Forgive me for taking the liberty to share a very personal moment with many of you that read this page on a weekly basis.
Last Saturday, July 25 at 7:00 p.m., Carol and I shared a wonderful celebration of 50 years of marriage to one another — and as my friend Dr. Kevin Leman used to ask “50 years in a row?” — Yes!
Because of the very strange circumstances in which we find ourselves in the Summer of 2020 whatever plans we had to share this grace-gift of love with our extended family, our friends and our dear church were necessarily put on hold. It just wasn’t workable, except for one piece of the plan that we did manage to fulfill: that was spending most of a full week together with our three children, their beloved spouses and 10 beautiful grandchildren (17 years to 7 months old)!
There were many moments of laughter, of sharing, of adventure on hikes and alpine slides! (And lots of time preparing, eating and cleaning up food — tons of food!)
Somehow, the absence of opportunities to share with others, made the times we had with our family exceedingly precious and meaningful. Just the thought of the potential of those 16 other lives that Carol and I have had the privilege of loving and influencing in faith, character, values and purpose was deeply moving.
In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul talks about marriage as a “great and sacred mystery”; an analogy of the love of Christ for His church. In the very same way we cannot fully understand with our minds how Christ can love the church so unconditionally, so faithfully, so intimately despite her flaws, failures and imperfections, so it is with a marriage between a man and a woman.
When asked, “What made your marriage work?” (this is especially poignant when we share that we’d only known each other for two full months before I left the little town where we met in Lexington, Virginia, to go to Quantico for Officer Candidate School exactly two months to the day of our ‘first date’!) we’ve discovered that the only honest answer that we can give is that ‘we don’t know what we did, we just knew that we were the right one for each other’. (Something our parents weren’t as convinced about as we were at the time!)
Perhaps this goes back all the way to the very first “marriage” in the Bible between Adam and Eve. Even though all of creation had been finished and Adam had gone as far as naming all the animals and creatures of the earth that he could discover, it was not until he saw what God had prepared for him that he said,
“Finally! Bone of my bone,
flesh of my flesh!
Name her Woman
for she was made for man.” Genesis 2:23 (TLB)
Have you ever asked yourself how Adam knew that Eve was the right one for him? They didn’t really date or have time to build a relationship, they just knew that God had created them for one another.
I should point out that we did know that we shared a mutual love for Jesus, His people and His purpose for our lives. Although we didn’t have may interests in common, we both enjoyed being together in whatever really mattered to the other. In those two brief months that we were together, Carol shared with me in the volunteer youth ministry I had begun at a local Presbyterian church and I could see in her the latent potential she had to love others with an interest, compassion and sensitivity that I so appreciated and greatly needed. At the same time, perhaps I gave to Carol something of an opportunity to express her love for God with others in a way that had been limited prior to those months together.
We’ve often said that we wouldn’t recommend the accelerated timeline that we had to choose in order to be together in marriage. We did recognize that if we didn’t get married in the summer of 1970, it was likely that we may not have the opportunity to do so at some later time. Her teaching career was taking a different direction and my military service was somewhat unclear. It was just what we needed to do in order to allow the grace of God to begin to fully blossom in our life together.
And so I can say with humility and thanksgiving that these have been 50 years of discovering what it means to love someone the way that Christ loved His church. The undeniable reality is that I have a very long way to go to come even close to that level of service, care and intimacy; but the wonderful news is that we now start the next chapter of this incredible journey together.
I recognize that some of you will be reading this who may not have the opportunity to share your life with another in such a way, or that perhaps your marriage didn’t work out as you had hoped. Let me be clear that that in no way limits your ability to know and love Jesus and to grow in your revelation knowledge of His love for you. That’s why He has made you part of His body, the Church, and will always be available, anticipating and celebrating your moments together.
As the Apostle Paul said, it is a mystery and one that we can’t fully understand with our mind but we can discover and experience forever in our spirits.