Teckla has pointed out that she is seldom the subject of my blogs. It is true. Teckla, and our marriage are hard for me to write about. Here are a few reasons.
First, our lives and hearts are so intertwined that it is hard to know where I begin and she ends. I know this idea sets off alarms in some. But it shouldn’t, here. Teckla and I are one not because one person’s identity has extinguished the other’s. I can’t say how much of our oneness is natural compatibility, some probably. I believe we have one heart mostly because we have poured out our lives, love, and energy in one direction. We passionately love Jesus, and for 43 years of marriage we have sought God’s will above all else.
Secondly, our relationship has been embarrassingly good, and honestly, I don’t want others to feel bad. Thus, we aren’t qualified to give much marriage advice. And I am old enough to know that marriages completely different from ours can work well. Ours may not even be typical for good marriages. For instance, we don’t fight–ever. One glance from her blue eyes will let me know if I am speaking or acting out of something other than love. Her desire to please Jesus in all things has made it hard for us to find things to fight over. Neither of us has had “to put our foot down” because our feet are always moving toward Jesus. I know this all sounds sappy, and I know many marriages that have weathered fights, and are perhaps stronger because of them. But I have no war stories about our marriage. Marriage is supposed to be hard, something you really work at. I am embarrassed that ours has been easy.
Third, our marriage is easy to misunderstand, especially if you are quick to slap labels on things. For instance, from the first days of our marriage I have told Teckla to do whatever she believes God is calling her to do. She has a degree in social work, so she has always had the skills and opportunity to go to work. However, most of our marriage she has sought to serve others by just loving the people God brings into her life. That has meant having people live with us, adopting four boys, leading worship, working at the Pacific Pregnancy Center, and leading Bible studies. It has often meant living on one salary and doing without many things.
Here is where it gets confusing. Teckla submits to me as her husband. Terrible, huh? She would tell you that I have provided spiritual and practical leadership in our life together. We are not, it seems, the 50/50 partnership so popular today. I am 100% committed to serving and loving Teckla as Christ loves the church. She completely trusts my leadership, but it never feels like I am leading because we are one. Anyone who knows Teckla knows she is smart, strong, and courageous—not less of a person because she is married. So, do we have a traditional marriage or a modern enlightened one that allows the full expression of individual identities and callings? I don’t know. Both, maybe? Our marriage is, without doubt, wonderful.
Teckla and I have a relationship that sets us both free to pursue every dream and vision God puts into our hearts. The controlling question in our life has been “What is God saying and where is He leading?” We strengthen and encourage each other in the pursuit of God. It is hard to overstate how wonderful this has been and continues to be. We have never had to worry about dragging each other into God’s will. We walk together.
Teckla possesses virtues that are hard to capture in words. She has a simplicity and purity of heart that I find supremely beautiful. Much of this was revealed in her approach to our wedding. With the help of her mother she made a wedding dress. She asked for no engagement ring—just a couple wedding bands. Before the wedding we gathered sunflowers from beside the road in Walla Walla and my parents brought ferns from Myrtle Point. We made our own floral arrangements. We went camping on our honeymoon. All our life together we have lived simply and treasured our ability to delight in simple pleasures like a walk on the beach or evening around a campfire.
Another thing which makes it hard to write about Teckla is her humility. Humility is much misunderstood as weakness or meekness. But in her it has majesty—the grace of a queen kneeling. She is a servant and it is hard to capture in words how precious and rare that is. She has little patience with the idea that she should only do things that express her calling or gifting. She serves—always with excellence and diligence—when she sees a need. Even better, she does it for Jesus and because she loves people. She is willing to serve in the hidden place and do the hard things. This makes her as exquisite and beautiful as the rarest gem. Words can’t capture the wonder and beauty of her heart and service.
Teckla is heroic. She loves sacrificially. She dies daily to selfishness and puts others first, sometimes to my annoyance. As she battles cancer, something that would give most of us license to focus on ourselves, she has continued to love and give. I have seen her work hard and long at becoming more like Jesus in areas where she has heard God asking for change. This kind of long obedience produces holiness but doesn’t make a good story. She is always growing spiritual and is one of least “stuck” Christians I know.
This already sounds more boring than it should. Our love for each other has all the intensity and passion of a windswept headland on the Oregon coast, the waves exploding skyward in a wild storm. There is also a tender devotion that blooms in acts of kindness throughout the day. We would always rather be with each other than anyone else. Although we are fully able to enjoy time with other people, we are never seeking to escape each other. We always ache for each other when apart. This too is embarrassing and certainly is not how every marriage must be. It is, however, wonderful that our love for each other burns stronger and brighter each day, even in the darkest of days.
And here is an important reality that is hard to put into words. As we have aged and seen those we love die, Teckla and I have glimpsed eternity. Because the reality of being absent from the body and present with the Lord has captured our hearts, Teckla and I find ourselves more than husband and wife—we are brother and sister in Christ. We are fellow sojourners seeking resurrection and eternal fellowship with Jesus.
Writing about Teckla is like trying to paint the air I breathe. In ways neither of us can see, we have shaped each other’s values and identities. We have been better together. It is even hard for me to separate the goodness of God from the all the blessings that have come through our marriage. The love, joy, and purpose we have discovered together is just another way that the goodness of God has overflowed into our lives. They are one. We are one.