I stood with Rachel in a tiny duplex in one of the worst neighborhoods in Knoxville, TN. The floors of this duplex were made of unvarnished plywood and the kitchen/living room cabinets matched the floors. The landlord stood in the doorway, wearing a track suit and smoking a cigarette.
We walked around the building and peeked into the bedrooms. The whole place smelled like an unflushed toilet. When we looked into the bathroom, we discovered why.
Rachel and I planned to move into Knoxville’s inner city with a handful of other people. We had read books on intentional Christian community and wanted to do something daring for the kingdom of God — like move into a dump in the inner city and rescue the neighborhood with that power Huey Lewis sings about.
But as I sniffed the foul air of the duplex I realized something very important:
I can’t move my wife into this crap hole.
What I really find beautiful is that my wife would have moved into a place like that.
We wouldn’t have been very happy about our decision, but she would have done it. In fact, she has often led the charge in our doing the outrageous for Jesus. She is like her dad, a former doctor who, until selling his medical practice to become a missionary, provided free healthcare to the poor on a daily basis.
Rachel calls my bluff. She knows when I’m trying to flex a spiritual muscle to impress her or others and she shuts it down quickly.
Like the time we were dating in college and I told her my plans to move into the extremely dangerous housing projects in east Knoxville.
“Awesome,” she said. “But, do they let just anyone move into those?”
I hadn’t thought of that.
Turns out, they don’t. In fact, I didn’t even know who “they” referred to, and didn’t have the motivation to find out.
But what has mattered most is Rachel’s affirmation.
When we saw an empty apartment in the middle of our current neighborhood and I wanted to break our lease to move closer to those we served, Rachel smiled and said, “Absolutely, let’s do it.”
When a girl’s parents shirked their responsibility and decided to spend all night gambling at the local casino rather than caring for their child, Rachel said, “I’ll make up a bed for her.”
When a group of homeless guys gathered around the Midtown Cafe TV and longed to taste Rachael Ray’s delicious Tex Mex creation, Rachel said, “Why don’t you guys come over for tacos this weekend?”
We did eventually move into a rental house in east Knoxville with some other likeminded idealists. Rachel mopped the scratchy hardwood floors every week and brought our bedroom to life with a fresh coat of paint. She even dressed up the barren backyard with a raised bed garden.
I am dumfounded by my treasure of a wife. She has walked with me into dark and ridiculous places. Without her, I would probably spend most of my time watching Star Wars and picking my nose.
So, I leave you with a quote from that Shakespeare movie I watched in the eleventh grade:
“Prince, thou art sad; get thee a wife, get thee a wife.”
(There’s more to the quote, but I didn’t know what it meant.)