Ten minutes before I walked into Maxie’s bedroom early Saturday morning, waking her up just prior to asking her to marry me, I sent my sister (another Sara, no ‘H’) a long text message spilling the beans about where I was and what was about to go down. If you know me, you know that brevity is not a character trait I possess in abundance, and thus I was unsure whether she would reply before I moved forward.
Within a minute however, my phone buzzed, and I glanced down with growing nerves, hoping for one last jolt of encouragement. Sure enough, the text said:
“OMG…resnd…this is not your sister…congrats!”
Dizzy with a mixture of nervousness and excitement, I laughed aloud, smiling at the affirmation of some random person in the Bay Area sharing in my imminent joy. It was time to ask my South African woman to marry me…
Nothing makes me laugh harder than the misadventures of Modern Family, a brilliant comedy about three blended families. Gloria, a buxom Columbian woman with a ridiculous accent, is the wife of the guy who used to play Al Bundy in Married With Children back in the 1980’s. In a recent episode where the entire family were playing characters in a haunted house for Halloween, she fought back at her families’ constant teasing of her accent by adopting an American voice for the night. As the ‘village bruja’ for the haunted house, the hilarity capped off with her saying “WELCOME TO YOUR NIGHTMARE…HA, HA, HA, HA!” in a manner that creeped out everyone, and left us wiping tears from our faces.
Maxie and I laughed uncontrollably this past week as we realized we were living the epitome of that sentence. For almost 18 months now, Maxie has largely carried me through a flurry of fear, self-doubt, sabotage, and general malaise regarding past brokenness in my relational life. One of the major reasons that I have known for a long time that this South African is to be my wife is the fact that she has stayed with me in the face of overwhelming fear and paralyzation.
I have had years of counseling, healing prayer, and profound growth that resulted from this tumultuous season in my life over seven years ago, and yet I knew that final healing and transformation would not come until I walked into engagement and ultimately vows unto marriage with my wife. Maxie has unblinkingly journeyed with me through this junk, and quite frankly, I don’t deserve her deep goodness and amazing love for me.
Things began to shift much faster between us after visiting my family and friends in late October this past year, as we both realized just how much I have grown in courage and strength, moving away in freedom from the insecurity of needing others to tell me what to do. I found myself not needing the permission of my family and friends to move forward to marriage with Maxie, but rather coming to them with a surprising sense of lightness and joy, simply wanting them to meet the woman I so deeply loved. What transpired over Halloween weekend (HA! THE IRONY!) was nothing short of miraculous and God-ordained…family and friends alike meeting Maxie for a few minutes and speaking into our lives that we were deeply right, the answer to prayers years in the making. I left that experience with my head swirling, nodding in the clarity of Maxie’s statement to me on the plane back to South Africa: “Well, all that is holding us back now is our own fears.”
Two months later, the same was still true, albeit shrinking in my mind each day. Would I let my own fears of intimacy and failure in relationship, particularly concerning a coming marriage, sabotage something beautiful that was unfolding before our eyes? Nothing was holding us back except…me. Unsure of myself always, I kept stepping forward in faith, trying to hold onto whatever courage I could muster. I knew deep inside for a long time that we were right for each other, that Maxie was largely the reason that God had directed me towards South Africa for this season of my life, and that we shared a deep sense of calling for the global Church God is building. Maxie epitomizes ‘partner’ in a manner I have never before known; this desire for a partner to share life with in marriage being the deepest thing I have sought ever since first praying for my wife as a young teenage boy. She knows me, and I her, with an intimacy, honesty, and clarity that no one else ever has. I love her more than any other, which is something I never thought I’d say!
Thus, the past few weeks have been crazy…a blur of wonderful moments on holiday in Jeffrey’s Bay with her parents, meeting Afrikaner relatives I had heard stories about, kissing future relatives upon the reception of Christmas presents, and a few stolen surf sessions in between. We began looking at rings in late December, and Maxie’s taste was so hard to pin down! Finally however, in early January we went shopping at Menlyn Mall in Pretoria. After being quoted a mediocre ring at almost R400,000 (!), we stumbled into Deon le Roux, a South African designer, and Maxie tried on one more ring…
This was the one! We both gazed at it with wild smiles, the saleswoman confident enough in the look she saw in Maxie’s eyes that she simply said to me, “You’ll be back. I know it!”
