I read an article last night about yet another prominent Christian woman ending her marriage after 25 years. This woman has a world renown ministry. She writes books and speaks about marriage, family and home. And yes, there was infidelity in their marriage. No judgment toward her is intended at all — it’s just that the news is not only shocking, it is really sad. So as I sit here and look at this picture of Jon and me on our wedding day, and try to remember those two young people, I am overwhelmed with emotion. We were so young! We had no idea what love or life was about. I had just turned 18, and Jon 20. What were we thinking? And what were our parents thinking? My mom and dad certainly knew me well enough to know I wasn’t prepared to “adult” and run a household. Jon had always been an “old soul” — mature beyond his years. And I know that was what I saw in him (and was banking on). I remember a sense of panic when I heard the music start to play in the sanctuary, and my bridesmaids began their trek down the aisle. Seriously? Isn’t anyone going to stop me from doing this? But then I looked down that aisle and saw tears running down the cheeks of the man soon to be mine, and my heart calmed (we’ve taken some heat about that over the years…. yep, he was already crying on his wedding day). But here we are 43 years later. How does that even happen? And how do two kids hold it together for that long? To be honest, I’m not sure. Like everyone else, we’ve had our ups and downs. Seasons of great love and seasons of, well, tolerance. There is a famous quote, ‘never fall out of love at that same time’. So much truth in that. We rode out the seasons of “lukewarm” until they sizzled again. There were times I loved Jon greatly, and times I would look at him, and think ‘who are you? and what are you doing in my house?’. Years ago, I read the book, “The Myth of the Greener Grass”. Also truth. The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. It is the same grass with the same crabgrass. We’ve stayed on our side of the fence, tending to our weeds, and nurturing our blooms. We were determined to get through any muck. So here we are, over 40 years later… a bit muddy, but still in love, and on our side of the fence. Neither of us has ever mentioned the D word. Divorce was never an option. A friend recently said, ‘we’ve hit a rough patch, but we keep soldiering on, right?’ Yes. That’s right. You keep your guard up and soldier on. But not in a bad, trudging way. Yes, you are in a war — with the world and our culture. Yes! Fight! But the fight isn’t WITH your spouse — it is FOR your spouse. Fight for your marriage! Keep your guard up! Watch over your shoulder! Don’t let anyone or anything come between you. Always always always depend on your faith and trust in God — He’s on your side. He’s fighting with you. Love your wife. Respect your husband. Jon wants the best for me. I want the best for him. And that’s why we’re still pulling weeds and planting flowers, tending to our garden on THIS side of the fence.
We just celebrated 41 years of marriage. That’s a very long time. We married young, too young really, but somehow we’ve made it work. Thinking about this, I jotted down a few reasons why I think we’ve made it 41 years… in no particular order, and with tongue in cheek for a few ….
- We made a vow to God
- We made a covenant with each other
- We made a promise to family and friends
- We created 4 children who count on us to hold it together
- We have grandchildren who need an example of what true commitment looks like
- He doesn’t beat me
- I don’t nag him (too much)
- He’s handy and can fix things
- I make a pretty darn good cherry pie
- We really do love each other
- We have never fallen out of love… at the same time
- We patch things up pretty quickly because I don’t like conflict; neither does he
- He mowed the grass for 35 years; now I mow it… life changes…. we adapt
- When he tells me he’s taken out the trash, I respond with “I love you too” (life got so much better when the epiphany of his actions became clear to me)
- I learned he’s not a mind reader, but when I tell him – with words – what I need, he responds with, “I can do that”
- I respect him and he loves me for that – confides and trusts in me
- Because he loves me in that way, I can trust him to lead
- He wants the best for me
- I want the best for him
- We have never said the “D” word – ever
- Divorce is not an option
- The grass is NOT greener on the other side…it is the same grass with the same weeds
- As we just keep working on the weeds, flowers do bloom — eventually
- We muck through until it gets better
- It always gets better
2. In the morning, before he leaves for work, he is leaning down, petting the dog and whispering sweet nothings into HER ear.
