It is particularly easy for me to remember how many years we’ve been married since we were married in the year 2000. Yep, it’s been 16 years.
On January 8th 2000 we stood before God, family, and many friends and made our vows. I remember being asked the morning of our wedding by a friend, “how do you know for sure Mandy is ‘the one’?” (Keep in mind we had only known each other four months before our wedding.) I remember saying something like, “I don’t. I’m pretty sure. We’ve sought godly counsel, we’ve desired to honour the Lord in our choice of a spouse, but anything could still happen to keep us from getting married later today. However, when we say ‘I do’ that’s it. She’s the one.”
Tim Keller says the following:
“Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love. A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now—that can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances. What can keep marriages together during the rough patches? The vows. When I married my wife, I had hardly a smidgen of sense for what I was getting into with her. How could I know how much she would change over 25 years? How could I know how much I would change? My wife has lived with at least five different men since we were wed—and each of the five has been me. When you first fall in love, you think you love the person, but you don’t really. You can’t know who the person is right away. That takes years. You actually love your idea of the person—and that is always, at first, one-dimensional and somewhat mistaken. When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretence, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. Passion may lead you to make a wedding promise, but then that promise over the years makes the passion richer and deeper. We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is . . . learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married. In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. This means we must say to ourselves something like this: “Well, when Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn’t think, ‘I am giving myself to you because you are so attractive to me.’ No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us—denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him—and in the greatest act of love in history, he stayed. He said, ‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’ He loved us, not because we were lovely to him, but to make us lovely. That is why I am going to love my spouse.” Speak to your heart like that, and then fulfil the promises you made on your wedding day.” (Keller, Timothy J., and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton, 2011.)
I am so thankful for the amazing, sustaining grace of God in our lives. There is no way we would still be married today if not for His grace. Marriage is not easy. It is the most difficult, most confronting, most painful relationship I have ever been in. Not because of who I married, but because of who I have discovered myself to be in our marriage. So where is God’s grace?
- In the wonderful privilege we both had to receive solid, biblical teaching on marriage from our pastors and churches even before we knew each other.
- In His kind providence to lead us into each others lives and to propel us into marriage in a short period of time. We had godly people in our lives who guided us in understanding the purpose of the marriage covenant was far more sustaining than “ensuring we had found our ‘soul mate’.”
- In using our marriage to reveal my selfishness and sin more than anything else in my experience. Marriage has been and continues to be a most sanctifying thing in my life.
- In giving us the desire to and enabling us to keep our vows through periods of pain and joy.
- In showering us with undeserved kindness such that we can declare that as the years go by our marriage has truly become sweeter than we could have ever imagined.
For the past several years we’ve celebrated our anniversary while attending an annual camp/conference together as a family. Not exactly intimate but fun… This year though, is a first.
I woke up this morning on our wedding anniversary without my wife by my side. The children and I are at the camp/conference while Mandy has been enjoying a much deserved week at home for R&R. I am very thankful for the opportunity this week has provided for her. At the same time, I miss her terribly and feel the “wrongness” of not being together on such a morning.
Again, Keller has written:
“So, what do you need to make marriage work? You need to know the secret, the gospel, and how it gives you both the power and pattern for your marriage. On the one hand, the experience of marriage will unveil the beauty and depths of the gospel to you. It will drive you further into reliance on it. On the other hand, a greater understanding of the gospel will help you experience deeper and deeper union with each other as the years go on. There, then, is the message of this book — that through marriage the mystery of the gospel is unveiled. Marriage is a major vehicle for the gospel’s remaking of your heart from the inside out and your life from the ground up. The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace. The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level. The gospel can fill our hearts with God’s love so that you can handle it when your spouse fails to love you as he or she should. That frees us to see our spouse’s sins and flaws to the bottom — and speak of them — and yet still love and accept our spouse fully. And when, by the power of the gospel, our spouse experiences that same kind of truthful yet committed love, it enables our spouses to show us that same kind of transforming love when the time comes for it. This is the great secret! Through the gospel, we get both the power and the pattern for the journey of marriage.”
I am convinced more now than ever that I married the right girl. I look forward to the years ahead and the joy of spending the rest of my life with her.
Lord willing next year, since our anniversary will be on a Sunday, we will wake up in the morning together!