On this day last year, I said "I do" to spending the rest of my life, with my beautiful wife, Brittany. It was the second best day in my life only after the special day in December 2007 when the Lord opened up my eyes to His truth and grace. Last year, on this day, my wife walked down the aisle somewhere in Burnside, Bulawayo being held by her father, to meet me at the altar and we made vows to do this thing called life together. O how great a debtor to His grace daily I am constrained to be!
I always wanted to get married young, but you know, it just never happened. But another thing I really wanted to do above many things is that I wanted to marry right. I have read many stories and heard many more of how much of an influence a wife or husband has on their spouse.
How a woman who used to be full of life and excited to do this or that can get married to a man who is controlling and can kill her passions by his words and actions on a daily basis. I had heard and read about how men who had ambitions to serve Jesus and do many things for him married women who became a source of discouragement and their subsequent proverbial "downfall" and disinterest from His mission.
As a single man, stories like these scare you to shreds.
A year later, I think I can fully and rightly say that by God's grace I married well.
My wife is not perfect, just like I am also not perfect, but I have no idea if I could find what I found in her in another woman. I have no idea if there is any other woman who cares for and loves me the way she does. I have no idea if there is any other woman who is as beautiful as she is inside and outside, and yet is filled with humility, grace and sincerity.
I have no idea, maybe there are there out there - I would hope there are for the sake of others.
Before we got married, one of the things we tried by all means was to listen very little to what people told us to expect. This was not because we think those people don't know what they are talking about, as much as it is about us wanting to write our own story. Some people have bad first years, some have good ones. Either way, projecting our own experiences and fears has to be either avoided, or done very cautiously and cleverly.
So when newly weds meet one couple or the other, they hear different stories - and true stories at that, and we wanted to be the curators of our own marriage, and work at it in a way that will be good for us, and to the glory of God. That is always our encouragement when we have spoken to friends that want to get married - write your own story, make it work. Curate your own life. It won't be anything expect what you let it be. Marriage is indeed like a garden that you work at daily.
A year later, I can say that marriage is both the most beautiful thing that I have ever done, yet it is also the hardest. It is beautiful because it was designed by God, but it was hard because it is the union of two sinful people.
HOW HAS IT BEEN BEAUTIFUL?
A New Family
From the very instance I started corresponding with Brittany's family, a true sense of family existed that I couldn't explain. See, although marriage is between two people, it is also a bringing together of two families. I gained another dad and mom, and brothers, and a sister. This is ever so beautiful!
Over this past year I have been super encouraged by the love and care I have received from my new mom and dad, and siblings all the way across the great Atlantic pond. There is a strong sense of genuine affection which is so hard for me to explain.
I love Mr. Bryan and Mrs. Beverly Autrey with everything within me. I enjoy talking to them. I enjoy sending articles back and forth with Brittany's mom. I enjoy chatting about politics and world affairs with Brittany dad. I enjoy the mutual and sincere affection. It has almost felt natural and unforced, which makes it all beautiful. The same can be said about my new brothers, and sister. They are all awesome people. A real sense of family also has developed between my parents and her parents - and this is the coolest thing ever for me. Sometimes I feel like my dad talks to Brittany's dad more than either of them talk to us, and we love that! My own parents thoroughly love my wife. They enjoy her company and her humour. They always cannot wait to see her. I guess I have been relegated to second place in their hearts as they love her to bits, maybe even more. Ha!
This is a beautiful thing, a new family!
A True and Constant Friend
Friendship is one of the greatest gifts for mankind, and where a man and a woman commit to a forever friendship, it is the most beautiful thing. In Brittany, I have found a true friend indeed. There are parts of my life that are private, not because they are hidden, but because of relational proximity. And your wife happens to be the closest person to you ever. This means for starters, I can be fully known and fully loved. Nothing is better in this world than being fully known and fully loved. Some people claim to love you, but they really do not know you. And some people know you and do not love what they know you for.
A person who see me when I am annoyed and angry, and they also see how horrible I am at loving them many-times - yet every day they tell me that they love me, and are in this forever. How crazy is that?
One of the coolest thing for me this year has just been being able to see my wife grow in one area or another, and I would guess she would see the same in me. And it is a fascinating part of marriage because it just spits in the face of people who are seeking to marry people that are "already made and established".
It goes from simple thing like seeing how more sensitive I am about leaving the toilet seat down, to more serious things that how much better in communication you can become as a person when your wife calls you out on your tone or insensibilities.
