Last night I found some old family pictures, photos from my childhood. There’s a picture in there of me when I was about five years old. I’m sitting in front of this pull down background of an orange-hued sunset with a few random tree branches closer up and out of focus. Having that picture made is one of those early childhood memories that I can still recall; I remember my mother telling me to put on the clothes she’d laid out for me on the bed; I remember objecting to wearing “Sunday clothes” on a Saturday; and I remember holding her hand as we walked in to our local K-Mart where, strangely enough, a photographer was plying his trade with a pull down background of an orange-hued sunset….

As I looked at that picture, it was this weird sort of feeling. I recognized the kid in the photo — it’s me, after all, and I have the memory to validate it — but at the same time, the memory seems almost too distant, outside of myself. It’s as if I know that’s me in the picture, but I can’t remember what life was like in that moment. It feels like me, but then again, it really doesn’t because the kid in the picture ISN’T me, at least not the version of myself that I am today. There’s no way that kid in that picture could’ve ever known who he would become — who he was becoming. He can’t see all the twists and turns, positive or negative, that will shape him in the next 30 years. He’s just sitting there, in clothes his Momma picked out for him, grinning from ear to ear.

The same kind of feelings came over me last night as I looked at some of our wedding photos. Today, Sunny and I have been married 13 years and I don’t even have words to use to tell you what a blessing she has been to my life. But as I looked back over those pictures, it was a little like looking at the orange-hued sunset photos. I remember that day; in fact, I remember it in great detail. But I look at the guy in the picture — the guy who has been married to Sunny for all of 30 minutes, smiling at the wedding reception — and I almost don’t know who that guy is anymore. Because being married to Sunny has become such an integral part of my identity, I almost can’t remember what it was like before we were together. I think that’s part of what the Bible is talking about when it speaks of two becoming one.

The guy in the picture could’ve never foreseen the depth of his wife’s love for him.

He has no idea where his life is going to take him; all he has is the promise of this little blonde girl to go through life right by his side.

They can’t yet see themselves in their little cramped apartment that first year they were married. They can’t see the night they had to return a few wedding gifts in order to buy pots and pans to cook a meal at home. They can’t see themselves taking off to Baltimore on a whim, just to see a baseball game. They can’t see themselves on their knees, praying for direction when other opportunities came their way. They can’t see themselves staring at an ultrasound screen as the doctor turns around and says, “I think I see two.” They can’t see themselves bawling their eyes out as they stand around the isolettes that hold their children in the NICU, can’t yet see the joy of finally taking these babies home for the first time. They can’t see the birth of another son after another hard pregnancy; the loving embrace of a church family; ball games and vacations; moving homes and buying a mini-van; saying goodbye to old friends and making new ones through the years.

They can’t see all of that in that moment. Thirteen years later, I’m amazed at what we’ve been through. But the one constant through it all has been the promise of that little blonde girl. She stood on a stage in front of everyone we knew and loved and told them that she’d always be mine. And even though I couldn’t have ever dreamed the ways in which that promise would be fulfilled, I know one thing: I’m eternally grateful that she was willing to love me in that moment, that she’s willing to love me still.

Sunny Anne, here’s to 13 wonderful years together. I’ll tell you today the same thing I told you then: there are lots of things I can’t promise you, but I can promise to always be here, to always love you.

And that will never change.

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