Twenty-seven years ago today I became Mrs. Mark Johnson, such a grown up title for a twenty two year old girl.
Today I look at twenty two year olds getting married and think to myself, “Good grief, they are so young…does she even know who she is yet or who she will become?”
The answer is no. No, she doesn’t know who she is yet, and she doesn’t know who she will become.
But she thinks she does.
And so did I.
I knew I wanted to marry Mark Johnson the first night he came over to my apartment. I knew it as we walked and talked that night. I knew it as he told me about his dreams and what he imagined life looking like. I knew it.
And then I questioned it.
About a thousand times.
But I always came back to the knowing part of me, the part that knew I wanted to marry Mark.
There wasn’t much room for becoming inside me at twenty-two. I needed to be right, and I needed to know everything and I needed to figure out what I didn’t know on my own. I was quite independent.
When we went for our pre-marital counseling we took a personality test. The results showed that Mark and I both brought a lot of power to the table, we were the ideal combination for running a Fortune 500 company….but the pastor doing our counseling was a bit concerned about what that would mean for us in our marriage.
Mark was unbothered by those words, he loved me and in his mind it would be great if we ran a company together, as long as we were together.
I married Mark because he brought life, joy, laughter, adventure, excitement, beauty, spontaneity, creativity, strength and dreaming to my life.
And while I officially became his wife in 1987 the real becoming was only beginning. The soil of our marriage has been where my “becoming” has been cultivated.
I held most of my feelings inside and carried secrets and shame as I walked down the aisle towards Mark twenty-seven years ago today. I was 5’8 and weighed a scant 118 pounds. I starved myself of many things and in fact had lost my hunger in many ways. I survived on very little and was unaware of what that was costing me.
Building a life with Mark grew my heart and my hunger.
A friend asked me once if I ever wondered who I would have become if I hadn’t married Mark when I was so young.
There is no way to imagine who I would have become without Mark. Who I am today is so woven together with the journey we’ve traveled together that trying to unwind it feels impossible.
Today, I get to choose how to frame the story of Mark and I and my becoming his wife. There are many options available. Nearly three decades together has brought us joy and pain, life and loss, betrayal and disappointment. There have been times along the way when I have felt tempted to declare that our marriage had become something ugly, tainted, beyond hope, disappointing. And, I have been equally tempted to frame it with words like perfect, just what I prayed for, best friends, soul mates.
The truth is the frame that holds us is intricate and multifaceted and it has movement to it, because the becoming continues…for me and for us. It feels good to name the truth of that. We have not arrived. We do not have the perfect marriage, because no marriage is perfect. What we have is twenty-seven years of commitment and life together, and for that I am so incredibly grateful. For who I have become in the light of Mark’s love and playfulness with me.
As we left the church heading for the reception Mark grabbed the photographer and set up this picture:
The car door frames us and it is the best photograph from our whole wedding day. It’s playful, spontaneous and full of life and movement. I have re-framed it to hang in our home and I hung it up today, in celebration of this anniversary.
I heard a story once about what a woman who has been loved well looks like. There is a beauty and rest that you feel in her presence, her face is soft, her heart is open and her arms are welcoming.
I am a woman who has been loved well, and I am becoming more at rest than ever before, my heart more open, my arms more welcoming, and I like who I am becoming.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). Married for 26 years, she is mother to five kids. After nearly a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is. Founder of Seized by Hope Ministries, she writes here.