Monday, April 28, 2014

This week

In five days, I will marry Danice Carlson.

This is really rather astonishing to me, and it may be to some of you, too. 

My blog has not been a good chronicle of my relationship with Danice, though some may have noted her frequent presence in my writing between the years of 2005-2008, and her conspicuous absence from my writing between 2008-2013, which tells a kind of story in itself.

For years I was afraid of writing too much about Danice or talking too much about Danice.  I would feel the urge to write about some experience we'd shared or discussion we'd had, and then I'd decide to write about the topic as a depersonalized "issue" instead.  I would start talking to a friend about something that related to Danice, and I would censor myself, calling her "one of my roommates" instead of using her name.  

I didn't want to draw attention to a relationship that I couldn't explain, or be asked to answer questions to which I didn't yet know the answers.

When Danice and I got engaged, my friend Cara gave us one of the most meaningful gifts I've ever received: a physical reminder of the early stages of my relationship with Danice.  Cara is an artist, and in quiet moments she likes to sketch people.  One night she drew us.  It must have been 2007 or 2008 because we were in FunUgly, our first house as roommates.  We are lying on the couch, legs in opposite directions, facing each other, and my head is on Danice's lap.  We look very comfortable together.

I have vivid memories of that evening.  Though I appeared comfortable, inside I was a mess.  I worried about whether we should have let ourselves get comfortable being so physically close.  I agonized over exactly which expressions of intimacy and love were socially permissible for female friends.  I worried that we no longer fit the definition of "friends," and didn't want to think about what that meant.  More than anything, I worried about what Cara was thinking.  I worried that other people might flip through her sketchbook and see her drawing of us, and wondered what they would say about us behind our backs.  Fear ruled my life.

We framed that sketch and put it on the wall of our new home together.  When I look at it, I am overwhelmed with the beauty of our early years together, as fear-riddled as they were.  I look at it, and I am instantly grateful for the way our love, though often a tentative love, a nervous and tangled love, has nonetheless been bold and tenacious enough to withstand a nine-year battle against our fear.

That fear still crops up every once in a while, and I expect that over the course of our lives together, it will show up regularly for a rematch.

Just a few nights ago, Danice and I went to a large annual fundraising dinner for a non-profit, an event that functions as a reunion for much of the churchgoing population of Vancouver.  We've attended several years in a row, but this year, for the first time, we came in holding hands.  As we walked into a sea of Christians, some of whom I recognized, my heart pounded.  I was so aware of my hand that I felt like one giant gay hand on display, moving through a seemingly endless conference centre foyer.  I was on high alert for any sign from Danice that we should drop hands - any change in pressure between us, or rise in hand temperature - but she seemed entirely unfazed.  So I gritted my teeth and dug down deep, past the fear, until I found my inexhaustible pride in our love, which was strong and ready for the fight.  We had a wonderful evening.

This wedding week is so full of last-minute things to do, details to consider, and beautiful people from out of town I want to hang out with, and I know it could very easily slip right by me.  I want to notice and give thanks for every bit of it, but realistically, I won't have the emotional stamina to process all of it in the moment.

So I want to state from the outset what could seem very obvious, but something of which I will need constant reminding: this week is a celebration of love - the Love that God is.

It's about Love frustratingly creating mystery in my life where there was only certainty, and then extending hope where there was only impossibility.

It's about Love challenging the way I understand my faith, read my Bible, and treat my fellow human beings, over and over again, even when I think I've got it.

It's about Love giving me the courage to do what I never thought I could, without any of the worries (of committing unforgivable sins and being excluded from the kingdom) that I once assumed I'd be wracked with in a week like this.

It's even about Love beginning to heal our hurt toward church.  Love waiting with us as we grieve that there are people we love whose consciences will not permit them to attend our wedding.  Love rejoicing over anyone who loves us enough to wrestle hard with what they think about this, no matter where they land.

It's about the Love embodied in our friends who have been cheering for Love all along, and who more recently have been throwing us showers, planning our wedding, helping us financially, moving our boxes, showing up when we need them, and making sure we're not losing our minds.

It's about Love freeing us to be in love with each other, to lay on the couch together, to hold hands, to take care of each other and grow old together.

This week is about Love conquering fear in our lives.