When we got married last year on this day, for example, my wife could not cook to save her life. She grew up in a much different world, and cooking wasn't a regular thing.
But within months, heck, maybe a couple of weeks, and even up to now, I sincerely think my wife is an incredible cook, and very far from average. I have watched her Google stuff to learn, download recipes, ask other cooks questions and just kill it while she is at it. If you ever come to our house and she cooks for you, you would be hard-pressed to even think she just learned. It is beautiful!
It is crazy and ridiculous that we exist in a culture where men have these expectations of women, and when the woman can't do this or that for whatever reason, we consider them less than. Women also on the other hand look for already made men, yet time after time we see that the real stories are that the poor guy needs someone to encourage him, and help him be the men God created him to be.
In His great wisdom, God uses marriages to grow people, and not just as an exhibit of all the stuff you have already learned. Marriages have to be conducive enough for people to learn, and grow, and we have seen this in both of us.
One thing that is probably an off-shoot of my personality that I have seen come to the surface more often is how much of a realist I am. I genuinely think my wife helps me to be a better man, and the reverse is true. Yet I think all this happens each and everyday and we do not even see it as it happens. Sometimes we are impatient with our spouses or our potential suitors, but sometimes we should also consider that Rome was not built in one day. Real life happens at much slower paces. Quit the Rom Com stuff.
I am glad I can look back today at the Rome we are building and see all the areas of growth and progress that the Lord has blessed us with.
It is also a lot of fun to both pursue our relationships with the Lord and here and there get caught up with what the Lord is doing in each of our lives. My wife is super hungry for God's Word, and she daily is an encouragement to me as I see her slowly devouring books and the Scriptures, asking questions, meeting up with younger girls and being spiritually fruitful. I love seeing all that - it encourages my own faith when I am weak and need encouragement and comfort.
HOW HAS IT BEEN DIFFICULT?
When people look at interracial couples, they probably think the hardest thing is the so-called "bringing the cultures together". Honestly, that is not even an issue. Our motto from the start has been that when in Rome we do what the Romans do, but in our house, we will build our own culture which will be a little weird for Americans, and a little weird for Zimbabweans. The hardships we have faced in this first year have been problems with our very own hearts - our sinfulness and selfishness, more than anything to do with trying to bring any cultures together. In fact, I have said on this blog before that when I am with my wife I have absolutely no conscious immediate knowledge that she is from another ethnicity! She is my wife, and in an argument all I am thinking about is how come this woman does not understand what I am saying, and not anything to do with her background! We don't have any special unique problems between ourselves that other couples do not have.
As a man, being passive has been my greatest struggle
When I was a single man, I knew that passivity was the killer for most men. Yet one never really experiences how much passive we really can be until they are married and existing in the same environment as their loved one.
A couple of weeks after we got married, Brittany told me she felt like we were living like room-mates. Ouch. What did she mean? She explained. Soon after the wedding I had slid back into my single-man routine without being cognizant of this gift that now exists in my life. I get what she meant completely, and this for me has been the hardest aspect of marriage.
Being aware of especially the emotional needs of your wife, and coming through for her in that. It doesn't come natural at all. As the old adage goes, men want respect, women need love. Our needs are different. Marriage has worked this past year because of our mutual awareness of how much we fall short, and for me it is this particular area I constantly grapple with and need to grow.
I think my wife and I have really great pictures on our social media but we do not live a fairytale romance from a book. It is real life, and it is hard post Genesis 3. I sin against my wife when I do not love her like how I vowed I would, and I do this ever so often in my passivity - existing in my own world and being less aware of her needs.
I kind of want things to go my way too
Don't we all do? We are selfish by our very nature and always want to have things our way. But the whole house burns when this is our attitude. I have re-learned this year that it is okay for things to not go my way.
I am not scared to admit when I have no idea what to do. I am not going to be the guy from the romantic movies who has all the answers and is just every girl's dream - because I am not that at all - I need help to be better, and many times it means having things go my wife's way because she has a better idea than mine.
In many ways, this is where our differing cultural backgrounds become a strength. There are things that my culture sucks at that are good that my wife can be a catalyst for me to get better. And there are things that her culture can do better than I can be an aid for her to do better. We both win. Our team is strong, and our lives are better for it.
I am truly thankful.
I am thankful for the gift that is my wife.
I would choose this very same woman if I had to do the choice again today.
I am thankful for the past year - all the lessons learned and the memories made.
I am thankful for the great people God has placed in our lives who have been en encouragement in our marriage.
Happy anniversary, my love!
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.