We are coming up on 25 years.
Twenty five years ago I said, "I do" to a nineteen year old, short wearing, long haired skater-stoner type who was wearing birkenstocks, on a mountaintop in Colorado. I was nine months pregnant with someone else's child and we had only known each other for about ten months. My parents were in the middle of a bitter divorce and the only friends nearby, were our friends from work that we had just met.
"Someone stop them!" I'm sure this was a thought by many at that time. I mean, what were we even thinking?
My grandfather even sent me a handwritten letter referencing my "sex-mate" and warning me about the life I was choosing. It didn't take much distance or maturity to recognize that our marriage was a major leap of faith or just plain risky.
We're hitting a season of life where our kids are getting ready to be married and their friends are getting married, so we are often asked questions like, "What's your advice for a healthy marriage? What are your tips, wise words? How did you do it?" They look at us and we can tell they're waiting with baited breath for the golden words that will help them thrive in the journey called marriage. They want a quick formula for love and an answer for going the distance.
Our first answer, in no trite terms, "We are here today by the grace of God. We didn't deserve what we received."
I mean that. We were both a hot mess, living lives outside of God's plan for our lives. We were doing things our way and on our terms. But, the God we serve is in the ridiculous grace business. In spite of ourselves, He chose to give us one of the greatest gifts there is, the gift of a son...and another...and another...and a daughter...then another son. To me, this is indicative of the loving Father we serve. In spite of our mess and madness, He saw fit to give us babies! What a gift-giver He is! Not only did He give us babies, but He also gave us one another. Our favorite marriage verse is...
"Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Ecc. 4:9-12
My husband is a gift to me and I know he sees me as a gift to him.
Our second answer is, "We hold our marriage with open hands and promised to never take it for granted." I was explaining this the other day to one of my sons. Marriage is like a fine, thin, antique porcelain teacup. You hold it carefully in your hand, recognizing it's painstaking, hand-painted beauty. You can hold it up to the window and see the light coming through it. It holds stories of years and years shared around life's table. It's not something you toss haphazardly into the dishwasher, but you carefully wash it by hand. You place it on a shelf for all of your guests to see, but it's nestled among stacks of other pieces of China in your corner cabinet where it has to catch the passerby's eyes in order to be appreciated. It's humble, unassuming, but can bring others together in the everyday rituals of life. If you clench it too hard in your hand, you can snap it, it can break or chip. If it breaks, it will have a hard time holding tea again. That china cup is a treasure. Its value is hard to determine, for it holds not only time but the stories of a life well lead. We never wanted to take this gift we've been given for granted. Both of us came from divorced homes and knew if we had a chance at this thing, we had to value this gift we've been given and invest in keeping it intact.
As much as we love our kids, and they know we do, our third tip is that we always put mom and dad first. Our marriage has to stand the test of time. It has to be the thing standing at the end. We are discovering (all too soon) the truth we knew was coming; the truth that our kids would grow up and leave us. We only get about two decades standing in that, raising kids, role. Kids come and go. But, at the end of that season, we still have one another. So, even though we were always broke and exhausted from working a couple of jobs, we always made date nights or time together a priority. We came first. I hear moms saying, "I can't leave little Johnny. He will miss me," or a father's excuse, "Money is too tight." I'm going to step up on a little soapbox and say, "Jesus is all about your marriage!" He values it more than you do and He will provide for you to have time together. He's really extravagant that way. Also, little Johnny will best know your love for him in the way you love his dad. You see, there is a comfort for our kids when they see us loving one another. It gives them security to become the men and women God wants to them to become. There's safety when mom and dad love one another.
One of my sons said to us when he was about thirteen years old, "If you ever get a divorce, I won't speak to either of you again." I still laugh at this comment, for if that's not motivation to love his dad well, I don't know what is!
This marriage journey has not been all a walk among the roses, it's been a commitment to a promise I made twenty-five years ago. But, I would do it again and again and again. It's one of my most valued possessions.