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It is just hours now before you kneel across the temple altar with your sweetheart to begin a new life, and I will miss your presence in the green bedroom at the end of the hall. How many times you have come in late at night to sit on our bed to just talk or rocked in the chair by my desk to download your day. It has been tender for me all of these years to just call out your name and know you are there, and we will keenly feel your absence. I never quite get used to the reality that as parents we hold tight on to you for years, protecting you, laughing with you, delighting in you, and then one day we have to open our hands and just let go, pretending we don’t notice your absence and how very empty that bedroom is at the end of the hall.
So I want to send you off to marriage with a secret. Dad and I just recently celebrated an anniversary while leading a tour at the Yellow Mountains in China. We each awoke that morning, and secretly in our corners of the room, began a gift of writing for the other. We did not consult with each other, nor let on to what our scheme was, but when we were finished we exchanged phones where we had written on a note pad and our gifts were surprisingly born of the same idea. I had written for him a list of thirty things I loved about him. He had written for me a list of thirty things for which he prayed for me.
We both had a hard time stopping at thirty, for we could have gone on and on.
It was tender and affectionate, and we wept together at how clearly we saw each other. “You really know my heart,” Dad said. “In all the world, you are the person who sees who I am.” I said the same thing as I read the thirty things he prays for me. “You know what matters to me. You see me. Your prayers for me are more thorough and insightful about my concerns than my own prayers for me are.”
“How did you know?” we both sighed to each other. “How do you know me so well and see me so clearly?”
It was fascinating that this happened right there at the Yellow Mountains. These are perhaps the most scenic and unique mountains on the face of the earth. In some primordial time when the Lord created our world, He must have said, I will bring all the artistry of eternity together to create a masterpiece, where each glance will fill my children with soaring joy. Every scene, every panorama was calling for its photo to be taken, and then we had to shake our heads because photos could do no justice and could not capture the depth or expanse.
There is a saying in China that once you have been to the Yellow Mountains, you do not need to see any other mountain. They are the source of much of the Chinese art.
These mountains seem to rise like vertical spears out of the ground, narrow and up thrusting before they fall again. They plunge and twist like nothing we had ever seen before on earth. Clinging to the rock are unique, horizontal pines that look like Bonsai trees. Playing through this grandeur is a continual light show as seas of mist rise and fall and drift between the peaks.
We had no words, magnificent enough for what we saw and weren’t surprised that the peaks of names like Bright Summit and Beginning-to-Believe-Peak. It is said that these mountains were the inspiration for the surreal mountains in the movie Avatar. They were a figment of imagination based on the reality of these mysterious peaks in China.
There is a greeting in that movie that is the secret I want to share for a joyful marriage, the secret that Dad and I were expressing on our anniversary morning together. It is “I see you.” The lyric to the song says, “I see me through your eyes.”
There is a similar sensibility in Nepal, where people greet each other with their hands placed together, palm to palm, below their chin and say “Namaste.” That means many things, but one translation is “the divine in me sees the divine in you.”
Can You See Me?
I remember, Michaela, when you were just about four years old, Dad came into the living room calling your name, and teasing you, pretending that he couldn’t see where you were. “Michaela,” he called. “Michaela.” You answered two or three times, “I’m here, Daddy. I’m here.” He just kept calling to make you laugh. But finally you said with a bit of confusion why he couldn’t seem to see you, “I’m right here, under my hair.”
It is a funny moment, but reminds me of something you’ve told me often—that is that more than anything else in the world you want to be known, you want someone to see you. I think that is what we all want—and that is the gift that spouses can give to each other.
Life is tough. It rocks and assaults us; it presents problems we couldn’t have anticipated. It stretches our sense of well being to thinness. Sometimes it is tedious and tiring. It plies us with uncertainty. The Lord kindly puts us face to face with our weaknesses. And one of the casualties amidst this journey, is sometimes our sense of self. We forget who we are. We are blind to what we can do. The divine spark in ourselves sometimes flickers and dims. We get lost.
We think we are no more than a list of duties to do and half-kept resolutions. We know there is a swelling something inside us once in awhile that tells us we are more, but the days can beat it out of us. The mists of insecurity shroud our peaks.
How utterly magnificent it is, then, to live with someone who really knows you and sees you for who you really are and will be. That steady vision from your spouse gives you hope. It reminds you of your true self on the days when you’ve forgotten.
When I have fallen on my face, when my ankles have been thick as fence posts in pregnancy and I don’t recognize myself, when I have cried in disappointment about a weakness of mine, there your Dad has been, smiling at me, and seeing something more. “I see you,” he seems to say. “God has told me who you are. I know you. You are not just a bundle of broken sticks. I can never forget who you are.”
It goes both ways.
When things don’t work out, when he wonders if he is enough, when his best efforts are not recognized and his sacrifices are unseen, I still see him. I tell your Dad that things will work out because I trust him. I tell him that I know him. I see who he is. I remind him of all the good things he is and has done. I have a great sense of his eternal soul. I am actually dazzled by it.
So there we are together, through a lifetime, validating each other’s worth and saying in every way that we can, “I know who you really are.” If I have a weakness, your Dad sees it as temporary and already paid for by the atonement. If I am discouraged for a day or a year, he never seems to lose the vision of who I am. I do the same for him.
Once during a long drought when I felt my prayers were not being answered, I said to Dad, “God must not love me.” He answered, “No. He loves you. He sent me to tell you that He loves you.” I believed him.
He is never cold. Truly. I am cold when the temperature plunges only a few degrees. He sees me and picks me up at the door of the restaurant or theater while he goes out in the bracing cold to collect the car. He doesn’t just say, “It’s warm. Buck up.” He knows who I am.
We both work not to forget the eternal majesty of the person we married despite whatever mortal mask we are wearing now. I love this quote from C.S. Lewis, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, [and] marry.”
Lewis also said, “If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot not imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness.”
It is an awesome thing to marry an immortal soul and to have the most impact on him—and he on you—than any other person. Both of you, plead with the Lord to see each other as He sees you, to know each other as He knows you. Pray that you can be that steady source of light to each other, especially for those days when your spouse is tempted to believe he is only a shadow of his real self and you are inclined to look into the mirror darkly.
“I see you.” “The divine in me sees the divine in you.” That is the secret that your Dad and I have attempted to live, and felt it again recently. In the faraway Yellow Mountains of China, I felt home, because I was with him, the one who sees me best.
Love to you dear one on this the day before your marriage.