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The Infamous Stanley Park Incident

Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC- 6/19/04
 

Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can; all of them make me laugh.

W. H. Auden

Hurry Hon! I think we can catch it if we run.

So we cinched up our backpacks and off we ran to the free summer Stanley Park shuttle bus that offered “free shuttle service around the park stopping at 14 popular locations.” Oh, and “The shuttle stops are easily identified.” And sure enough, right on cue, as we raced into the Rose Garden, the bus squealed to a stop. We looked , smiled at the driver and climbed on. And took off our packs and sat down. Because after a few hours hiking the Park’s walkway and seawall and North Creek and Beaver Lake and South Creek Path, our feet were sore. So we caught our breath and enjoyed the view. First, Rhodendron Garden, and the Rowing Club. Then the Salmon Stream and Lost Lagoon. Isn’t this great? Jim asked.

And it’s free, I sighed, sinking into my window seat, about halfway back, driver’s side, admiring the totem poles.

Hey- there’s our car! Jim said. And sure enough, it was. And seconds later this sign, “Leaving Stanley Park.” Little did we know.  

 

Leaving Stanley Park

Next stop, the driver piped, Vanier Park. Then Granville Island. Enjoy three of the city’s best attractions all in scenic Vanier Park. What? Vanier Park? What happened to Stanley Park? I whispered to Jim. Maybe he’s giving us a little bonus ride, he said with that grin. I was none too sure. And as riders got on at the Vanier stop, the driver started asking for tickets. That’s funny, I whispered again. We didn’t show any ticket when we got on. Maybe that’s because we raced right on, Jim said, his eyes growing wide. Riders piled in at Granville Island and my anxiety was rising mile high.  No, you’re not in Kansas anymore. Or Stanley Park. We were probably only 5 miles away, but it felt 500 miles away. I slumped deeper into my seat and resisted looking up for fear of meeting the driver’s eyes. Sure enough, at each stop the driver- or his assistant- punched tickets. But he hadn’t punched ours. Or, by the matchless grace of God, even asked to see them.  

 

The Radio

We didn’t have tickets. We were free riders. And with each stop, my misery grew. Then the bus driver looked back, ominously, I thought. I avoided his gaze and trembled slightly as he grabbed his radio. By now the din of the riders drowned out the driver’s voice.  But I thought I knew why he made that call. Jim, do you think he knows? I felt like a mouse hiding on top of a carpet cat tower. He might. Maybe he was calling the authorities. Then, Be prepared to show your tickets at the next stop in Gastown. A new driver will be stepping on board. I squirmed. And tried to look invisible. What are we going to do, Hon? I almost cried. We have no money. Should we just go up and confess? Nah. Just pray it goes back to Stanley Park, Jim assured.   I did. And the bus filled and a new very crisp, capable looking driver stepped in at the Starbucks in Gastown. I curled into a ball and heard nothing whatsoever about the sights in Gastown. The driver took his place and the old driver got off. I exhaled, Now our secret was safe.  

 

Don’t Look Now

Abigail, whatever you do, don’t look up, Jim said staring down into his book. The new driver’s looking our way. I grimaced, and slunk a little lower. I could barely see out the window.  Oh no! He just picked up his radio. He’s talking and he just looked at us again. This was unbearable. I think I’d have preferred a night in the Vancouver clink to this. I heard something about Grouse Mountain off to the right but I dared not lift my head to peek. Abigail, I think they might get us at the next stop. Get ready to run. I turned my head the slightest inch to see another grin. But despite myself, his grin made me grin. Then, the driver’s voice broke in.  

 

Next Stop, Stanley Park

And after our nearly 90 minute (free) tour of Vancouver proper, the loop had closed. We spotted our car again. Then the Rose Garden. Now the bus slowed.  As soon as it stops, just run as fast as you can, Jim whispered. I almost laughed as we grabbed our packs and rose. And with the most grateful and innocent smile I could muster, but without eye contact,  I said, Thanks for the tour. I couldn’t, and didn’t, say then that I enjoyed the tour.  But 15 years and plenty of retellings of the Infamous Stanley Park Incident hence, I realize that I did. I did enjoy that undercover, high-stress Vancouver loop. I enjoyed it because of Jim. 

