Happy (Improbable) Anniversary!
Back in the early ’90s, when my wife Debra and I were in a band touring around the upper midwest, we drove past a restaurant called Happy Chef. In front of the restaurant stood a 20-foot-tall statue of an endlessly smiling chef raising a wooden spoon in the air. Our drummer, Chris, laughed and said, “That’s you, Rob. You’re a happy chef.” A decade later, a friend was listening to some of my orchestral compositions and commented, “It’s weird how someone as cheerful as you could write such dark and somber music.” It was an idea that had never once crossed my mind.
It wasn’t until after I was married that I started to become aware of my deep, ingrained tendency to “bury my head in the sand” to avoid conflict, ignore warning signs, and hope for the best. I walked around wearing both blinders and rose-colored glasses. Not exactly a mindset that leads to success and flourishing in life.
But that’s who I was. (And probably still am today…hopefully to a lesser degree!) So you can imagine back in 1992, as a brash 22-year-old kid, just how ready I was for this thing called marriage. I have to laugh. If 54-year-old me were to meet 22-year-old me, I would put my hand on his shoulder, look him in the eye, and say, “Son, you have no idea what you’re doing. Give it a few years.”
And it wouldn’t have changed a thing. Back then, all I knew was that I wanted to marry this amazing woman. I didn’t ask anyone whether it was a good idea or not, not even God. I didn’t think about the future, whether we were compatible, or if I was ready to make this kind of commitment. I just wanted to marry her.
So there we stood at the altar of North Heights Lutheran Church on an unseasonably warm January day in Minnesota, Deb in her beautiful white gown, me in with my blinders and rose-colored glasses. We exchanged vows before family, friends, and God and began life as husband and wife.
Looking back, the fact that we made it past our first year was remarkable; that today is our 32nd anniversary is astounding. Especially considering how strong and beautiful our marriage is today. And for that, neither of us can take any credit. It’s not like we had a game plan for a great marriage and worked it diligently. We didn’t do any of the things we probably should have. There were no marriage retreats, seminars, or marriage counselors.
Looking back, the one thing we did that made all the difference—and I honestly don’t remember the day or the place or the conversation that led to it—was to invite God in. That’s it. We didn’t have some crazy religious experience. We didn’t even fully understand what we were doing or what it meant. We simply acknowledged that we didn’t have all the answers and didn’t know where we were headed, but there was Someone bigger than us who did. And God took a marriage between two broken people that, by all indicators, should have ended in soot and flames and grew it into something beautiful and life-giving.
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve had our challenges and made many mistakes along the way. But somehow—and I still don’t fully understand it—God gives us peace amid the storms, grace in the struggles, joy despite the heartbreaks, faith amid the doubts. And what I’ve come to learn is that we are nothing special. God will do the same thing for anyone who invites Him in and places their trust in Him.
Today, we woke up, wished each other a happy 32nd anniversary, bowed our heads to thank God, and asked if He wouldn’t mind giving us another 32 years together. Our marriage is beautiful only because God has made it so. And if I ever try to take one ounce of credit for it, please remind me to remove my blinders and rose-colored glasses.