Writings by Cole Huffman

Forever's As Far As I'll Go

I read an article recently calling for guys—aimed mostly at pastor “bro” types, as I recall—to chill on the hot wife talk. Haute wife talk has yet to be condemned, however. So may I engage in a few lines of haute wife talk on this my twentieth wedding anniversary day?

We met in college back when I had reasonably cool hair. Friends set us up on a date, a sorority soiree. We danced, we talked, we even prayed the evening away. We didn’t kiss though I tried. But her Wind Song by Prince Matchabelli stayed on my mind (children of the 70s-80s get the reference) and two years later we went out again, for lunch. Two years after that I asked her to share—and make—all my lunches for life.

Unable to afford the south of France, we honeymooned in the south of Maine. She’d spent a few teenage summers there at a girls’ camp her aunt and uncle directed. Their lake cabin, deep in the white birch woods, was our Shangri-La. Our first nightfall there I heard screams outside the cabin. A true Southerner, I thought everywhere on the Mason side of the Dixon line was dangerous anyway—Doesn’t Stephen King live up here?—so I tensed, listening, wondering if I needed to scoop up my new wife, drive back to Portland and get the first flight out to Nashville. She laughed at my fright. The screaming was loons on the lake, not some goon with an axe.

Fright is not her. Neither is idleness. She “works with willing hands” in King Lemuel’s tribute, creating art with old wood and paint, planting tomato vines because her husband loves that fruit/vegetable/berry with all his palate, and making lunches for life, always with cut fruit, her activism for metabolism. She recently organized all my tools in the garage on pegboards because she felt like it. To thank her for that, as Pedro in Napoleon Dynamite put it, I want to build her a cake but she knows I don’t know how.

A doer extraordinaire, it follows that she sometimes thinks she doesn’t do enough for God. We’ve walked and talked that topic together for miles, down the Wolf River Greenway and to the top of select Smokies and Rockies. I tell her she minimizes herself too much but I know it comes from her ardent desire to please the Lord in all things, which frankly shames me in comparison. Each in our ways, we preach the gospel to each other.

I haven’t mentioned our children, her as their mom, though they’ve been around for roughly seventeen of our twenty anniversaries. I haven’t because our anniversary is ours. It was us before them and it will be us after them. Like I tell couples pre-marriage: The best thing we do for our children’s security is love each other. The kids are always in the family portraits but it is she and I in the center.

We’re going over to Old Blighty in July to commemorate two decades together. Upon hearing their parents were absconding to London for nine days the kids said, What about us? Don’t we get a vacation? And I said, What about you? Go there yourselves when you’re married and off my dole!

London makes me think of literature, and literature in the context of my wife makes me think of Drew Holcomb’s songwriting prose: “You are a novel in a sea of magazines” (the song is “Fire and Dynamite”). What does one do with great literature? Absorb its story into his own. Yes but I also use emojis when I text her.

She knows I’m sillier than most people expect. I know she’s my kind of rain, a Tim McGraw song that I’m sure has a meaning but I missed my chance to ask him for interpretation when we exchanged hellos in a Nashville restaurant lobby years ago.

When I was a teenager in a small Alabama town, a new young pastor fresh from seminary came to our church. He was cool but brash. Something set him off once—some unflattering comparison to his predecessor, some backwater gossip, something—and I remember him blasting the whole congregation for it: He was a husband and father first, then a pastor! It turned out to be grandstanding. Unknown to us his marriage was already in distress and later failed. I remember he often boasted to us boys how hot his wife was.

When she was a teenager in a larger Alabama town an hour north of mine, my wife began asking the Lord if she could marry a pastor. I kid you not. I still marvel at that. I marvel even more that God’s pick for her was this benchwarmer. She could have had any guy she wanted. I once thought she could have anything from God she wanted too, especially when she prayed a plane back to the gate that left without me, but that’s another post another time. To mention her town an hour north of mine—we drove through it on the way to weekends with my grandparents in Nashville, a family trip we made something like once every six weeks or so. All those years our route took us past her neighborhood, a mere buckshot from her house.

I’m still mad the church we married in wouldn’t let us play in our service a ballad by the country group Alabama called “Forever’s As Far As I’ll Go” because—you guessed it—secular artist. But do the lyrics not sound like Ephesians 5? “I’ve thought about how long I’ll love you, and it’s only fair that you know, forever’s as far as I’ll go.” Well, maybe Ephesians 5 in Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch translation. But listen, I think Bach himself would have loved that, consistent as it is with his view that the “aim and final version of all music should be none else but the glory of God and refreshing the soul; where this is not observed there will be no music, but only devilish hubbub.”

Yes, and yet do permit me just a little devilish hubbub at the end here as I celebrate twenty years with my wife: “And now we’re listenin’ to old Alabama, Parked somewhere in Tennessee, A little Dixieland Delight and It Feels So Right, And It’s Love in The First Degree” (Brad Paisley, “Old Alabama”). Selah.

Posted by Cole Huffman at 9:41 AM
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