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[personal profile] dogriver
When I first met Caroline, I was excited because I had made a new friend, a female friend with no pressure of romantic interests attached to it. That's how I saw it initially. Caroline was no more interested in romance than I was, we were both a bit lonely, and we saw friendship in each other.

I had just recently surrendered my romantic interests to God, telling Him that I was convinced that He wanted me to be single, and I was finally okay with that. My desperation to find romance had caused me and others a great deal of pain in the past, and I simply didn't feel it was worth it, not for me, not for anyone. Romance, for Brucie, was dead, and good riddance to it. This is what God wanted, I wanted what God wanted, it all lined up, right? Wrong.

It didn't take long until the old romantic interest thing started flaring up again. Some years later, I even came across an e-mail from the time, to a trusted friend and coworker, begging him to talk some sense into me, because I didn't want to fall in love. For the record, my friend made no effort to stop me.

My roommate did. He said I was just in love with the idea of falling in love. He launched a major campaign to break Caroline and me up, a campaign which did not succeed. To his credit, he and Caroline are now friends, and he was one of the best men at my wedding.

It was clear that this romance would not be stopped. So I took it to my pastor. I wanted his guidance: Was it love? Was I doing this for the right reasons? Was I setting Caroline up to be hurt by me, something I truly did not want to do? Was God actually behind this relationship that I craved so much? Not surprisingly, my pastor answered none of these questions - it wasn't his job to do so, and he wasn't about to try. What he did, however, was ask the right questions to help me work through my situation, something a good counselor does. When I concluded that my feelings for Caroline were genuine, he suggested to me that I tell God that I was going to push forward with the relationship until and unless God said no. This made sense to me, and it's what I did.

By now, a lot of friends were putting loving pressure on me to take the next step with Caroline, to marry her or at least bring her over to live with me. Living together outside of marriage was not an option. If I was going to put the relationship into God's hands, I needed to proceed with it according to His commandments. Caroline felt the same. We knew that proposal was inevitable, but the question was simply when. I wasn't going to propose because of pressure from outside. Outside pressure is rarely, if ever, a good reason to make a momentous choice such as this.

It happened last May, some eight years after Caroline and I started going out. I was in the middle of a visit with her, and I felt God telling me that the time was right to propose. Knowing what the answer would be, I did so. I got the answer I was expecting, along with an unusual request: Could I please ask her father for permission to marry her. I'm not sure if that's part of my heritage or not, but it was something Caroline wanted, and she was sure there would be no problem, so I said okay. Like so many aspects of my relationship with Caroline, the asking of her father for his permission was done over Skype. The response from him was, basically, "We were wondering when you were going to do this. Welcome to the family." Both Caroline's parents have welcomed me with love, a love that is returned, and I am grateful.

I've been to many weddings, mostly as a musician, sometimes as a family member, once as a toast-to-the-groom guy, and a few times as just a humble guest. But I never paid attention to how these things were put together: they just ... were, that's all. Somewhere, someone waved a magic wand and before you could say Coke Is It, the wedding just magically got planned, right? Wrong again. For those of you who've never done it, let me tell you that planning a traditional church wedding with a semi-traditional reception is no easy task. It requires thinking, something my brain isn't naturally cut out for; it requires tact and sensitivity to others, areas where I could most certainly use help; it requires the love, patience, support and prayers of family and friends, and thankfully I have that in abundance.

While all this is going on, life is going on too. It doesn't stop for you just because you're getting married. Medical issue, financial issues, interpersonal issues, they all continue to happen, they all continue to matter, they must all continue to be dealt with. The financial matters get even trickier, because, let me be blunt, a wedding as described above is really darned expensive.

Well, with God's help, we made it through all that, and the wedding happened in the middle of last month, on May 14th. I can't hear the recording, even now, without shedding a tear. It was the culmination of so much love, so much support for which I felt and feel so unworthy, and so much hard work on the part of many people.

And it's not over. Leaving your girlfriend in another country is hard. Leaving your fiancée in another country is harder. Leaving your wife in another country? It's emotional torture.

During the honeymoon, I could reach over and hold the hand of the woman I love. I could put my arms around her, I could kiss her. Now, I reach over, and there's just the junk beside me on the couch.

I know I did the right thing to marry Caroline, our love just keeps on growing and growing. But it is so hard, so very hard, to know that the woman to whom you've made a lifelong commitment is in another country. The pain of distance can be emotionally excruciating. And the knowledge that finally sealing that distance is going to require lots of money, lots of beurocracy, lots of governmental red tape, and lots of dealings with government officials who really don't care how much I love Caroline seems daunting at best.

This should be the happiest time of my life. And in many ways, it is. I have a precious gift, Caroline. But the responsibility that now falls on us is weighing very heavily on me. It's been causing me to lash out sometimes at people when I don't mean to, to react too quickly to things I hear and read, not thinking through those reactions. In many ways I'm not myself these days: I'm a lovesick, scared, lonely kid.

If I had it all to do over again, would I? You bet I would. Caroline is so worth it, and someday, when this is all over, it will all have been worth it. But right now ... right now, it's very difficult. Being separated from the one you love by a cruel, impersonal border is very tough.

But Caroline, the pastor said at our wedding that the vows we made give us power over the future, and he was right. The promises I made to you onMay 14th mean that, come what may, I will be by your side. It is because of those promises and what they mean that we will make it through this together, and someday, someday, we will be together in the same country and live like a married couple should. In the meantime, I give you my love, freely and unstoppably.

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Bruce Toews

August 2017

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