A few tense days with my bank account later, I sat one afternoon gazing out over Pretoria as a summer rain washed the streets with a fresh cleanse, knowing that I was about to purchase an engagement ring for my wife. Stunned at the symmetry of God’s work, I realized that almost seven years had passed since this journey of relational brokenness, healing, and a slow, almost agonizing coming back to life had taken place. I stood up, walked inside, and spent all the money I had. The ring was perfect!
Fast forward a few more days…sweet Maxie was simply done waiting! Overwhelmed by the length of our journey and how hard we have had to fight for what we both so deeply want, she was simply tired…and tired of not knowing what was coming! This culminated Friday night as I pretended that Ryan Ikeda, one of my oldest friends, had shoehorned me into speaking via Skype to a few of his English classes as they worked through Cry, The Beloved Country, an amazing South African novel. While Maxie grew in (fake) frustration at Ryan, I was having dinner with her parents, seeking their blessing over a wonderful few hours of open sharing and heartfelt affirmation that although I was far different from the man they pictured in their mind, they clearly knew I was the right one, sent from God to love their only daughter. I fight back tears even now thinking about how deeply I felt welcomed into their family this past Friday night, wide smiles on all our faces and a shake of our heads for Maxie’s sake, knowing everything would change in a few hours!
One more teary evening later, and the early morning arrived. I filled Maxie’s living room with candles and fresh flowers, literally re-creating a shot from my own storyboard, merging reality with story in a way that still chills me to the bone. Nervously, I looked at the ring one more time…shaking my head, I marveled out how different this week had played out, in many ways a microcosm of our entire relationship.
The Hollywood score for this story, our story, has struck quite a different note than I was expecting all these years. It is a score quite different from the stale romantic comedies lighting up the theater each week. Yet I know deep within me it is better…deeper…more realistic…more intimate…more transparent…more loving…more courageous…more God-bathed…than anything I could expect or hope for in my wildest dreams.
God has united Maxie and I while simultaneously carving out our deepest fears and insecurities, our paralyzation and falsest of selves. Such a deep work of heart and life transformation has taken place in us both as we have chosen each other steadily over these past 18 months, moving forward towards marriage and a life we both eagerly want. It has happened in spite of fears and in the midst of fleeting courage…and yet it has been the deepest work of transformation I have walked through in my 31 years of life.
I cannot imagine a better life partner than Maxie. She is everything I want, and so much more than I need…beautiful, sexy, sweet, compassionate, fearless, wanting to spend her life restoring hope and dignity to those our world has discarded. She is my wife!
And so I paused one last moment at her bedroom door, my hand hovering over her door knob as I shook out the nerves, knowing that this moment was the culmination of the greatest inciting incident of my life. As James Scott Bell writes, “An inciting incident is a doorway through which a protagonist cannot return.” I grabbed hold of the door knob, turned the handle, and walked inside.
“You’re doing this in the morning?!?” Maxie cried a few moments later, realizing what was about to take place. I smiled and waited for her in the next room, literally in the midst of the story God and I were writing.
Of course I’m doing this in the morning! Joy comes most unexpectedly in the morning, doesn’t it?
She walked out into the living room, reality merging with story in a manner I have never before known. Tears streaming down both of our faces, I mumbled a few things, dropped to my knee, asked her to marry me, and SHE SAID YES!!!
A perfect day unfolded…the start of a grand new chapter in the life of the future Mr. and Mrs. Kamalski…
Days later, I shake my head…is this real? Of course…nothing could be better! There is a joy that is settling deep between us that we have never before known, and certainly feared to even hope for. What we have is real, right, and the best possible thing we could ever dream for. We have grown so much, are open to each other in profound ways, and desire to choose a life that God is unfolding before us. I pen this simple reflection as a source of reminding myself that dreams do come true…that the deepest things you long for yet think will never come do actually come alive in reality. God redeems the most buried of desires in our lives…often in the craziest of ways!
So, enjoy a glimpse into the swirl that is our lives…knowing that God is working even now in your life as well. We are so excited to move forward in marriage, and know that God is writing a grand story with our lives! He wants the same for yours…
More to come… The Future Mr. + Mrs. Kamalski 🙂