I sat on the very last row, an early arriver for the wedding; I’d only met the couple the night before, and I was there because my husband was officiating.
I watched the groom casually stroll from the back of the room to take his place alongside my husband. They exchanged a few private words, smiling as they waited for the music to shift, signaling the start of the processional. Any moment, the doors would open and his beautiful bride would stand ready to join him, not only for the moment, but for life.
My mind wandered to the day forty-five years ago when my husband and I made the same journey, me on my father’s arm and he alongside our pastor. We met at the front of a room that is no longer a church, but that spot was and always will be sacred ground.
On this night, I bowed as my husband prayed over the ceremony and I was overwhelmed by the gravity of what would take place next. I knew that few in the room were aware of the throngs that were kept at bay by heavenly angels as these two began to make vows to one another before a holy God.
I pulled out our marriage service the other day. Surprisingly, the vows haven’t changed much. If we had known then what we know now, I’m not sure we would have had the courage to enter a covenant that flies in the face of the enemy. We stood before our pastor and about seventy-five friends and family and made promises that we couldn’t keep:
- To have and to hold … till death do us part – (okay, the service was more King James than James Taylor, but back then there wasn’t much creativity with vows if you weren’t having a hippy wedding) We couldn’t fully comprehend just how long it would be before one of us would die. Seriously, that is not a commitment to take lightly on your eighteenth birthday.
- For better or for worse – I had seen lots of “worse” and I was sure it would be easier alongside this man-child. What I couldn’t have understood was that sometimes, one of us would be the source of the “worse”. I didn’t know how often and how strong the enemy would come into a situation and attempt to position us at odds with each other, two very different people from very different backgrounds.
- For richer or poorer – We were familiar with poverty. Of course, that was before we had to think about keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table. We couldn’t have known that financial tragedy would strike; we would have to join hands rather than point fingers if we were to survive and ultimately thrive.
- In sickness and in health – Two young people, strong and healthy, stood before that preacher, naïve and clueless. When chronic illness struck, it changed our lives forever.
- To love – We were crazy in love with each other. We had experienced it as our parents and families loved us and we had witnessed it in parents who loved one another. We had no idea of how broken we each were and how much God would use marriage to reveal and heal those broken places.
- To cherish – Webster defines cherish as keeping or cultivating with care and affection. I had no idea that my dreams would only emerge as this man coaxed me to name them; that he would need me to assure him that he was enough.
In the cool of an air-conditioned sanctuary, on a muggy Friday in July of 1972, we stepped into our story.
The humble ceremony and the small reception gave not even a nod to the epic battle we were walking into. I won’t deny that it’s hard. There have been times when I wanted to quit and I’m sure he’s been tempted as well.
We’ve recently been sharing our excitement over reaching a milestone anniversary and the prevailing comments are all summed up in a few words. “That’s a really long time.” Yes, it is.
If you are looking for a how to list or step by step guide to wedded bliss, you are going to be disappointed.
We are quietly passionate. There has never been a great deal of arguing or bickering in this marriage, but oh, there have been fights. We fight hard for our home because we believe our lives depend on it.
We’ve gone to our knees again and again for our family. When the enemy wanted him to give up over human failure I’ve literally laid across his body and declared the truth about who God says he is. He has served me in big ways and everyday small ways with complete joy.
We have realized that our love story is not ours alone; it is set amid a war with a purpose far greater than our happiness. God longs to use our marriage to point people to Jesus. We have seen a glimpse into the value of what God is doing in our marriage, a glorious story of his faithfulness.
We know that love is costly; in fact, it costs everything. Our greatest example is God’s love demonstrated on the cross. We also enthusiastically agree it is worth it. As much as I loved that handsome groom on our wedding day, my love for him forty-five years later is so much richer and deeper. We choose again and again to honor, bless and serve one another per God’s best advice for life. “Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” (Romans 12:10, The Message)
We believe that God is for our marriage. He has set the stage for romance, with beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets, music, and deep desire for one another. “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:16)
I expect there will be many more battles; we will worry too much over our daughters and grandchildren. Despite our good intentions, he will leave his clothes by the hamper and I will make us late and overreact when he stops short behind the wheel.
I am looking forward to every new day with him, to every sunset he drives me to, to every doctor’s appointment I make when he wants to “wait and see”. We are finding more joy every day and I like to think the hardest days are behind us, but I know that is not likely.
Whatever the next decades bring, we are stronger because we have discovered that we have an enemy and he is not us.
Joying in this journey,
A word to my husband, my most faithful reader, the one who believes in my dreams far more than I ever dared:
Thanks for always treating me like the beauty in the love story, honey. I’m so glad that God gave me a man who will fight for me, who has patiently loved me as the veil has lifted to reveal the beauty of who God created me to be. I love you and always will. Happy Anniversary!