On the first Monday of each month, Amber and I are writing marriage letters to each other. Sure, there are qualified experts who've written well about marriage, but we're writing into our marriage. After you read my letter follow me to Amber's blog, where she's sharing her Marriage Letter and inviting you to participate in writing your own.
You leaned across the console from the passenger side, craning your neck across my lap and looking out the driver's side window. "Pull over!" you said, ribbing me with your left elbow, and I slid the car to the chat shoulder there by Clifty Creek. You jumped out and looked to the sky. There, two bald eagles gyred over the fresh rain-fed waters looking to harvest perch or bream. It was the bleak mid-winter, and the Clifty valley was thick with the smell of sawdust and the smoke of home fires. The backroad was empty, and we stood, watching the eagles in their element. After a few minutes I turned to ask whether you were ready to go, and I noticed how your eyes were filled with the glory of God. In the car you hummed "This is My Father's World," and I knew you'd had a holy moment.
When we were first married, I accepted a job as a youth minister, and we moved to a patch of concrete on the outskirts of Tulsa. Wildlife sightings were rare in those days with the exception of the occasional sparrows roosting in the Applebee Apartment tree that shaded my car. (Thank goodness for the automatic carwash across the street.) You were not made for this sort of city living, you said, and reminded me that you were only ever used to seeing the deer and coyotes running through the Alabama fields.
On a rare weekend getaway, we kicked up a dust cloud down an old dirt road near Grand Lake. It was dusk, and without warning a herd of mule deer sprung from the thicket on the passenger's side of the car. I slammed on my brakes as buck and doe hurdled the hood. We skidded to a stop and after the last of the herd passed, I checked my pants to make sure I hadn't wet myself. I turned to you, making sure you'd not suffered whiplash, but you sat broad-smiled and clapping. "Deer! Deer!" you said like a little girl riding shotgun with your daddy. Then you whispered, "thank you, Jesus."
By Clifty Creek and Grand Lake, you saw through the natural order and into the supernatural. As long as I've known you, you've been this way. Yours is not the seeing of a time-wisened woman or some mystic desert mother. Yours is a simpler seeing, the seeing of the world with little girl eyes. It's in this seeing you remind me that we are sharing sacred, gifted space.
You've cradled four newborn children now, each wearing drying afterbirth and crying. You smiled the smile known only to mothers and hospice workers, the smile of ushering a life into a new world. You've said, "hey there; hey there; it's okay," to each of bawling babies. Staring into their blurry brown eyes (except Isaac's, which were always blue), you welcomed them into this sacred world where the natural order points always to the supernatural. First priestess, you cradled and fed them gifts of God for the people of God. Your body has been a miracle, and this is not lost on you. The way you've seen it, you've been given a quadruple foretaste of the Holy of Holies.
What do you call holy? The eagle on the whirling currents; the deer flushed from the thicket; the baby taking nourishment at the breast--these inform your understanding of holy. You do not call them holy because they are God. Instead you know them as best chalices, the vessels that carry forth the Word of creation to the people of God. "This was the intent of all creation," you might say, "to point to the ultimate Creator."
So, stop me again by Clifty Creek. Clap with doe-eyed wonder at the springing deer. And though I'll not see the smile of newborn wonder curl your lips again, smile radiant if I beat you to the hospice bed. There, remind me that the wonders of our world were only the foreshadowing of the best present, the eternal chorus of "Holy! Holy! Holy!"
Do you subscribe to my monthly Tiny Letter newsletter? In January's Tiny Letter, I'm discussing the idea of resting within church practices. There, I write about some recent changes in the Haines' household, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. Sign up and I'll send you a copy of January's letter, along with all future Tiny Letters!