Before I got married, 20 year, 30 year, 40 year anniversaries failed to move me. Fifty years married got my attention, but only because I was amazed that two people had stayed alive long enough to be married 50 years. The marriage part seemed easy. The staying alive part impressed me.
Of course people should stay married until death do they part.
What could possibly be so difficult?
Ahhh, the naivete' of the inexperienced.
The judgment of the clueless.
Getting through our first year of marriage was a breeze. Piece of cake. Walk in the park.
In fact, we followed tradition and choked down a piece of our "freezer burned" wedding cake to celebrate our first anniversary.
What's so hard about this? We probably gloated in our smooth sailing. Puffed ourselves up a little at those struggling. Little did we know...
Five years...that required more effort to celebrate. We had finally realized that all of that emotional mumbo jumbo that we had felt during our three-second courtship wasn't going to sustain us through some rough times. It seems we didn't have this love thing as worked out as we thought.
Eight years...we weren't even sure we wanted to make it to our eight year anniversary. Is it too late to change our minds? To admit that we don't know anything about love and it's going to take an ACT OF GOD to make it through this year? Is it too late to redo some of that pre-marital counseling that we barely listened to because we knew we weren't going to have any of these problems?
Twelve years...forget thinking about the twenty year anniversary. Our goal was to just stay married for twenty more minutes. Perhaps if we decided that enough times it would add up to a year.
Twenty years of marriage now earned a new level of respect from us.
Tell us how you persevered.
Thirty years of marriage evoked our admiration.
Tell us you are stronger.
Forty years of marriage implanted hope.
Tell us how, how, how you got here?
Fifty years of marriage humbled us to tears.
Tell us, oh please tell us, you are enjoying your legacy of commitment.
Forty years ago.
June 25, 1972, a little farm girl from Eastern Colorado and a barely older farm boy from the neighboring town married and began their life together. A new family created. A legacy to continue or begin depending on how you look at it. A baby girl came first to this young couple. An energetic boy added four years later. The four of us would be asked by our Heavenly Father to live life together. To walk through dark days together, to enjoy blessings side by side, and to learn the cost of loving one another unconditionally. The journey would take us through military life, medical life, family life, and a newly found Christian life. My parents married as non-Christians and each came to know the Lord in different ways at different points along the path. It would be this grace---this hope---this forgiveness---that would be of utmost importance for them to pass on to their two little ones.
Forty years of marriage has softened their hearts, not hardened them. Oh, that we could all say that about our own lives---that years of marriage have softened us and made us more tender instead of hardening us and sprouting plants of bitterness.
They made a choice.
Bitterness was earned.
They chose to love.
And that would be one of the greatest lessons they would pass on to us kids.
You can choose to love.
Forty years being married is a decision, not a given.
Somewhere along the way both of them decided to stay.
My parents reaching their forty year anniversary means so much to the kids they raised and to the grandchildren they enjoy.
It means my parents sat together on my wedding day.
It means when I go "home," I don't have to pick which home.
It means my children can ask both Grammy and Papa what their mama was like when she was a kid. They both were there. (Although my mom would argue that you better ask her because my dad won't remember.)
It means my mom talks about my dad with love and not hate.
It means my dad has a partner who knows all about him from the beginning and loves him anyway.
The other great lesson that I've learned from their marriage comes from what they didn't teach me.
To focus on what they didn't teach magnifies the pessimistic part of my personality, but at its core this lesson has truly been life-giving.
They never showed me how to walk away. They never showed me how to give up.
It's foreign to me how two separate homes can share one set of kids harmoniously.
Quitting on my marriage would have been a trail blazed by me alone. They certainly weren't going to pave the way for me. Anyone married longer than six months knows that's a gift.
Don't point us toward the way out.
Don't tell us it might be easier to leave.
Don't show us how to split children between two homes.
Instead, show us there is a way to stay.
And show us what life can look like when you do.
What a gift.
Their marriage, their choice to persevere was not easy.
Each marriage knows its own joys and sorrows.
And I've had my own choices to make.
My husband too.
Both of our parents staying married for all of these years has not guaranteed an easy road or an automatic fulfillment of our own personal vows. We have to do that on our own.
There was no riding the coattails of their choices...although that would have been nice and less painful.
But I'm so, so, so thankful to live in the afterglow of my parents daily choices to remain committed through the trials of life.
Their legacy continues thus far. By God's grace will they have many more years to fully enjoy the blessings of their choice to stay.
And may that be the path they have paved for generations to come.
Happy Anniversary to my mama and dad!
July 21, 1995
Seventeen years ago today.
Happy Anniversary to my favorite person.
That God would give us joy in walking along side each other all these years later brings me to my knees in amazement. May He get any glory there is to be found in our family's preservation.
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
Remember the day we found that verse?
Two roads were set before us---the difference between life and death for our family.
As we sat in the fork in our road, that verse cried out to both of us.
And somehow on that day we both actually listened.
Only you and I know what those years have held.
So glad we stayed.