faith, Pandemic Wisdom

Mystery, Magic and Grace

For all of us, these last months have been the strangest. We’ve learned so much, given up so much. We’ve struggled, wrestled and argued. We’ve learned how to mask up and stay home. We’ve learned how to do without. And still we are tiptoeing our way forward, everything now a calculated risk about how to stay safe, connect and yet carry on with living.

In our family, like yours, we’ve celebrated several milestones in this time. Our son was married minutes before everything shut down, leaving us with hazy memories and pictures of a different time where we dined together, danced together, hugged the grandparents and toasted new life, actually letting our cups touch each others germs. We’ve celebrated birthdays on zoom; had a few socially distanced occasions in our backyard, including my in-laws 60th wedding anniversary. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Memorial Day were all different. We even learned during this pandemic on Zoom that we have a third grandchild on the way-sending us from shock and surprise directly to overjoyed at the idea of a new little life.

This week, still during these strange times, my husband and I will celebrate a milestone in our marriage, our 35th wedding anniversary. We picked our wedding date, June 28, on purpose because it was my God-Grandparents wedding anniversary. We had three cakes at our wedding: a brides cake, a groom’s cake and a cake celebrating Amy and Hal’s anniversary. They wrote us a little note saying they couldn’t wait for us to discover the magic of June 28.

Fast forward 35 years and I know we’ve discovered that magic. We are blessed with all those years of memories, all the tough times, all the side effects of our relationship including three grown kids and their loves. Our first grandson entered this world on June 28 four years ago adding the icing on the cake of that magic date.

We’ve moved to a length and a depth and breadth of relationship where you can make an inside joke about someone or something from 30 plus years ago and you both get it. We can see together the way our kids used to be, now reflected in our grandchildren. We shake our heads together about how fast everything is going by and how weird it is that we are aging but still feel the same old way.

My husband often says who you choose to marry is the single most important decision in life. I always wonder why he says that so emphatically. Is he trying to warn everyone to be more careful with their partner choice than he was? Surely not.

We met when we were freshmen in college, in English class. I liked him because he was so strong in his opinions of things, very black and white, clear. He looked cute in his Aggie Corps of Cadets uniform. I liked his different kind of RR name. He barely spoke to me, just asking now and then what I made on a paper. A, I’d say, and you? Never mind, he’d say. Once we started dating we never stopped.

I’m not sure we thought it through that well. We were/are very different. He was raised in small Texas towns and I came from a big city. Ask him sometime about how he took me to his hometown and allowed a small crowd of people to surprise me with my first taste of calf fries. As his people watched me, I popped one in my mouth and declared them delicious, unknowingly passing some kind of strange Texas Panhandle test. If you don’t know what calf fries are, do not look this up. Trust me on this.

He had never in his life seen or experienced a woman in ministry. We disagreed on just about everything from our early politics, religion and music. Even now we are rarely on the same page. Now that cars have individual temperature controls, I noticed that our preferred a/c temperatures are a full 14 degrees different. I pointed this out to him recently and said, See why this whole marriage thing has zero percent chance of working for us?

I promise you I’ve never been more mad at anyone than him at times. Our family still talks about how furious I was when he insisted on, despite my objection, tying rusty old $8 beach chairs to the roof of our suburban to save $16 and they flew off when I was driving. We can both get immediately and intensely mad about that to this day and no, Robin, it was not my fault.

He gets on my nerves frequently especially how he cuts up his salad and his eggs and won’t eat the ends of asparagus even though I’ve already popped off the ends. Can’t he see that he is rejecting the perfectly delightful MIDDLE of the asparagus? He cannot. Of course now that we all office at home, I could write a book about things, like his breathing and being present, that drive me crazy.

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott wrote, I do not at all understand the mystery of grace-only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. It can be received gladly or grudgingly, in big gulps or in tiny tastes, like a deer at the salt. (Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith)

As we head toward a milestone marriage moment, 35 years, that’s how I see marriage. It is mostly mystery, magic and grace. It is making it through the tough times; sometimes seeking outside help; it is part love, part humility, and a whole lot of something beyond yourselves, I think. Sometimes it feels like big gulps of love and wonder and sometimes tiny tastes of just normal and sometimes irritating life together. Either way, I gratefully and with grace and awe, receive this gift.

I love you Robin Ryan. Happy 35th Anniversary. I love sharing the magic of June 28 with you.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. See for more blog entries, upcoming speaking events, recordings of sermon and messages and to find out about the weekly Jesus Calling Prayer Call she co-hosts each week on Tuesdays mornings at 7 a.m. CST. You can also sign up there for Cindy’s Inner Circle monthly emails. Sign up by June 30 to receive the July Top Ten List.

Today’s blog is dedicated to the memory of Amy and Hal Wallis and their inspirational love story.

12 thoughts on “Mystery, Magic and Grace”

  1. Happy Anniversary to a couple that truly is making major love history! Congratulations on a magical June 28th!

  2. Happy Anniversary!! We just celebrated our 40th, and I so agree with everything you said.
    Sorry, not sorry Dr. Ryan…. Thank you for your faith and your love shines through!

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