Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
The stone walls of the ancient castle had crumbled and the roof had long since fallen in. But instead of it being a place of desolation, lush plants had sprung up and sunlight filtered through the leaves overhead, creating a more heavenly dome than ever before.
A sparrow flitted from a broken window to a low branch, and a rabbit hopped out from behind a fern and blinked shyly. The hands of men had created a masterpiece, but really the wild presence of nature and the breath of God is what made this place so powerful now. It was a sanctuary.
A sanctuary is a sacred place. It is a place set apart for a holy purpose, a place to commune with God in intimate fellowship, a place to worship Him "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24), Again and again, over the years, this is the word that has encompassed our marriage.
Oh, we are deeply broken people, let me tell you. We bring to the table our own baggage, the insecurities, the misconceptions about God. But here in this place, is the life-changing ingredient of safety. Even in my most broken moments, I am held, both by God and by my husband.
Our story was an unlikely fairytale. We liked each other at a distance for 5 years, but both were involved independently in training and missionary work. I was certain Daniel would never give up his single life of trekking rugged mountain trails preaching for that of a married man, tied down to a family. But God managed that detail and gently, but dramatically, brought us together. We were engaged just 13 days after we started dating, married five months after that.
It was the happiest, most dizzying whirlwind ever. It was so picture-perfect that someone chided me once, "Don't tell girls your story! It doesn't work out that way for everyone."
Of course not. But don't be ashamed of the uniqueness of your story. Of the power of God in the most unpredictable or even acceptable ways. God is like the wind, and He moves in unspeakable ways...
I would never ever have written our story the way it unfolded. We didn't move to the mission field and stay for our whole lives. Sure, we spent a few years there, gave birth to our first child in an adobe house, hours from a decent hospital. But I never dreamed of the trauma that would follow — of the shattering that would be so much a part of life.
I didn't expect to dramatically change life direction in the midst of raising a family so Daniel could go to school. I never anticipated taking our kids to a hospital parking lot for a quick picnic lunch to see their daddy who was cramming an impossible amount of hours to meet school deadlines. That he would burn the candle at both ends to do school, and do it with excellence, while still being a present husband and an engaged daddy to our five children.
It's easy to see the unknown future as terrifying. After all, the Red Sea spreads far and wide, every bit as impossible and impassable as we could imagine.
I think if I had known all we would face, I couldn't have breathed. Except for one thing. God would be with us. Through the horrible drowning of my brother, through broken relationships and misunderstandings, through a deep dark season of groping for the goodness of God when all had faded to the black and white of grief. Through the demands of school, of the sacrifices I would make to make this dream happen. We must risk all, we must invest, to have such deep rewards.
The miracle of this sanctuary is that life and breath are not of us. It is the miracle that God reaches down and blows through our most broken places. That He IS.
Daniel and I have tasted deep and full of the abundance of God, even in a marriage made up of two mortal beings. Heaven on earth, a true sanctuary- this has been the greatest gift aside from salvation. Perhaps it is where I have tasted salvation deepest. This has been my sanctuary.
Daniel, these have been the best 15 years of my life.
I can't wait to do the next, and the next, and even the next, by your side.
The best is yet to come.