I met my Benjamin in Chicago on a warm evening walk to Buckingham Fountain with a gang of other students, just days after he turned twenty. He was wearing high green combat boots, checked green shorts, a ratty t-shirt and a white sailors cap, swinging from scaffolding and jumping off stairs. I was in my wranglers, boots and a cobalt blue shirt, a cowgirl wanna-be. My first impression was “who is this quirky boy who acts like Tiger and has brilliant blue eyes the color of a summer ocean?” Not exactly my tall, dark, and studious commanding leader!
When we first spoke he asked me what animal I was most like. At nineteen, I told him I was a wild horse. He told me he was a curious chameleon (the years have made me tamer and he, more steady). He then told me he was from Central America and broke into a bit of Spanish. You might say he had me at Hola… Weeks after meeting him, I knew I had found a friend with whom I never needed to try to impress, who would listen to my young sentimental poetry and tear up the streets of the Windy City with me. He was an odd bird, dressing like a clown, using honey in his hair when he ran out of gel, never managing to be on time for anything and taking class notes on any scrap of paper he happened to find. But he worked hard, he spoke only what he meant, he was committed to God and he had a genuine concern for others, especially the refugees he worked with weekly.
I liked mellow tunes; he turned up his heavy rock. He drank strong coffee; I liked tea. He had really never read a whole book on his own initiative; I had hundreds to my credit. He was from a warm-culture in every way; I was a true northern Scandinavian. He could live in a shoebox happy; I loved my beautiful sacred space. I played basketball and could kick a soccer ball across a field; he preferred extreme sports. I was a visioning, goal-setting big picture kind of independent thinker; he only saw what was right in front of his face and was a group-thinker. He was brilliant at math and science; I was a humanities buff. He was a competent musician; I was a musical dropout. He was short; I was tall. He was tan; I was very white. He insisted on laying his clothes out the night before; I liked to wing it.
We were both plain immature and simply naive in a great many ways, but both dead-set in our values and convictions; our cores were the same. Our hopes for the future and the way we wanted to live our lives resonated. We saw in each other who we could become, even if no one else could see it.
So, thirteen years later and we are so very far from that walk down LaSalle street. Had I know how signifant that stroll was I might have gone slower, knowing we could never walk it again. It is perhaps good I did not know the future the moment I first looked into Benjamin’s eyes; I probably would have ran the other way! But now, as I watched my husband of 33 years praising God through the medium of his bass this morning I see how good God has been to Him. How faithful to mold and chisel his character and bring his heart to such depths and passion with such a relentlessness all these years that it has been sometimes painful to watch. I still see in him, as I see in myself, more growth that needs to occur, more wisdom to be learned and appropriated, more good works prepared by God for him to walk into.
But at thirty-three, I can say how proud I am that he is mine and I am his. I confess in my heart of hearts it was not always that way; how far our human expectations can lead us from love and grace and the good and precious gifts God has hand-given to each of us!
My Benjamin, a faithful committed man, a giant of prayer and faith, a consistently repentant and teachable heart, a bold and courageous foot-soldier for Christ. How blessed and full the world is that receives you my darlin’.
I forgot to get you a card, this will have to do. Happy Birthday.