When I returned home from studying abroad in Rome, Italy in December of 2008, a lot had changed. In a lot of ways, it felt like I had been gone far longer than four months.
In many ways I had finally begun the agonizingly, well, agonizing process of “growing up.” As with many, wrapped up in that process was a sense of jadedness. The world seemed like an superball in a blender spinning at warp speed. I would lie awake at night staring at the ceiling, feeling as if my world was moving at an uncontrollable pace while I was in super slo-mo. My days were disorientingly slow and at the same time blazingly fast.
Making decisions in that fog was nigh impossible. Good ones, at least. Imagine you are a kid on a merry-go-round (not to be confused with a carousel…look it up, it’s important), and you are standing in the middle as it is being spun around. Soon you’ve fallen down, and you have no chance of moving (come to think of it, that seems like the most dangerous thing you could possibly put on a playground). Well, I felt like that kid.
Then, one day, it stopped. The world stopped spinning quite so fast, and I stopped moving quite so slow.
In Rome, I had spent time reading Scripture. It was really the first time in my life that I found myself doing it when I had free time. It wasn’t out of curiousity, it wasn’t compulsory, it wasn’t to fact-check. It was to read. In that season I was often drawn to the Psalms.
In my journal, I wrote that the day the spinning slowed to a stop, I recalled one verse in particular that I hadn’t ever noticed before in Sunday School or while emotionalizing the vespers services at Bethel. It was a simple verse in the midst of a seemingly simple psalm. David, constantly surrounded by enemies who wish upon him only destruction, praises the Lord by proclaiming his trust in Him. In my Bible Psalm 27 is subtitled as a “Psalm of fearless trust in the Lord.”
In one line of verse 4, this perplexing phrase appears: “…to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord…”
I can’t say how or why it came to mind in that circumstance, but it did. And it drove me to read the rest of the Psalm. How would I possible “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord”? That just seemed like a flowery statement without meaning. I can’t see him, right?
Shortly though, I began to. I began to realize what the gospel I had spent my whole life hearing and never learning actually meant. Redemption. The forgiveness of sins. I find it easy to forgive others when they misspeak, or when they accidentally knock my glass off the table. But when others knowingly sin against me, forget it. I don’t think I’m alone in that. But that is what the Lord did for me. Whew. Things began to change (and are still changing) when I realized the depth of that phrase in Colossians 1:14. Redemption, the forgiveness of sins. That is beauty.
There was a time I wasn’t interested even in dating. I knew I was called to marriage, but not for quite awhile. And then, almost as soon as I had come to that conclusion, my conclusion was proved flawed.
Beauty has a way of overcoming even the most strongly-held convictions, and when it is the beauty of the Lord, forget about it.
One day I was hanging out with a new friend named Laura (and others) and I began to notice that I cared for her more than I had previously realized.
Fast-forward about 18 months and there I was standing on a stage and much of my family and friends were looking away from me, and they were looking at the same thing that I was. Well, I don’t know if they were seeing what I was seeing, but they were looking in the same direction.
Because on June 4, 2010, when the wedding march started playing, I truly understood more than ever before what it was to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.
On that day the Lord gave me a precious gift, second only to His Son, and it was the privilege of entering into a soul-binding covenant between myself, My God, and my bride.
Laura Louise Rima is literally a manifestation of God’s grace every day of my life. There is no other way to put it. I am a mess of a man, and she is to me, a shining example of Christ. When I talk to others about Laura, I often joke about her task-oriented nature, or her obsession with Christian rap. Sometimes I’ll reference her nerdy love of sappy Christian movies, or her newly aquired love of all things blended. But those who know Laura, know that her love for the Lord is what truly describes her. Her desire to know him and make him known. Her desire to see young women read the Words of God in Scripture and allow them to change their hearts.
I see the Laura who journals at least one page every other day, not about the tedious details of her life, but about God’s Word. Her journal is filled with prayers for students, her friends, her family, and me, but also with prayers for her heart to be shaped not by its desires but by its Redeemer.
When I see my wife, who I have now had the privilege of being married to for 3 years, I see a testament to God’s grace. I gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. I am so incredibly grateful to have spent 3 years, or 1,095 days, or 26,680 hours, or 1,576,800 minutes, or 94,608,000 seconds, gazing at beauty.
Here’s to 2,428,272,000 more.
I love you Laura Rima 🙂