that God looks at me through the lens of Christ and that He doesn’t settle with leaving me as I am. How I wish I could love like God does! Reading these words a few months back reminded me of similar words that Jeremy had written on a placard that was placed on our wedding reception tables…

Things we would want people to know at our wedding:

– There will be no divorce.
– We intend to learn to love the unlovable, practicing that often with each other.
– We anticipate times when we must love each other for who we will be and not necessarily for who we are. Though this may sound escapist and rather cruel on present terms, we believe God loves us in this way – for the potential He sees – for the essence of who we are and are becoming, rather than how we’re acting at the time, thus inspiring us to become all He made us to be. 
– The Beretta is big enough for the both of us. 
– Kids are good. 
– We marry knowing our lives may seem less effective from certain angles. Our ambitions may change, our spirits for adventure may be tamed, our desire to wander may be less inclined to lift these legs, but we believe that effective ministry happens when we first allow God to do His work in our hearts in His way. Learning to love like He loves His church and His children is perhaps the ultimate calling for man – for in this, practiced and observed, man sees God for who He is and in light of that, who can resist Him? We believe this to be the season for that, and believe it will be a far more effective ministry than anything God has wrought up thus far. 
– Contrary to popular opinion, Jen is old enough (and Jeremy….mature enough) to be married.
– We know it may be tough. 
– We know it will be good. 
– And because we don’t know it all, we’re glad that you are here. 
(postscript: there will be no buffet lines in heaven)

I was three weeks shy of turning 20 years old. I knew so little about myself or life, let alone marriage. Jeremy, being 5 1/2 years older, seemed to have a bit more insight (or at least pretended he did). I’m glad Jeremy took the time to expand what our vows implied, for we learned over the years the importance of holding fast to these promises made to God, for one another. Vows are intended to bind us together (to God and to one another); we ought to let them do the work, then, of binding us.

The final line (postscript: there will be no buffet lines in heaven) was meant for fun at the time (isn’t the worst part about wedding receptions the long line for food?). Yet, ten years later, I saw a much longer line coming towards me to offer condolences for a husband gone too early. When I pulled our wedding program out and read that last line I thought, well, isn’t heaven where all God-ward marriages end? The day I married Jeremy I was not thinking about death ever parting us. Now, I’m learning that the death of a spouse is just as much a part of the marriage experience as anything else. In that way (and many other ways) I’ve tasted fully all that marriage was to be for Jeremy and me. It was not the fullness of all I hoped or longed for, or all that it was intended to be prior to the Fall of mankind. But I know we drank in as deeply as we could of all that we were given to share together. And I continue to trust that Jeremy’s death will in some way lead to more life. It may be in small, even unnoticed ways, but it must be there. It was only in death that we were brought to the fullness of life through Christ. The concept that life is born out of death is all over the place in Scripture. It would do us well to look for such things in our lives as well.

When it comes to wedding vows, there is always the decision of whether to write your own or state the traditional ones. Both are good options. We chose the latter. I probably didn’t have an opinion at the time (though I was likely relieved to not have to go through the work of crafting my own), but I remember Jeremy stating something about the gravity, the weightiness, the blessing there is in repeating vows that have been repeated at altars for centuries. There is a “rootedness”; we are joining in on something that is not new, but that has been promised over and over again. It grieves me how often those vows are broken–even great marriages have their own battles within. But to say we loved one another the best we knew how for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, loving and cherishing until death did us part, were vows fulfilled only by the grace of God. Neither of us loved each other perfectly or fully (God alone knows how many mistakes we made). But to know of the perfect love God has for us and to live in the knowledge of that love, made our love more often a joy than a sorrow.

“And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight, to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)

“He Himself is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

These scripture passages were the framework for our wedding ceremony and they remained foundational for our marriage and our prayers throughout all of the seasons we shared. They are no less foundational for me in these days. It goes without saying that here, in this life, we will never be able to love people like God does but it ought not keep us from trying. If God’s love for us becomes irresistible, we won’t be able to resist loving those around us in a similar way.

That little placard at our reception tables ended up being such a foreshadowing of all that was to come…

– There was no divorce.
– We learned to love the unlovable, practicing it often with each other (imperfectly so).
– We often had to love each other for who we were becoming, rather than who we were at the time. Jeremy’s love compelled me into becoming; I think my love for him did the same. As I’ve grieved the loss of Jeremy over the past 2 1/2 years with friends, I’ve shared with them that it was with Jeremy that I grew up. He grew me up. He helped be become. And I grieve some that I am more now who he saw me to be all those years than I ever saw myself to be when I was his. He saw the potential in me and helped carve it out until the day he died. (Maybe I did the same for him.)
– The Beretta was big enough for the both of us. He was so attached to that car that when Aedan came along two years later (it wasn’t big enough for three of us), he parked it up on the Erickson farm. That car drove him on all sorts of roads across the U.S., alone at first and then with  me. (Who gets to do that?)
– Kids are indeed good. Jeremy loved his boys; they know it. And I continue to love them so much.
– Our lives were less effective in some ways once joining together, but not in the most important ways. The sanctification that comes out of marriage is like none other. It was our ultimate calling. The knowledge and insight and coming to know God in the framework of marriage was irresistible to us (and to others as well, I think). The season was too brief but I pray whatever ministry came out of our marriage was effective.
– I guess I was old enough to be married. Jeremy was mature. I trusted him; rarely was I ever afraid to walk where he was walking. And it was only 3 years after our wedding that reality of life and death hit us with Jeremy’s diagnosis of cancer. Then, we grew up even faster.
– It was tough, tougher than we ever imagined it could be. But the difficult roads we walked together made the sweet roads, sweeter still. So we learned to drink it in when it was offered to us.
-It was good. It was so very, very good.
-And had we walked it alone without all of our friends and family, we would have crumbled a million times over.

Thank you, to those of you who celebrated with us 13 years ago and stood in that buffet line, and to those of you who stood in the receiving line at Jeremy’s funeral (do you know how many hugs I got that day? Like…a thousand) and at his burial.

Remember, there’ll be no buffet lines awaiting us on the other side of the grave; it’ll be a feast like none other. Until then, may God’s love compel us to love each other into becoming all who we were made to be and to fully live out all our days. To God be the glory for who we are and for who we will be.