My wife and I got married 15 years ago this week. Shortly after, I wrote a short poem for my new bride:
Are there seasons to love, new months and years bring?
If seasons there are, our love is the Spring
A sapling still budding, fresh fruit on the vine
With roots planted deep in the well of Divine
Must needs there be Winter? I haven’t a clue
My prayer is to always be growing the New
But seasons can come, and seasons can go
Our love will remain, it will always be so
Though slowly, yet surely, this oak of the Lord
Will grow up precisely as it has been told
Till stands in God’s garden a tree strong and true
That brings Him a smile as He’s passing through
I suppose it’s natural when you begin something to think of the ending. But there’s something else I didn’t think of so much back then, something we’re living a lot of right now. It’s something you might call “the middle”, or in the words of the poem, that “slowly, yet surely” bit. Saplings may be full of exciting potential, and mature oaks of awe-inspiring strength, but it’s the transformation from one to the other that accounts for the majority of the life of the tree. And our marriage.
The rings in the oak tell the story of year upon year, building slowly one on one on one, droughts and storms and broken branches and healing and years of plenty. The rings on our fingers also speak of commitment and shared life year upon year upon year. If you listen closely, they will also tell you of droughts and storms, brokenness and healing, years of plenty, times of laughter, and growth. And most of it happens in that nameless space between beginnings and endings, that slow, steady metamorphosis of life in the middle.
Things have changed. We hardly noticed, since the changes came so slowly. But after 15 years, no one calls us newlyweds anymore. We’re not quite so energetic as we used to be. My beard is gaining grey. Still, we’ve a lot more middle ahead of us (God willing) before we can inspire the awe of a fully mature oak. And that’s okay. The middle is a good place to be. The middle is where we get to watch our children stretch their own branches to the sun. The middle is where we get to use the training and abilities developed in our earlier years to sow good into the world around us. The middle is where we get to learn what love and forgiveness look like through the mountains of joy and valleys of pain. The middle is where we get to see the covenant we made to join our two lives grow into reality, as we share the countless hours and ordinary days one after another.
Year by year by year, as we slowly build up rings of experience, we discover together more of God’s faithfulness, more of our commitment to one another, and more of the delights our Maker built in to the path of life. Yes, there are also winters. There have been droughts and storms. But even these have left us with deeper roots to cling to God’s promises, and a confidence that love can bloom through any circumstance. Our branches might be growing in directions we never planned, but they are growing, still. The middle years are our life right now, and life is a wonder.