Growing up, I don’t think I ever created a tangible list of the things I wanted in a future spouse. There were plenty of mental notations, though. Among them, career paths I wanted to avoid at all cost. At the top, lawyers and all the stereotypes that went along with them.
I’ve always had a strong aversion to conflict. The thought of being with someone whose life’s work centered around constructing and giving arguments seemed like a terrible fit. I’ve always gravitated toward a lifestyle of simplicity. The idea of marrying someone motivated by wealth (which obviously all attorneys are), was more than a huge turn off. I’ve always valued honesty, a virtue not often tied to that profession either. I’ve always enjoyed people who were genuine, who didn’t feel the need to impress or hide behind a veneer of arrogant self-importance. I never wanted to marry a lawyer, but somehow that’s exactly what I did.
I remember the first time I heard my now husband speak about his job. We sat next to each other around a campfire with the members of our small group. He was speaking “lawyer” to another person in our group who was also an attorney. As I attempted to glean what I could from their jargon-laden exchange, my stomach began to hurt. Before I could stop myself I exclaimed, “So your job is like 90% dealing with conflict?” He laughed, paused to think, and replied, “I’ve never thought about it that way, but yeah. I guess it is.”
I remember the second time I heard my now husband speak about his job. It was the following day sitting at lunch with a group of friends and acquaintances. People began asking him the same questions I now know that everyone asks the first time they hear his Public Defender job title. “So what do you do if you know someone is guilty? Do you have to defend them too?” I remember my ears perking up. After a month of heavy duty flirting, his response to this complex question was very much tied to how I would respond when he asked me on our first date just a few hours later. I never wanted to marry, or even date a lawyer, but somehow this man’s story, humor, depth, and smile were beginning to steal my heart. Yet, I needed to know how someone who didn’t seem to match my lawyerly stereotypes could defend “criminals.”
Ever so calmly, my now husband responded to a very loaded question not with a defensive argument, but with so much tender grace. He explained how that’s a question a lot of people ask for good reason and told of how during law school he thought he wanted to practice anything but criminal law because that was just too messy and weighty. He spoke of the way becoming a Christian solidified part of his pre-existing worldview that all people have worth, value, and dignity, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done. He gently reminded everyone at the table that all people are made in the image of God. He spoke passionately about his heart for the poor and oppressed and the importance of upholding their rights regardless of their ability to afford representation. He spoke of America’s legal system. One he knows the flaws of better than anyone else I know, but also as he terms it, the best in the world. He spoke of how justice can only be done when both sides are fairly represented. How abuse of power happens when there aren’t checks and balances and when those in poverty are marginalized because of an inability to pay. He spoke of times where people were falsely accused. How most people viscerally respond when the guilty are left unpunished, but how important it is to have the same reaction at the thought of the innocent being given a false guilty sentence.
As he spoke my heart began to soften, but nothing made an impact quite like the final thing he said. He spoke of the Gospel. He spoke of His own guilty sentence before a holy and just God. He spoke of having an advocate when he least deserved it, even when he was guilty. He spoke of parallels I now remind him of on rough days where he doesn’t feel like he’s making a difference.
Last week, I got to watch my husband do the most difficult parts of his job well. I got to see him work 180 hours in a fourteen days. I got to see him rise before the sun and come home well after it had set. I got to see him labor and agonize over the smallest of details for the same amount of money I’d receive as a public school teacher. I got to see him in a courtroom as the lone advocate for a guilty man the world had given up on. I got to see my husband put his arm around this person after a serious conviction was made and gently talk to him in the most difficult of moments. I got to see my husband love someone who did not “deserve” it well. I got to see him live out his philosophy of what it means to be a person with worth, value, and dignity regardless of socio-economic status or past heinous transgressions. I got to see him love the way Christ loved me. The truth is, I get to see that everyday as he lives out the Gospel not just as an attorney, but as a husband.
I never wanted to marry a lawyer, but I’m so very glad and proud that that’s exactly what I did.