On July 9th of this summer, my one and only sister got married.
As the maid of honor, I was given the unique privilege of giving a speech, in which I reflected upon growing up with Jenny, and watching her fall in love with the man who was to become her husband. I have so much to say about the wedding and the relationship Jenny and Stephen share, but the one thing I came into the wedding with already planned and carefully worded was my speech. This is that speech: I wanted to share it as a tribute to how much I love my sister, and how excited I am for her in her marriage going forward.
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
Well, Jen-Jen, growing up with you has been a ride. We didn't start out as much – little blonde people with a love for animals and a mutual hatred for the dentist. Hardly big or experienced enough to be metaphorical cottages for the Lord to work on yet, we were more like playhouses, or planks of wood. But we began to gather experiences: From dad doing our hair with rubber bands before soccer practice to reading Where's Waldo and Fruit Face at Grandma Millie's house, pouring ourselves half and half instead of milk more than once, and learning how to apologize… one of us was better at that than the other.
Sorry. Yes, we played together, but we had our problems too, like that time you solemnly informed me that my favorite color was not, in fact, purple, but pink, which by no conflict of interest, just so happened to be your favorite color. We have always been startlingly different; we have always been startlingly alike. And now, we both have different favorite colors; people grow and people change. It's through this lens that I have watched you and Stephen fall in love, and commit to one another. That's my sister, who sang the rainbow song with "black" as a hue. That's my sister, who I watched play soccer every weekend and I bumped elbows within the bathroom every night when we brushed our teeth. That's my sister. And she's not just mine anymore.
Something you and I both know Jenny, is we are incredibly blessed with the parents we've gotten to grow up with. But you're more than the sum of the parts of our childhood. It's been incredible to see how you've grown through the years, growing more confident and more independent, intentionally knocking down walls of old selves to renovate your heart into a bigger and better place, and a more welcoming place, every year, regardless of the kindness or unkindness of your peers. But the time period I have mostly observed the renovations in your heart have been through the years of your college life – many of which have been with Stephen, as you have bridged the palace of your soul with his.
When you dated in high school, there were broken hearts, broken promises, broken dreams. But as much as you learned from those experiences – and our Taylor Swift soundtracks – it has been amazing talking with you about all you've learned through dating Stephen. He had been redemptive for you. A comfortable, safe place to be Known. He's been imperfect, but he has wanted you just as much as you've wanted him. I'm still waiting for Taylor Swift to come out with a song that captures a relationship that.
Another quote: "Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained."
You've always been a wonderful person, but love is hard. Love is sacrifice. And you know all of this better than I do. We all need help to become love. We all need not just people, but Jesus to take an ax, a shovel, and a hammer and nails to our hearts and our lives and not just renovate what's already there, but tear us up to build us into something new and better. And He has brought two of the most beautiful people I know together, as people who are so wonderful and becoming more and more wonderful under the influence of each other's' love. You have contributed to each other's renovations.
Now, as much as I've said about Jenny, I do want to say something about Stephen—in fact, while I was first writing this speech I received a birthday text from Stephen. Besides the happy birthday wishes, he said:
"As I look towards Jenny and I's wedding, one of the things that I'm most looking forward to is the opportunity to have you as a sister! I've always wanted a younger sister and I now have that opportunity, which I'm pumped for."
I can't wait to have you as a brother, Stephen. I can't wait for all the years to come of you being a part of the Steiner clan. I'm infinitely grateful for your generosity in buying me a plane ticket to bring me back to Colorado so I could be a part of the proposal. True, deep, selfless love is like that. It doesn't just care for the loved one, but for the people that person loves, too. Caring not only in words but in actions. You have shown this. You have been the boyfriend for Jenny that has inspired me to wait for someone who loves me well. You have been a role model.
Jenny, be it with kind notecards or tears in your eyes when I tell you about my pain, you've helped knock down so many of the unsound walls in my life and in my heart – sometimes knowingly, sometimes not. You were always the first to forgive and lend a helping hand. You make people want to be like you while also making them want to be their true selves around you. And yes, some of the walls of my heart you've painted pink, and I've very much liked it. You've helped to teach me humility, loyalty, and forgiveness. Thank you for being love, and helping me to find love in my own way.
Jenny, I have seen you and your heart grow from a sweet little cottage, into a palace as grand and fortified as I could ever imagine. Yes, there are still some renovations to go, some courtyards still in the works, but we all have those, and we ought not to worry about being perfect as much as we ought to simply focus on being the Lord's You are His. I see Him living in you. The prince of Peace resides in your heart, in your hands, in your new home. The Holy spirit has guest rooms for the angles to stay in your heart. I know that Stephen saw this in you. Thank you for having the courage to stay tender and kind in a broken world. Thank you for forgiving me when I have not been tender or kind. I am so excited for you and Stephen to grow and be refined and redesigned through the years as best friends, husband and wife, and followers of Christ. Your hearts are a home where everyone is welcome, where the courtyards are big, the walls are strong, and the doors are wide open. Come what may, I know you will continue to grow and transform into a more and more splendid palace in the Ultimate Kingdom, together. You are loved, and you are becoming love.
Thank you for giving me a front-row view of what that means for the last 20 years, and for all the remaining years of our lives.