 

Joy, Because Of Jim

He makes me sweat and makes me laugh. He knows me pretty well and still loves me. Jim  knows I don’t laugh enough and I’m prone to introspection.  So Jim makes me laugh. Moral of the story: Marry someone who makes you laugh. And if you can’t do that, find a friend who makes you smile. Because life is full of inconvenience. And, after all, adventures are only inconveniences rightly considered. And rightly considered the Vancouver loop was edge-of-my-seat, or slink-deep-in-my seat adventure. Because I was with my husband, my friend Jim.  

 

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” 
William Shakespeare

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8 Favorite Marriage Quotes

Not Mushy-Gushy

Others can tell the mushy-gushy marriage story. We don’t have that. Ours is much more a tenacious, cling-by-our-fingernails, cleave-by-grace sort of story.

This day last year marked 20 years of marriage. I condensed the first score in a post called, 3 Lessons for Incompatible Soul Mates. Number 1 was God gives us strong grace so we can share it. Lesson 2: Your real soul-mate is the one you’re married to. And Number 3: Incompatibility is not a deal breaker. It’s a grace-muscle maker.

So I won’t rehash more. Because this wedding anniversary is a milestone too. I’ve been Mrs. Wallace for as many years as I was not.

What’s changed in 21 years- besides those full cheeks and fringy brown bangs?

Easy. I rely way more now than then on God’s grace. Only by clinging to HIs strong forgiving, forbearing, speak-truth-and-keep-loving grace could we have possibly made it this far.  And we know this pleases God, because, after all, marriage is really all about that, about how Christ loves his church.

But there have been some quotes that have helped me get up and press on in the last 21 years since we two became one.

These are those: courage-making marriage quotations from those way wittier and wiser than I.

8 Favorite Marriage Quotes

  1. What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? -Gary Thomas
  2. Marriage is the greatest test in the world. It’s much more than a test of sweetness of temper…It is a test of the whole character and affects every action. -T.S. Eliot
  3.  Love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. -C.S. Lewis
  4.  One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse.  Had there been a card attached, it would have said, “Here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!” -Gary and Betsy Ricucci
  5.  The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people. —John and Noël Piper
  6.  I have know many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible. – G. K. Chesterton 
  7. A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers. -Ruth Bell Graham
  8.  The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the Gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The Gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. – Tim Keller

Reflecting

The T.S. Eliot quote compares marriage to a great test. Well, we’ve failed a lot along the way. We’ve been irritable and downright discouraging to each other some days. There’s been anger and hurt. We still get tempted to lash out and to clam up, to let the sun go down on our anger and keep a record of wrongs and go our own way.

But love doesn’t do that and we love because God first loved us.  And God’s love is a tenacious and gracious, steadfast and covenant-keeping love and marriage was made to reflect the Gospel- the good news of God’s great love for flawed, sinful man. Jim knows my flaws the best and on, earth, he loves me most.

I’ve heard it said that to be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. 

So today I pray that our marriage is more and more a reflection- albeit a smudgy one some days- of just that sort of love.

May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ. 

2 Thessalonians 3:5

 

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3 Lessons For Incompatible Soul-Mates

We saw it coming. As much as a 21 year-old far-sighted new grad and a 32 year-old eye-doctor standing before the wedding altar can. Because every marriage starts sight unseen.

The wedding guests shook their heads. “They’ve met their match,” some said. The guests, the bride, the groom- all knew that sparks would fly as sure as love would grow. That the cakewalk would end the second we left the three tiers at the reception hall and entered the January cold.

No. We weren’t giddy. Weren’t head over heels. Our love was not blind.

Bound But Not Blind

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 6:8

We knew to keep our eyes wide open before the wedding and half shut afterward. But half shut’s not blind. Because, like GK Chesterton wrote, blind is the last thing love is.

Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind. And if we don’t love the unlovable it’s not really love at all.

We knew these truths. We could see that our love was not blind. We were quite aware of our different ways of seeing and doing and saying things.

Which is why we picked those those verses from 2 Corinthians 9 for our wedding text.

