I don’t know where it is now, but the poem I wrote about the night we met started along those lines. And before that same December ended, I stepped inside your soul, recognized my home, knelt beside my bed and whispered the sense of be-longing to God. If this is You, You’ll have to tell him. I was twenty, you were twenty-two, and we were building a friendship. Playing guitars. Talking in the kitchen. You snapped the above photo, a moment of happiness captured.
We parted ways for the summer. One evening I had a reason to call someone living in your house, and when you heard my voice you laughed low — joy answering joy. Later that night you wrote Song of Friendship to our dearest Friend. I always loved that you wrote it after we talked.
Like the friendship Jonathan had with the servant David,
that’s how you are with me, delighted greatly . . .
Oh, what a Friend you are.
I returned to school for the fall semester, still praying, still wondering, without any sure evidence you saw as I did. And then in September you asked if you could help me celebrate my 21st birthday, and I hoped that maybe this might mean a beginning of something more. We went out to eat and you gave me a gift. Two bright yellow, hand-painted t-shirts, one in your size and one in mine. “We are an Easter people . . .” on the first. On the other, ” . . . and Hallelujah is our song!”
A message meant to be shared by two as one. Hope sparked but hardly had time to fan to flame before the Spirit breathed and my heart quivered and then you said it. I wasn’t the only one with the sense of be-longing.
We decided not to tell anyone yet — it was our first date, after all — but to keep praying until you spoke with my father. We asked God for assurance, and He gave it day by day in countless gentle ways. He also gave us the promise of Jonathan to David, “Behold, the Lord is ever between you and me,” and we delighted greatly.
That semester you often came courting on Mighty Bones, your valiant steed (bicycle). We danced in the kitchen and waded in the creek (we had no car or money between us), and we still remained silent in our words to others, but we couldn’t control the radiance on our faces. People knew.
That December you spoke to my father, and he asked, “when?” and (trembling) you said, “May,” and miraculously, he said yes. Our hearts rose and our spirits bowed low and we sang our gratitude to the One who’d gone before and would surely continue to go with. We didn’t know what lay ahead, but weren’t all our days already written in God’s book?
On May 5, 1979, we spoke our vows and shared our first kiss (the waiting was your gift to me, a deep healing), and off we drove into the sunset. I imagined a life of unbroken unity, lived on our knees, and prayed through our music. We would dance our way to eternity, a living picture of marital bliss, and everyone who saw us would be encouraged to do the same.
But God loved us too much for that. Yes, we discovered that marriage is filled with countless delights, but it is also iron sharpening iron, the one lifting up the fallen other, forgiveness offered and asked for again, again, again. We’ve wounded each other. We’ve found ourselves up against walls as tall and thick as Jericho, one of us inside and the other out, hope hanging by a scarlet thread. And through it all, this grace, always this grace, holding us, shaping us, remaking us. We are an Easter people, and we aren’t left to rot in our graves, even when we dig them ourselves.
The Lord who is ever between us gave us three children. We who are so weak, so small. We who stumble. And you were a tender father. A good father. Even when nothing made sense and your own steps almost slipped, you held them close to your heart. And you held me there, too. When the wind howled and everything we thought was solid seemed to be crumbling, we clung to each other until the storm was past and the ground stopped shaking and we came out of the wilderness leaning on our Beloved.
A photo album holds images — events and travels and what-were-we-thinking hair styles and fashions — but the whole story can’t be captured in pictures. Roots going deep, hitting rock and persevering, anchoring a couple and a family by streams of living water, establishing a foundation that can’t be shaken.
There’s a oneness deeper than words, deeper than flesh, a thousand shared moments interlacing souls, a unity that doesn’t always agree but always accepts and respects and rests in the freedom of the willingly bound. It’s brokenness redeemed, trust built and sheltered, love given without keeping score, simply because it delights to give and doesn’t remember how not to.
I imagined a life of unbroken unity, lived on our knees, and prayed through our music. We would dance our way to eternity, a living picture of marital bliss, and everyone who saw us would be encouraged to do the same. I was young and idealistic, but I wasn’t too far off. I just didn’t realized the path to unbroken unity would lead through suffering, that knees get bruised, and prayer sings a purer song after seasons of silence. I didn’t understand that those who know they are lame are finally ready to learn how to dance. That marital bliss is a journey daily traveled, a battle daily fought, a cross daily carried.
Sometimes it’s receiving the hardest gifts, breaking under their weight, then rising again to lay shattered dreams at His pierced feet and watch the slow miracle of Easter happen all over again. Beauty from ashes. Joy for mourning. New dreams created in the image of redemption. This first-born son, carried, then taught to walk, then set loose to soar, his wings clipped, ours to carry again. And, oh how you carry! Your patience, gentleness, delight, love. You are a tender father. A good father. Jacob rises up and calls you blessed.
And our other children join with him in the chorus, these younger two who have followed their own sense of be-longing and found their heart’s homes. Together we climbed the hill with our daughter and gave her to a good man. And you had the honor of presiding over the marriage of our son and his beloved. What gifts we’ve all received in these treasured ones prepared for our children. And now we watch in holy awe as they learn unity, live on their knees, and pray through their music. We watch and we worship, because we know how haltingly we lived before them, and yet they saw.
Easter is new life. It’s redemption and irrepressible joy and better-than-we-dreamed-of miracles. We are an Easter people, a message hand-lettered and meant to be shared by two as one, and now we’re grandparents.
Have I told you that you’re a tender grandfather? A good grandfather? You are. And I am not surprised.
Living the resurrection in community:
Practicing Easter with Ann Voskamp
Sharing brokenness and redemption with Emily Wierenga