Stay on the Bike: A 13th Anniversary Admonition

I left her tough and tender hand for your untried one that Saturday morning.

You opened it up to me and I held on tight, in faith, to my husband-to-be, wondering what you would be.

Samuel Rutherford was right. This bride loved the beauty and simplicity of her white satin dress, but on that day, I was only eyeing all the handsomeness of your chiseled 22-year-old face. We looked like kids, but even kids can sometimes know what’s up.

So we looked up, lifting our hopes and voices at the front of our church to the only One worthy of our praise.

“For Thyself, best gift divine,
To our race so freely given.
For that great, great love of Thine,
Peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Christ our Lord, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.”

We let the wind carry us where it would and it blew us right into the city named after it.

I clumsily followed you around Lake Michigan on my bike too, trying to remember how to ride (and they say you never forget). We laughed, joking about pedestrians passing me while I was the one on wheels. But we stayed on our bikes, basking in the electricity of young married love, fed by a city as energetic and ambitious as we were.

You sat through My Fair Lady gleaning helpful knowledge about Spain and rain and Hampshire and hurricanes.

We went to a steakhouse and I checked my fruit and veggies at the door for my meat and potatoes man.

For breakfast, before our food, we each ordered dark black coffee and sweet and tangy freshly squeezed o.j., eyes wide over how tasty everything was, and over . . . the bill! Who knew we should’ve made a meal out of those drinks to stay within budget?!

Figuring out life together was a lot like my relearning to ride that bike. Couples passed us who had been at it longer telling us those molehills I made mountains wouldn’t seem so big once we’d really climbed a few. Those expectations I had and demands I made would show that you could never be for me what only God could. And all those adventures you shared that I was so quick to reason our way out of and shoot down on the spot would highlight the fact that you wanted me to be a friend to laugh and dream with, not a legal counselor or risk assessor.

We needed space to have some wrecks and work things out on our own along the way, but we also needed examples to show us how it’s done. To show us what it looked like to stay on the bike and to love God and each other more than we wanted to be loved ourselves.

It’s 13 years later, and I’ll be the first to admit I still have a ways to go. But I think by the way you’ve learned to love me, you’ve actually made me better at loving. You slow up for me as I still timidly pedal at times and push me to go faster and pedal harder when you know that’s what I need. And sometimes I have to tell you that fast isn’t everything. Half the fun is in how we get there – the journey – not just in arriving. The road is full of bumps and sudden turns, so in some ways we’re still working it out one ride at a time. But in other ways, by God’s grace, we keep pace pretty well with those older pros.

Photo Credit: Robyn Moore

So, to you young couples still new at this sometimes (often?) difficult marriage ride, trying to steady that bike from tipping or even thinking it would be so much easier to abandon it at the curb, could we ask you to stay on the bike? We are giving you space to fall and try to work it out together. But we’re also here if you need a hand to help you up, to dust off the gravel, and to get back on.

To you who have been deserted while trying to ride, our hearts break for your brokenness over what could have been and what is. No happily reconciled differences. Just child support or worse – none – and everything his and hers and mine and yours, no longer ours. But we notice you haven’t lost your love for the ride and remain cautiously ready to get back on if you have the chance. We pray it comes.

And to you couples farther down the path, whose mountains have gotten surprisingly higher when you thought you should be coasting by now. And those old habits she has are even more frustrating today since time has shown they actually don’t die hard because sometimes they just don’t die at all. To you who have found it challenging to pedal because you’re gasping for air after gut wrenching betrayal and the discovery old love isn’t like old money, stable and guaranteed. We see you too. We’re learning from you and see endurance perfected by your commitment to love beyond what’s deserved and to search for springs of fresh love in dried up places.

We have a ride to finish, don’t we? Because how we started is something, but how we end is even more. Let’s not just spin our wheels. Let’s move forward, in the strength he supplies with his faithfulness leading the way even when we’re faithless. Friends, let’s stay on our bikes!

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