You’ve heard that old cliché, “It’s not where you go or what you do, it’s who you’re with”? My parents are living that to the extreme.
Today, people are remembering September 11, 2001. I respect that; it’s important that we never forget what happened 17 years ago.
But I want to talk about September 11, 1993 – the day my parents got married.
That’s right; 25 years ago today, Kevin M. Renckens and Cyndi J. Kamp tied the knot.
(There weren’t wedding hashtags back then, but I like to think theirs would have been #GoneKamping. Other options include #HappyKamper and #StairwayToKevin.)*
So, what are they doing for their silver anniversary? Renewing their vows? Enjoying a romantic dinner? Revisiting the spot where an Ivy league grad from New York first met a bubbly systems analyst with big, brown eyes?
Tonight, they are dining on Chipotle burritos, and in two weeks, they are flying to Ohio.
Because, you know, why settle for Paris when you can always have Cincinnati?
My parents are celebrating their 25th anniversary at the Great American Ballpark, watching a Reds game and chowing down hot dogs. Over the past few years, they have been on a mission to visit every MLB stadium, their navy Rays caps popping up in a new one every few months or so.
If you want to know where baseball ranks in my family’s priorities, my cousin Luke didn’t tell us when he got engaged, but as soon as the Rays officially announced the Logan Forsythe trade, my phone almost dropped dead of exhaustion.
It’s kinda funny; even though Mom is one of the biggest baseball fans I know, she really didn’t take any interest in sports before she met Dad. Now, she keeps up with the Lightning, she can talk about the Bucs…she even tells me about the latest round of the PGA tour.
In that way, Dad completely changed her.
But Mom changed Dad, too.
My dad wasn’t a Christian when he met my mom. In fact, on their first date, when she brought up Christianity, he told her how he could never give up control of his life like that.
He hadn’t figured out yet that Mom is usually right. And even when she isn’t…she is.
Now, he’s taken seminary classes, leads a mission trip to Africa every year, and has helped me, my sister, and so many others learn what it really means to have the heart of Christ.
I’m not here to say which is more important (sports fan or Christ follower), but I think we can all agree they both changed for the better.
(Ok, fine, Jesus is more important than baseball. But you can’t tell me He didn’t play a part in me getting an apartment right next to Tropicana Field.)
You might think that after spending 22 years around what’s been a pretty successful marriage (so far, knock on wood), I could crank out an article on what, based on my observations, is the formula for a strong relationship. But I don’t know if there’s some big secret to a long, happy marriage; I’ve never tried it. Heck, I’ve never even been in a relationship that lasted a full month (not counting when I was five and got married in my sandbox).
But I have learned something about how you know it’s the right person.
A lot of times, when we think of love, we picture someone we’re comfortable with. You know, sitting on the couch together, oily hair coiled into a messy bun, watching Netflix, and eating ice cream straight out of the carton, knowing that he’ll still kiss you goodnight and text you in the morning. Someone whose should you can cry on, who you can open up to about everything.
Feeling relaxed, comfortable, and safe around someone is definitely an important part of a relationship, but true love is more intense than that. It’s caring so deeply about someone, you can’t leave them where you found them. You don’t want to change who they are; in a way, you want them to be more who they are. You want them to be the best version of themselves.
That’s what Jesus did for us, right? God meets us where we are, but He never leaves us there. And no matter how many times we squirm ourselves out of His protective embrace, turn our backs to Him, and run back to the mess He saved us from, He always comes back for us, cleans us up, and brings us home like His beloved bride.
When I imagine what it’s like to be in love, I always think of someone who pushes me to try new things, to grow in some way, whether it’s finally mustering up the nerve to send my short stories to a literary magazine or even something dumb, like pulling me up on stage at karaoke night or just making me put on real clothes and leave my apartment once in a while. (No small feat, lemme tell ya.) I imagine someone who encourages me to do things I would never have done by myself.
Here’s what I have learned: in a healthy relationship, both people are unselfishly, earnestly working to help the other person grow and bring out their best qualities. My parents taught me the importance of being with someone who loves me not just for who I am, but who I can be, and is excited to support me on that journey.
And, of course, who’ll take me to every MLB stadium.
So, I guess the old cliché is true – it is about who you’re with, because the right person will take you where you need to go and help you with whatever you do.
If you want more reflections on relationships and advice from someone who has never actually been in a long-term relationship, type your email into the “Stick Around” widget on the top right of the screen! We can figure this out together, friends.
*I kind of just realized that my mom planned their entire wedding without Pinterest…like, how do you pick a dress when you haven’t been digitally hoarding photos for years? That’s probably why so many women wound up picking dresses with sleeves the size of balloons. I firmly believe the entire fashion disaster that was the 80’s could have been prevented if Pinterest had been invented 30 years earlier.
If you’re still reading this, you may be interested in my opinion on weddings (i.e., why I will never have one).