“… and the two shall become one” (Mark 10:8a).

If these walls

If these old walls could speak..

The only time Bill and I were supposed to see Amy Grant in concert we missed it because we were fighting. One of the hard and ugly truths to real relationships.

I was sad and somewhat resentful for some time. After all, I’d loved Amy and her music since I was a child. My parents had heard her at a Gaither concert in Dayton, Ohio when she was about sixteen–sitting on a stool, a solo silhouette on a stage with only her guitar and her voice. They came home and told me about the teenager who sang of wanting her Father’s eyes, and that seven year old girl loved her from then on.

At the age of twelve, that same girl sang “Father’s Eyes” in her church camp talent show–a cappella, alone on the stage, not even a guitar to hide behind.

Through the years, I sang “Thy Word,” “El Shaddai,” and “Giggle” at different times, in different places–even learning to play and sing (though not very well) at our own piano her song “There Will Never Be Another,” imagining Brown Bannister singing backup with his soft tenor vibrato.

When Bill and I got married in hot and humid Ohio on August 12, 1989 after dating for almost six years, we didn’t have any Amy Grant songs in our wedding, though we’d considered several. Instead, we had Dan Fogelberg, John Denver, and Steven Curtis Chapman–whose new release “I Will Be Here” had become a favorite at many a wedding.

Chapman’s album More To This Life debuted earlier that same year, and I’d grown to love it. One song in particular spoke to this girl. “Waiting for Lightening” held me captive and filled me with conviction–its lyrical message piercing the heart of the then married, grown-up girl. (I was nineteen, after all!)

Standing on the edge of the truth

Looking out at the view of all you used to believe;

From where you are you can see you’re far away from home…

Not yet married two years, I’d wandered away–justifying feelings of doubt about much of what I’d said I believed. Yes, in my heart, I was far from home–from Bill and from God. It was a dark, though short-lived, season, and Love–both Bill’s and God’s–immersed me in mercy, and I was saved from my willful self.

Amy Grant’s Lead Me On album, which debuted in 1988, became another favorite of mine. I came to love every one of its songs–but especially “Saved By Love” and “If These Walls Could Speak.” Like Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy’s messages through music helped draw me home–back to Bill and back to God–and all these years later, I’m ever so thankful for the grace they gave me.

So when this girl missed Amy Grant’s Nashville concert some years ago because Bill and I were at odds, I felt justifiably angry. To me, she was part of my childhood, as well as part of my healing as a young adult and newly married woman. Didn’t Bill understand this?

How surprised I was when, a couple months ago, Bill told me that he’d purchased tickets to see both Amy Grant and Steven Curtis Chapman at the Biltmore in Asheville–a gift for our 30th wedding anniversary and only two days shy of that celebration.

The evening of the concert was breathtaking–a glorious sunset in pinks and purples, with hues of orange, melting over our western North Carolina mountains. The music was fabulous, as were the stories that accompanied many of the songs.

At one point, Steven Curtis Chapman told the story behind his beloved hit “Cinderella,” and then he began to play and sing. Part way through, he stopped singing and invited everyone to stand and dance–to not miss the moment but to cherish it with the one they loved. Instantly, people all around the venue stood to their feet and danced–daddies with daughters, mothers with sons, friends with friends, and, of course, husbands with wives.

I wept into Bill’s shirt and he into my hair as we danced, as if we were the only ones in the audience. It was a very poignant moment–thinking of where we’ve been and where we hope to be, thirty years from now. Thinking about our own sons who’ve grown so quickly and are now men. Thinking of our 10-year old Allie and the moments we’ve missed, silently vowing to miss less.

And before Amy Grant came out, Steven Curtis Chapman sang “I Will Be Here”–explaining how, though he meant every word when he wrote it for his wife over thirty years ago, it means more now, all these years later.

And that got this girl thinking–the girl who, thirty years ago, chose this to be one of the songs sung at her own wedding. The girl who, not many months later, took a willful, emotional wrong turn and caused damage that only healed over time because of God’s grace and a husband’s steadfastness–holding to a promise he made and that he believed I, too, had made.

And I did.

And I do.

And I would–again and again and again.

So as I ponder what the walls of our home would speak if indeed they could–these walls and the walls of each and every home we’ve lived in over our thirty years, through other difficult seasons and dark spells (and there have been more of those, though I wish I could say otherwise)–I believe they would…

tell you that I’m sorry for being cold and blind and weak…

They would tell you that it’s only that I have a stubborn streak…

They would tell you that I owe you more than I could ever pay;

Here’s someone who really loves you.

Don’t ever go away.

That’s what these walls would say.

And I believe these walls would tell you that they’ve heard, at least a time or two, me humming or singing “I Will Be Here”…

Sometimes as a recollection…

Sometimes as a reminder…

Always, always as a promise.

These words mean so much more today than they ever meant thirty years ago on our wedding day. In fact, just as we said the other night as we sat on our porch reminiscing, “I Will Be Here” is more an anniversary song than a wedding one–though I understand there’s power in promising even that which cannot be fully understood when two people say, “I do” to a lifetime of unknowns on their wedding day.

Because, that’s the truth–one cannot know all that comes with promising to be there for another. It’s just the promise to be present…

In sickness and in health,

In poverty and in wealth,

In the good times and the bad,

In the joy-filled days and sad.

Bill, you’ve been there, just as you promised–when I shook my fists at Heaven in lament and blamed God for my barrenness, not seeing then that He could take my brokenness and make something infinitely more beautiful than we could ever create.

And I’ve been there, too–when sickness tried to steal your life away. But our groaning, which God deciphered–turning our moans into a prayerful melody–was a powerful duet, don’t you think?

And we’ve been together to see our family grow from just the two of us to 3 (with Ian’s birth)–to, though briefly, 4 (Devon Mara-Leigh)–back to 3–then to 4 (Jacob)–then, for a day, back to 3 (We know how difficult it was, Michelle!)–then thankfully, again to 4 (Thank you for finally choosing us!)–then to 5 (our year with Kristie)–back to 4 (too difficult to let her go)–and finally, with Allie’s arrival, to 5! (What a waltz! Applause is appropriate for those crazy dance moves!)

That’s a lot for thirty years–and that’s just with regards to our children. What about school and jobs and moves and…?

So–tomorrow morning, Bill, if you wake up and the sun for some reason doesn’t appear…

I do promise…

I do, I do, I do–

I will be here.

Yes, I will be here.

Indeed (Are you listening?)–

That’s what these walls would say.

That’s what these walls would say.

That’s what these walls would say.

Happy “Pearl” anniversary, dearest Bill. The hardships we’ve endured, the mistakes we’ve made, the joys we’ve celebrated have all worked together to produce something rich in value and beautiful in love. I thank Jesus for his presence–the glue that’s held us together–through these thirty years, and I’ll love you and him even more tomorrow morning when I wake up. And yes–I will be here!