3. With an upcoming vacation, rather than being concerned about the packing or your reservations, he is more concerned about where the dog will be staying.
4. Even though he may have been “missing in action” during the night when the baby dirtied a diaper or threw up in the crib, he has the rag and cleaner in hand when the dog vomits or poops on the carpet.
5. In the evening, he is all snuggled up on the couch — with the dog.
6. He may not think to share his late-evening snack with you as he is giving the dog every other bite.
8. Upon arriving home from work, he greets the dog first, and then gives you a kiss.
9. Even when the house is virtually out of groceries, he calls to make sure you remember to pick up dog bones.
This is the 42nd time I’ve celebrated Valentines Day with you. You were barely, if, a man when we exchanged tentative kisses that first year. I most certainly was not a woman yet…. just a young teenage girl. But you swept me off my feet. You seemed to know what you were looking for in a soul mate. You never wavered — not once — such confidence. It wasn’t the normal “hot-shot-ego” kind of swagger of a teenage boy. Just a steady increasing tenderness and love for me. How could a girl resist being pursued in such a way?
I didn’t mirror your certainty in the beginning. I was smitten, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I saw beyond Friday night’s basketball game. I was anything but confident as a middle-child 15-year old. I wasn’t shy, but I was distrustful and hesitant. I was waiting for you to get to know me better — and then drop me.
But you never did. You got even more persistent.
I still have the little plastic statue you bought for me in 1972. He’s kinda funny looking, really, but those little gray statues of big-eyed, droopy-clothed people proclaiming a variety of things were popular and trendy those days. I remember my closest girlfriend asking what you got me for Valentine’s Day. We were on a double date, I think. I replied, ‘he got me this little statue that says, I Love You This Much’, and I spread my arms open about as wide as my shoulders. And you said, ‘No, he is saying, I Love You This Much, and you spread your arms out as far as they would go. I think that is when I knew you were here to stay. My friend was now smitten too. I think if I’d let you go, she might have been there to catch you.
But I never did. I rather enjoyed the pursuit.
I told you this recently, but I remember hearing the Wedding March music begin on our wedding day. As my bridesmaids began the trek upstairs, I panicked and looked toward the back door. Thoughts screamed in my head, ‘what am I doing? I don’t know what love is. I’m only 18!’ Funny how I remember that so clearly. But as I went up those stairs, other thoughts won out, ‘He loves me so much. He’s good to me. He takes care of me. He’s a strong, godly man’. When I reached the back of the sanctuary, there you were at the end of the aisle, tears running down your cheeks. Thankfully, I knew they were tears of happiness, or I might have still taken my leave.
And here we are over 40 Valentines later. I think, if I tried, I might be able to gather up all 40 cards tucked away here and there. While the kisses, cards and pursuit are wonderful, when I think of you loving me, other – not so lofty – endeavors come to mind…
I knew you were thinking of me when you shoveled the driveway and salted the ice on the steps. I saw your love when you filled my car up with gas and changed the oil. As we raced to the emergency room, knowing we would never hold that baby this side of heaven, I felt your love. When you saw my agony after knee surgery, and pampered me and made sure I got comfortable… that was love. After accident number six, you still asked if everyone was ok before you asked about the car. The simple call from work asking if I need anything picked up on your way home. Even on the days when we are both so bone-tired, we barely acknowledge the presence of each other, love is there. Solid. Strong. Unwavering. A Promise. Forever.
This is what love looks like… the day-to-day, nitty-gritty stuff. Hanging in there on the days I madly love you and hanging in there on the days I look at you and think, ‘who are you, and why are you in my house?’ What a difference 42 years has on one’s perspective of love. Yes, love is the pursuit, and I still want to be wanted — absolutely. But better yet, stand by my side through better or worse, for richer for poorer, through sickness and through health. Those were our vows… the covenant we made with one another. That covenant still holds… I love you.