It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. And, in between, the ordinary days that make up “life.” That’s the adventure of marriage that I have shared with this man beside me for the last thirty years.
And I am thankful!
The beauty has not been in the perfection, for it has been a blending of two sinners, saved by grace, but sinners indeed. The beauty has been in the commitment despite the imperfections. The joy when life and relationship have been relatively easy and smooth but also the joy of reconciliation when selfishness of one or the other or both has disrupted the flow and caused the two to forget the “feeling” of love.
We live in an age when people “quit” everything when it gets hard, when it no longer satisfies them, or when the next “new thing” catches the eye and causes the heart to race in a different direction. Sadly, marriage has been a victim of that same mentality. Hurt feelings, “self awareness,” “outgrowing” each other, “boredom,” or just plain lust has led to the mantra, “the thrill is gone and so must I.” My heart grieves for those who are there not of their own choice or have been the one in a marriage trying to put it back together, trying to selflessly show mercy and grace to another who has already checked out and moved on. Yet, I have also witnessed two again made one; marriages restored and made beautiful through the fire.
And, over thirty years, I have been honored to walk this road with one who took his vows before God seriously, one not willing to “quit” when times were difficult or emotions were raw.
I am thankful!
Thirty years ago today, I married the man who surprised me with the offer of a first date, who chose to live and work for a summer in a city that he wouldn’t have chosen just to continue his pursuit, who laid out his heart’s desire under a starry night and asked if one day I might join him, who slipped a ring on my finger some months later and asked me to walk by his side for the rest of our lives wherever God, who brought us together, would lead us.
Thirty years ago today, we stood in the presence of the Lord and made vows that we would be joyfully bound to and which would hold us fast in the years ahead. And we walked down that aisle to the adventure of commitment! You see, he promised to love me regardless of feelings or circumstances and I entrusted my heart to this man. We pledged to fight for our marriage instead of against the other. We determined to never use the word “divorce” as a weapon or even in joking because we had seen and have seen that word become a spark which has ignited a massive fire of destruction. He gave his word to protect my heart and to guard our marriage.
I am thankful!
Together we have enjoyed sweet times of refreshment in the big adventure moments and in the steady pace of daily life and learned to enjoy each other’s presence even when no words are spoken. We have shared laughter and wiped away tears. We have had the romantic moments and the ordinary. Through sickness and health, richer and poorer, we have soared on mountaintops and weathered storms. He has stroked my head and held my hand in some fierce battles of fear when illness came and when my emotions ran deep. He has drawn me up close and asked for forgiveness when he has wounded me with actions or words. We have come together and been restored after other times when both of us dug in our heels stubbornly and the “feelings” of love were negligible, sometimes with tears and sometimes with laughter at each of our own childishness. Repentance before the Lord and the one offended is the path to healing an individual and forging a deeper bond in marriage.
I am thankful!
Blessed with three children we both love fiercely, we have battled through differences of opinion in “how” we should raise them in different circumstances all the while showing a united front. The times we have tried to each do it our own way have never proven positive and we have had to return and restore that unity, coming together before the One who is more than able! And we have come together before the throne of grace to ask God’s grace over these children, now grown, entrusted to us for a time and yet always, in a sense, part of who we are.
I am thankful!
Our hearts have been knit together over time watching God, who called us both by name and made us His, continue to complete the good work He began in us as individuals and as two made one.
And that is it – time! It didn’t happen overnight. Both of us have had moments where faithfulness and commitment had to take the lead so feelings could follow. Each of us has, at times, had moments of such great discouragement that the one had to hold the other up.
If we were to measure a marriage and determine its course by the emotions of a single moment, it might not appear to be healthy or even worth fighting for because in some moments, the depth of discouragement can be great. Indeed, those single moments have devoured many. When you drop those instances in shallow bucket of a few months or years, they can seem to fill it with tears and raw emotions; but when you drop those same instances into a deep bucket of time, unless one chooses to draw them out of the depths, gaze upon them, and fondle them to stoke the fires of disappointment, hurt, and frustration, they do not stand out in bitterness but rather blend in to shape and flavor the whole with a soul satisfying thankfulness.
It is those moments, when put into the hands of our Redeemer and left at the cross, that can actually cause the foundation of a relationship to strengthen over time instead of crumbling under our feet.
I am thankful!
Our bucket is deep and I look forward, by God’s grace, to it getting deeper. He has brought us thus far and I rejoice and am glad. But I also rest in the surety that while we are still growing individually and as one in Christ, with teachable spirits and forgiving hearts, together we will continue to fill that bucket with increasingly grace-filled moments that nurture and strengthen not just ourselves but those that God weaves into our lives as well.
Thirty years. Yes, I am thankful!