Last week I proposed to my girlfriend, Shannon. And, to end the suspense, she said “yes”. It’s been a long road to get here. We’ve been through a lot in a short time. We both bring tremendous gifts and passions to our relationship. We also both came in with a lot of baggage. I added some additional baggage once our journey started. Through it all, Shannon has never stopped seeing the good in me. Even in moments when we were on the thinnest of ice, she has affirmed my worth and goodness. When she pushes me, it is a push to be the good man that she knows that I am, not to stop being a bad one. She has modeled grace to me at every turn, so well in fact that I have a hard time taking people seriously when their idea of “grace” doesn’t look like what I experience on a daily basis. She’s weathered my doubts and my wrong turns. She’s seen me through several major depressive episodes. She’s both cared for me and let me take care of her. Shannon is tough and strong. She’s also tender and compassionate. She loves ferociously. If she loves you, you will know it. There was a time when I would have considered the ways that she loves me to be smothering. Now I’m not sure how I would handle not having love all up in my face! She is funny and witty. We laugh a lot. She’s my favorite person with which to snuggle on the couch and watch TV… though her stamina for sloth is not nearly as high as I’d like it to be. We can talk deeply on theology, football, feminism, Star Wars, our children, and beer. I used to wonder whether it was better to have common interests or common temperaments. I think our common interests outweigh our differences of energy, me the people-loving introvert and she, the high extraverted misanthrope. My kids love her. She loves my kids. I love her kids. They love me. Our kids love each other. They have become our kids. We’ve become a family.
Getting engaged a second time is not like the first. The well wishes have a ring of “hope you can make this one work”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt the validity of those who have expressed happiness for us over the last few days, but there is an awareness that this ain’t our first rodeo. There’s a reminder of having been through the paces. At the end of the day, my first marriage was ruined by me. It wasn’t a perfect marriage, but I was the one who made it unworkable. I was the one who crossed too many lines for us to recover. I was the one who broke the system. I have to confess that there is a part of me that is scared of breaking the system again. And there is a part of me that feels unworthy of another chance.
That fear and apprehension makes me aware of what a gift I have been given. Don’t get me wrong, I have worked for this. Therapy, couples therapy, adjusting medication… all of that has been difficult. That said, the last six months have been the happiest and healthiest of my life. The work has been paying off, enough so for me to be confident in the asking and for her to be confident in the accepting. No, the gift is having someone who looks at me everyday and communicates in action and word that I am worth fighting for. And sometimes convincing me that I need to fight for myself against my own demons. The gift is not just having someone who says they love you, but having someone who will go down into the mire to raise you up out of it. The gift is to have someone who loves me as Christ loves.
This Eastertide is a wonderful time to be thinking about second chances. Resurrection is a second chance at life. Our life of faith is a chance at new life lived abundantly for God and for others. Our faith is built on forgiveness, second chances, and life from death. It’s those things that are giving me peace right now. Right now, Shannon’s love is the primary way in which I experience God’s love, the love that renews and restores to life. I cannot be but grateful.
“You’re getting a second shot, kid. Don’t blow it!” Actually, my internal message is saying “I don’t know why she’s with you, but don’t fuck this up!” Same thing. It’s really all in the delivery, I suppose. At some point, that internal voice will begin to quiet down and we will simply live life. What I hope doesn’t go away is the gratitude that I am feeling in this moment. I have been given a second chance to be the man that I know that I can be. I have been given a second chance to be a good husband, partner, and friend. I have been given a second chance to model to our kids what a loving relationship looks like. I am humbled by this. I take the privilege very seriously. I believe I can do it right this time. I believe we can have a good life and do good things in the world. I believe that God brought us together and I’m excited to see where we’re going…