Let me go on record to say that Karina and I have never celebrated Valentine’s Day. I don’t aim to disparage those couples that do, as whomever concocted the notion had good intentions I’m sure. But the abomination it has become is a monster I cannot bear to show my teeth to.
Having said that, I did pick a wildflower off the jungle floor to put in my wife’s hair yesterday. It's a little thing we do nearly every day when the moment presents itself. Love is always ready to be recognized, even in the dullness of the daily stuff, weeds can produce some beautiful flowers if what your looking for is love and beauty.
For many years in my relationship, I was only looking for what I needed, what I could get for myself. Take, take, take. I gave only so I could get. The conditional sort of love. The roller coaster of emotions, the never quite satisfied with anything kind of existence. I’m not exactly sure what changed, maybe trial and error, many breakdowns have let today to some breakthroughs in my relationship with Karina.
It’s different now. We’re moving away from codependency into more of an interdependency. Learning to thread the third person of God’s Holy Spirit into our union is the key for us. Valentines plus one.
If God’s breath empowers everything, it makes sense to consciously choose to give Him room to breathe. But it doesn’t come naturally, the need to control everything and everyone that’s what comes naturally, grace, however, is divine in nature. And I can’t access it unless I’m centered in who I am in creation. That God loves me unconditionally, unchanging despite of my many screw-ups. Getting real to that takes so much pressure off the relationship to meet the need to be each others “everything “.
I think about the narrative of our story. It’s an ironic twist that when Karina first met me she only knew me as the “ bamboo boy”. This guy she met in front of the bamboo at the back of the garden center of a Home Depot. Her friends and her referred to me as “bamboo boy” and here we are thirteen years later at the Bambu base camp, starring off over the cliff into the jungle, holding hands and praying for God to guide us into the future. To consider that we’ve been lead here and that funny little moniker is still applicable makes me laugh and smile at the way things turn out.
But it’s only in the retrospective that it becomes clear. Our marriage has had so many twists and turns it makes my head spin. I think so much at times that I’m reading off this carefully crafted script and then wham I find out I’m in a completely different type of story. Trusting in God with the story of us at times seems like I’m casting my anchor into the clouds. But He’s proven true to Himself time after time. I didn’t know it then but I see now looking in the rearview.
An example of that is a serious car accident I was in back in 2011 that left the other driver dead and my own body broken and invalid. How God showed up in that unscripted moment, lead to Karina being born again, miracles of financial direction in the place of ruin, and being literally stopped in my tracks to contemplate God’s ways in my life when I was running in the opposite direction.
A thousand more examples from my marriage would still drive home the point that our relationship is so much better off when we make room for God to coexist between us. And so on this Valentine’s Day plus one, as we face looming and life-changing decisions about our future and what it means for us to leave the comfort of a predictable career and life in California for the unknowns of missionary life in Costa Rica, we whisper the serenity prayer to each other. God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Author: James Beach, Co-founder