Monday, October 31, 2011

Mysterious Ways...

Twenty years ago tonight I walked into the Medical Sciences Library on the campus of IUPUI to meet my wife. Actually, I didn't know she would become my wife. I had never seen her before. It was a "blind date". To be completely honest, I sent my roommate in first to scope the place out. In retrospect, that may not have been the smartest thing to do... But everything worked out, anyway.

When I say "everything worked out", I don't mean it in the "there is a plan for us and one person for each of us" sort of way or in the "every single thing is orchestrated" kind of way. I know far too little to be confident about such things, and some of the things that have happened in our life together wouldn't be in any plans I would have drawn. So, I say "everything worked out" in a much more simple way.  I got the girl. But it really isn't that simple. Because, you see, I got the girl, and so much more.

Obviously, I can't begin to capture twenty years of a relationship in a blog post, or a few pictures, or a song or two, and I won't try to do that here. This post is merely a moment's reflection on the beginning of our life together, and the head spinning wonder I am left with twenty years later. The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, "life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards." I agree with half of that. I am not sure how much I understand looking back. I love it, and am so grateful for it, but I don't understand it.

The time slips away so secretly, it is disorienting. I didn't realize it had been twenty years (Don't tell Holly. She rarely reads the blog.) until the twentieth anniversary edition of U2's Achtung Baby was announced.  That CD was originally released three weeks after we met, on 11.19.1991.  I listened to it constantly those first few months we dated. I would make the drives from my apartment  at 3218 Nobscot Drive to 2129 Fisher Street, her house in Speedway, and back listening to it over and over. Little did I know that twenty years later those songs would still mean so much to me, and she would mean everything to me.

On the way to see U2 in Chicago
Let me be clear, when I say "she means everything to me", I am not sure I know what I mean. I know I don't mean merely, that she "represents" everything, or without her I couldn't go another day (though I don't want to try),  or that her presence in my life simply points to a greater reality that exists. Because in many ways, I believe that a greater reality doesn't exist. This is reality, and I don't think we realize how great it is. When people ask me if I believe in love, and grace, and forgiveness, and beauty, and truth... I can't separate myself from the life I have lived with her for twenty years. Of course I do. Again, as clearly as I can see it and say it right now, Holly doesn't only represent these things to me that therefore exist in some abstract world. She is the primary means and mechanism (though certainly not the only one) through which I know, experience, and receive these things. When I most need forgiveness and grace, she is there. Watching her live is to watch love and beauty in real time.

A couple of years ago I taped the lyrics to Mysterious Ways, a song on Achtung Baby, to the wall next to my desk in my office. I put them there to remind me, in a way similar to Kierkegaaard's quote, that the view forward may look uncertain, but the view back may hold a bit less anxiety, a little less fear, and a bit more... well, a bit more goodness. The song, like many of U2's, mixes religious and spiritual symbolism with women and love. When I was younger I thought it was cool how they would hide the true spiritual stuff in the middle of these love songs that millions of people would listen to and sing.

Now twenty years later, I think maybe the truth wasn't as hidden or as "spiritual" as I thought it was. I find it a bit ironic that on those drives over to Holly's place twenty years ago I was listening to songs about the love between people, and thinking I was smart because I knew they were really about the love of God. All the while, I was falling in love with the woman who would become the means and mechanism of God's love for me, and for others right in front of me, through much of my life. So now, twenty years later, I see the love of God most clearly as love between and among people. Is this song about the spirit of God or is it about love? I now answer "yes".

Holly was out of town this weekend visiting her mom, who moved back to Indiana following her cancer treatment. While she was gone I was struck by how much different my life seems when she is away. There is something deep in the rhythm of my days that misses her, and I can only sense it. I told her that I realize lately that there is something in me that is comforted, centered, soothed, motivated, and satisfied by having her part of my life. I can't explain it but I see it a bit more. It is, like the song says, a bit mysterious.

Which brings me back to Halloween. Tonight, as per tradition, our boys will dress up and go around the neighborhood getting candy. After that, we will come home and hand out candy (even re-gifting some) for a while. Later the kids will go to bed and Holly and I will talk about that night twenty years ago that we went to T.G.I. Friday's and began a life together. I love the fact that we met on a day that is easy for me to remember, not because it keeps me out of trouble (no chance of that), but because it allows me to stop every year and look back. And that again brings me to the song, and the verse I highlighted a few years ago...