wedding-daySometime in the spring semester of 1997, I first saw Molly Sanders. She walked into our New Testament classroom as we were freshmen at Berry College. I was struck immediately by her beauty, her smile, and her grace. It’s amazing to me that 14 years later, I can say that I’ve been married for 10 years to that girl who was way out of my league.

We didn’t start officially dating until the spring of 2000. I waited a long time for Molly, mainly because I never thought she’d go out with me, but also because she didn’t want to ruin our friendship. I asked her out repeatedly, but she just wasn’t ready. In the meantime we became best friends and shared many classes together as religion majors. Either my persistence wore her down, or she just couldn’t resist my balding head, but eventually, we had “the talk” while sitting in her car behind Evans Hall one afternoon. She told me back then that I better be prepared, because she would be an awesome girlfriend, and of course, she wasn’t lying. She said it as a warning, but I took it as a promise.

Molly is my number one supporter, and always has been. In my first year of seminary, Molly stayed in Georgia for a while, but when it became clear that we couldn’t be apart any longer, she left everything and moved up to Virginia. She got a number of jobs and financially supported both of us during those years. She worked at a bookstore, as a nanny, and at a Whole Foods Market. She cooked dinner, helped me study, and made me laugh when things were tough in those days.

We were married in August of 2001 in St. Simons Island in a small ceremony at St. Ignatius chapel, owned by Christ Church, Frederica. Family and close friends gathered. The reception was horrendous due to the venue. We sliced our wedding cake on the bar of this restaurant because it was too hot outside, and the fans we were promised hadn’t been installed. My brothers-in-law ruined my car with shaving cream and vaseline, and on my wedding night, we spent the evening washing the car so we could leave the next day. The mechanical controls of the windows never worked again. Our photographer was drunk when he showed up, so even our photos of the day reflected the chaos of the day. But they say bad wedding…great marriage, so I can attest to that.

I cried like a baby when I saw her walk down the aisle. She was radiant and angelic. I cried the same way when Tai was born, then when Bronwyn was born, again when Liam was born, and yes, even when Grey was born. Moments like those, when you know you’re in the presence of God’s beauty, illicit no other response.

Molly and I survived a tropical storm on our honey moon. We only got one day of sunshine on our trip to Cancun. We also survived September 11, 2001, mere weeks after our wedding, living a few miles from the Pentegon. We felt the earth shake when the plane hit, and we witnessed with our own eyes the pillar of smoke. We also survived the awful sniper attacks in 2002, where you couldn’t get gas unless you squatted down next to your car. It was a difficult time to live in the Washington DC area, but it drew us closer.

We survived huge palmetto bugs (roaches) in our first house in Savannah. We survived living in an upstairs duplex apartment with a newborn. We survived the market crash and the selling of our house in Savannah after we moved to Harris County. We survived renovating a 95-year-old house. We survived natural child birth 4 times.

Every year, I make Molly a mixed CD of the songs that made up the last year. It’s great to listen to those CDs of the past and remember exactly where we were when we heard that song play. R.E.M., Gillian Welch, the Innocence Mission, Over the Rhine, Iron & Wine, Dave Matthews, Ben Folds, Bon Iver, and the Decemberists seem to make the cut almost every year. These CDs are the soundtrack of our marriage.

I don’t know what makes marriage work. I know we put all that we have into making it work. Some days it’s easier than others, but most of the time, I still see that beautiful girl who walked into New Testament class, and that’s all I need.

Molly hates attention, but then again, she married me, so she has to get a certain amount from time to time. I couldn’t be the priest, the father, the husband, or the person I am today if it wasn’t for her. I’m so grateful to her, and especially to God, for every thing she does, which is an act of deep and abiding love at every turn. I couldn’t have survived the last 10 years without her.

Today we are going to the birthplace of our relationship, Berry College, to spend the day and remember these wonderful 10 years. That’s our gift to one another. And we offer this prayer to God in thanksgiving:

God, you have so consecrated the covenant of marriage that in it is represented the spiritual unity between Christ and his Church: Send your blessing upon us, that we may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulnessand patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that our lives together may be a witness to your love and forgiveness, and that our home may be a haven of blessing and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jeff+