37 years ago. Love Field, Dallas Texas — people pulling carry ons, saying hellos and good byes on a Friday afternoon while a Southwest Air stewardess places a pewter tray with a pewter chalice on the North Pole of the world map in the huge foyer, and then Paula (Rader) Wims places a diamond ring under the chalice and stands guard.
Cold water in the chalice awaits a blindfolded cowgirl on the arm of her soon-to-be fiancé as they draw closer, and Paula disappears to a distance to watch and not intrude.
He kneels, and says, “You can open your eyes, now.”
Jill Kathleen opens her eyes and takes it all in, and then looks down to take in me down on one knee, the tray, the chalice, the echoing vast space and people walking by to casually take in the turning point in our life together.
We had both read, A Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanAuken, and were struck by the VanAukens’ intimacy, tragedy, and reminder that all time is fleeting. From that book, I asked, “Do you want a cup of cold water?” For Sheldon and Davy, it was proper to ask for a cup of cold water in the night, and proper to go fetch it for the one asking.
Jill said, “No.” She holds so many ways of insuring that we go off-script.
I returned, “Think about it.” She did. She picked up the chalice — looking for a ring in the cup. It was not there. She sipped. She stooped to place it back on the tray and there in the middle of the tray was my ring, her ring, that ring.
She gasped. Picked it up, and put it on her finger. She admired it and turned back to me.
I then said, “I do not love you as the Number One in my life, but because of Who I love as Number One, my Number Two will be better than most guys Number One.”
So sitting in Life.Church this morning to hear Craig Groschelle talk about prioritizing our marriages in our lives just behind God I laughed when he said, “God is Priority One and your spouse is Priority Two.”
In all hubris I smiled at the cowgirl sitting next to me and got misty eyed. Flooding in to me came a myriad of times that I failed her as my priority, selfishly abused it, wanted it without continually earning it, and yet. And yet, she sat next to me, the ring, that ring on her finger. And she was smiling.
If not for grace, the conundrum that is Christianity would be completely out of reach for us mortals. And I got misty eyed again.