I guess I should have known when our wedding cake was knocked over by a flying backdrop what kind of married life awaited me. When I entered the front door of my reception, Bridesmaid Colleen rushed up to me with hands covered in butter creme and with tears in her eyes said, “Jinny (beat, beat, beat…) augghhhh. ” and sprinted off. She did not have the heart to tell me what happened. From eye witness accounts a toddler toddled, the lattice–screen teetered, the crowd gasped and the cake flew. After the top layers were knocked to the floor, the caterer and family members hastily attempted to reassemble the damaged carcass into its formerly iconic pastry shape.
Never bent on perfection, I had the philosophy that I got the dream guy and that made for the dream wedding. Yes, our cake pictures featured icing prominently as a background but isn’t it the imperfections that make for fabulous stories after all? We danced the night away. Ok, actually I danced while John feverishly tried to channel Old Time Rock and Roll Tom Cruise (pre Oprah-weirdness). A glorious day all told, cake or no cake.
Three months into our marriage, I left our one-bedroom apartment for a run down Hulen Street. I noticed a vagarant-looking guy on a bus stop bench facing me, clutching his head and moaning. Paper sacks, obviously his, littered the sidewalk all around him. His shorts were 70’s Forrest-Gump length. I averted my gaze for many reasons and stepped up my pace. I took a left down the side street where Grandfathered fields of Longhorn Cattle grazed next to Ryan’s Steakhouse. I had to wonder sometimes if they knew.
I logged my 30 minutes and as I returned home, lingered on the steps up to our third-floor apartment to do calf-stretches. I opened the door to find John with a strange look on his normally-relaxed face. “Hey, honey. How was your run?” He nervously continued. “I met this guy. Kevin. He was down at the bus stop. His girl friend kicked him out and he says he’s suicidal.” I replied, “Oh yea, I saw that guy.” and wondered as I would many times how John got the back story on this desperate stranger.
He continued, “Is it OK with you if I take him get some help?” Being married brought on the added responsibility of considering somene else before doing something potentially dangerous. ” He’s not armed and he’s waiting at the bottom of the stairs. They can take him at John Peter Smith Hospital. I called to check it out. They can help him but cannot come get him. What do you think about me taking him over there?”
Typically afraid of suicidal vagrants in short-shorts, I felt strangely calm this time. “Ok, but we’re taking the dog and I’m going with you.”
We loaded up Kevin, his earthly belongings and our Australian Shepherd and set out for the charity hospital. John drove, Kevin rode shotgun and Mollie and I were in back. Out of nowhere Kevin lit a cigarette, John rolled down the window and immediately Kevin fell asleep; dropping the burning butt in the gray shag floorboard of my Mercury Tracer. I scrambled to locate the burning butt and we quietly laughed at the crazy situation we had gotten ourselves into. Once at the hospital, John helped Kevin up to the admission desk and the professionals took it from there. My idealistic seminary student was so eager to live out his faith.
And now? Well, the idealism is gone. But what remains is that my rythym-less groom still sees action as the litmus test of faith in Christ. His phone will ring at night and I hear him coordinating a landscape job for a homeless guy, listening to health updates of those who need a little pastoral assurance or enlisting a speaker to present to our church on Sunday mornings for our missional moment. He is a tireless advocate for people who from a worldly perspective have nothing left to lose and certainly nothing to give. On top of that he is hysterical, strong, witty and wise.
I really wonder how God saw fit to give me this person so opposite from me to be my spouse. He’s Olive-skinned and I’m a card-carrying albino. He examines every angle before making decisions while I use the force to guide me. His dishwasher-loading looks like a Whirlpool Ad and mine looks like aftermath from a twister. He completes me and his humble love has bettered me.
This Tuesday will be our 19th Valentine’s Day together. Our first one was a Singles Square Dance. I told him that I was going with friends and to meet me there which he did, a gutsy move for an introvert like himself. Somewhere between “honor your partner,” and “wrong way promenade home,” I was hooked. We were engaged four months later and suffered a mutilated wedding cake a mere twelve months after that.
For nearly two decades my heart has belonged to John- brave in the face of tragedy, honest to a fault and for more reasons than there are words to say, my one true love.