Pastor Berg asked us, Are you sure you want to use this? It’s really not a standard wedding text like 1 Corinthians 13. The context is actually grace to give money. Is that okay?

Oh, yeah. For sure. Because we two strong, determined types knew we’d need all grace, in all things, all the time to stay bound. Which is exactly why God gives this abundant grace. 

That’s lesson 1: God gives it, so we can give it. Because we all need it

And 20 years in we still need all God’s strong grace to make our marriage workEspecially when in the heat of the fight, we might be tempted to wonder, Did I make a mistake? 

Mistakes and Soul Mates

J.R.R. Tolkien was married for 55 years. Happily, from all accounts. He and Edith understood that real love means self-denial. That takes grace. And that in a certain way, most marriages are mistakes. He explains this in a letter he wrote to his son Michael.

Tolkien’s take on marital love is not sentimental. I think that’s why I like it so much. I’m not so sentimental.

If you take nothing else from this post, please take this:

The essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called “self-realization” (usually a nice name for self-indulgence…); but by denial, by suffering. Faithfulness in Christian marriages entails that: great mortification.

When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think that they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along. Someone whom they might indeed very profitably have married, if only—. Hence divorce, to provide the ‘if only’.

And of course they are as a rule quite right: they did make a mistake. Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgement concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates.

But the ‘real soul-mate’ is the one you are actually married to. In this fallen world, we have as our only guides, prudence, wisdom (rare in youth, too late in age), a clean heart, and fidelity of will…(Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, pp. 51-52)

That’s lesson 2: Your ‘real soul mate’ is the one you married. (Yes. Love the one you’re with.)

Jim and I both may possibly have found a more suitable mate. May have. But as for soul mates: he’s mine and I’m his.

The Unquestionably Incompatible on the Practice Court

G.K. Chesterton, also happily married, once wrote, I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when the incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such are incompatible. Hear, hear and three cheers for Chesterton.

Have you been there? Are you now? Wondering if you made a mistake? Feeling how unquestionably incompatible the two of you are? If you do, please take heart. 

Because we have and we do and, I suspect, we will still feel our incompatibility until death do us part. Twenty years in and I still can’t believe he thinks that. He can’t believe I said that.

That’s lesson 3: Incompatibility is not a marriage breaker. It’s a place-for-grace given. 

Thankfully, we have the perfect place to practice grace; a practice court for love. That’s what Gary Thomas, in my favorite Sacred Marriage book, calls Christian marriage. On that court what makes a win isn’t getting your way  and achieving your dreams.  No.

A deny yourself, serve your spouse, forgive first love wins. A robust holy love that has contempt on contempt and picks gratitude over entitlement scores points. It’s a holy love that knows faithfulness matters because marriage is meant to mirror God’s faithful love for his bride and her glad submission to him.

But, good night! Who knew how grueling hard this test would be. T.S. Eliot called it the greatest test in the world. It’s much more than a test of sweetness of temper…it is a test of the whole character and affects every action. We fail lots of tests and we miss a lot of shots. But we do keep fighting through when incompatibility flares

Which, incidentally, takes all grace. All God’s strong grace for grace to abound in our house. 

I won’t say I didn’t think we’d come this far. 

We knew God could make all grace abound. We thought we would. He give it so we can live it. But I will say we had no idea how hard living it would be. We’ve both had some high hopes smashed and big dreams dashed. Some shattered in the hands of the other.

So, yes, there has been hard. There have been sparks. But no matter, how hard and the sparks. Game still on. Because God gives more grace, strong grace to get us back up so we can give and forgive, bear and forbear, respect and submit. He does. God gives it, so we can live it, to the praise of his glorious grace. 

We’ve been working grace out as God works it in for the last 7300 days and it’s one score us, score one grace. And I admit it. I’m getting just a teensy bit sentimental when I see how far, by grace, we’ve come now.

So, yes, Dr. Jim, I do take you. For sure. You’re still the one.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 

Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

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  1. That was great to read given our current situation. Thanks! Congratulations on your anniversary…

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  2. Thanks, Jackie. The way you and your beloved talk to each other and how he brings lunch and you listen so well is grace upon grace. You’re strong that way. I’ll pray for you to live your next chapter well. Luke 12:22-32

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