Today is my parents’ thirty second wedding anniversary. To honor them but hopefully to honor you as well, I’ve listed seven things I have learned from watching my parents’ marriage. They will never bless you as much as they have blessed me, I promise you. But I hope they bless you a little, whether you know them or not.
Seven Things I’ve Learned from My Parents’ Marriage
1. Marriage can only be done as a covenant with God.
You used to have a picture in our home. I don’t know if it’s in your home now but it was a lovely poem about how marriage takes three—two sinful humans and a loving God. Maybe those weren’t the words but those were the sentiments. No one likes the word sin on their wall. Nevertheless, the point was that we can’t do marriage on our own. We have to have Christ—as an example, as a partner, as a hope. You’ve always made sure I know that. And my marriage and my life have been better for it.
2. Your marriage should always be put above your children.
Children are a blessing. I don’t say that only because I am, in fact, your blessingJ. You have taught me what a wonderful thing it is to support and train up a life. But you’ve shown me that children aren’t solely a blessing. They are also a challenge. And they can be a challenge in your marriage. You both always made sure I knew that I couldn’t form a wedge in between you. You loved us, to be sure, but I saw that if a marriage is to work, kids come third. After Christ. And each other. I know that example will become more prominent and more important as I eventually have little ones of my own.
3. Marriage means sometimes going to bed angry.
Because I can’t fight when I’m exhausted. I learned this from my mom (who I think knows firsthand). Reason doesn’t come with late nights. It comes with a fresh mind and a good night’s sleep. I don’t feel bad when things aren’t resolved as my head hits the pillow. After all, his joy comes with the morning. And sometimes, so does a little perspective. Thanks for reminding me of this when I was little and now that I’m mostly grown up.
4. Marriage is a portrait of forgiveness.
Yeah, that whole, “love means never having to say you’re sorry” bit is as much of a lie as most of what the world tells us. You made it known throughout my formative years that no marriage is perfect. You never hid your disagreements but you did try to “fight fair” with us around. You made sure we knew that the marriage is the exact place to live out Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other as Christ God forgave you.” I didn’t go into my marriage expecting to always be right or always be happy but I did know what true commitment was, because I have seen it in both of you. You always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere (1 Cor 13:7). Not because you are perfect. But because you have Christ in the center.
5. You don’t have to know each other a long time to commit for a long time.
I know why I wasn’t worried at all when I married E after 9 months of knowing each other. I saw a loving example of the same thing in my parents. You married after nine months and realized that wasn’t the end. It was the beginning. You knew commitment was real. In HIM. And in each other. And you’ve never taken that lightly, for as long as I’ve known you. So even though people balk at short courtship, I’ve seen it’s not the length of the courtship but the depth of the commitment that counts.
6. Love means more, not less, over time.
After 32 years, I can tell marriage means something completely different to you than it did when I was born 28 years ago. Or than it did when I went to college 5 years ago. Or than it did ten minutes ago. You are great examples of love evolving, changing, and growing. It’s almost comical to me to think about people thinking they love each other after nine months (see #5). Even after five years, I can’t image 32 years. I look at the trials you’ve endured together. The amazing victories. The loss. The beauty. The pain. The joys of new life. The goodbyes. The everything. You’ve never ever done it alone. And now I’m crying. Because I know your love is something that only you and the Father even understand. That’s how intimate 32 years together are. Not perfect. But incredibly intimate. Like our relationship is supposed to be with our creator.
7. Marriage is fun. And funny.
You both are fun people. And you are funny. Both of you. Despite what we tell you, MomJ. Sometimes I look at couples and think they think marriage is so very serious. But it’s also making fun of each other. And having conversations about living in a town called Sane. And jumping up and down in your kitchen. And singing in harmony with all three of your kids to James Taylor in the car. And clapping to the Mizzou fight song as hard as your hands will press together. And drinking wine.
Speaking of wine, at the conference this weekend a friend and I were talking about wine. Communion wine, specifically. We were discussing why we like to take wine with our communion instead of just grape juice. My friend mentioned that she loves it because wine is delicious and beautiful and sweet to your lips. But it’s also a little bitter. And to taste it reminds her that Jesus’ sacrifice for us was so beautiful but it’s also bitter and painful. I’ve learned so much from you over the years and the best I can sum up is to say you’ve taught me that marriage is like wine. It’s an acquired taste—it takes some getting used to. But it’s a great delight. It’s sweet. And it gets better with time. And it’s bitter—and sometimes hard and painful. But mostly, it’s a great, great treat. And the bitter doesn’t make it worse—it actually makes it better because it mingles with the fruits to make it more complex and more satisfying.
Your marriage is a fine, aged wine. And I am blessed to have had a front row to the process.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all (both) of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-5
I love you. Happy 32.