A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
May 24, 25, and 26, I got to celebrate a tale of two marriages. The first was that of my mom and dad, celebrated on May 24 and 25. We were celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary. The second was my own marriage to my beautiful, faithful, blessing of a wife of thirteen years.
Many of you have seen pictures on Facebook of my side of the family including pictures of myself, my wife, and my children. That was a wonderful time of memory making that I know we will all cherish for many years to come. Memories of children playing and looking for frogs in a pond. Sometimes by themselves, sometimes with grown folk. Different ages and stages were represented from toddler to grandparent, all having a really good time.
Sometimes I think the phrase, a picture is worth a thousand words is a terribly inaccurate expression. This is because, behind some of the smiles are fussing children and scowling parents trying to get their children to hold still, smile properly, or just take one more picture without pouting about it. But, most of the time I get it. The thousands words are truly not enough to share the multitude of experiences that each member of this family has shared. If these pictures could speak they would tell a story.
It would tell a story of laughter and trials, peace and pain, joy and sorrow. It would also tell a story of faithfulness and commitment; not just to each other, but to the God of the universe, Maker of heaven and earth, Savior and Lord. In fact with out the faithfulness and commitment to the one, the other would have failed long ago.
My mom and dad got married at twenty-two and twenty-one. Two years later they had me. In that two years, they moved to Texas so Dad could go to seminary and by the time we left Texas to come back home I had a sister. Back in NC Dad worked this job and that, giving me another brother along the way. Until finally, during my kindergarten year he got his first church assignment. By the time we moved from that town in eastern NC, four years later, my baby brother was born. This was when his first church fired him unjustly, and we picked up and moved to central NC where we lived, and Dad pastored another church for the next seven and a half years. The summer before my senior year, it was time to move on again and we found ourselves moving to Greensboro, NC for another church. I graduated in 1994 and I have been there ever since. No one was thrilled about it at the time but God knew better. The next twenty years saw two more churches and two more heartbreaks. It was peppered with different jobs for Dad, in between and after the churches and the graduations of the rest of my siblings. The next twenty years also saw all of us getting married and the birth of four grandchildren. My Dad has been a teacher of troubled children in the public school system for the last several years and seems to suit him.
This journey saw dreams and disappointments galore for Mom, Dad, and the kids. Their are hurts and trials for families in ministry like nothing else this world has to offer. Trying to follow God as a husband and father, especially in ministry, is not so very easy, especially when your kids don't necessarily understand and your wife does not always agree. There were battles with bitterness, flaring of tempers, and broken hearts at times. But ALWAYS, there was GOD. HE held this family together. As we strove along this journey, my Dad always tried to obey God the best he knew how in leading us through his career and in ministering to us as a family. Mom always tried to obey God by supporting Dad even when she did not agree and by trying to keep Jesus in front of us.
As we sat around and shared some thoughts with our Mom and Dad at the celebration, we did not focus on the negatives. We realized in retrospect that God's providence had led our family down this road to make us into who He wanted us to be. No, the themes were centered on love, joy, and perseverance. Through all the downs, there have always been ups. There has always been joy, and though the thought of giving up may have crossed minds on occasion, it never came to fruition. If there is one thing we know, it is that our parents love Jesus and have tried very hard to teach us to do the same. It is also that they love each other and love us and we love them, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, whether rich or poor. They did not always get it right. In fact they dropped the ball plenty. But what parent, husband, or wife doesn't. One thing is for sure, God reigned in my parents hearts and by His sovereign good pleasure they are still together forty years later and being celebrated by healthy, God-fearing, God-following children.
As the oldest, I was blessed to be the first to get married and the first to provide grandchildren. Six and a half years earlier I met my beautiful bride and she became my world. So much so that what I knew of God took a back seat in some regards. Nevertheless, in His divine providence He saw fit to see us married. While we have always loved each other, it has been far from a perfect road thus far. Neither of us is the same person that we met at the beginning or even that we married thirteen years ago. But you know what. I would not trade it. The experiences that we have had have made us who we are today.
That's what makes marriage an adventure. Oh, you will hurt each other, sometimes very badly. And, you will love each other, sometimes extremely. Once you have children, you are then struggling with divided affections and that brings a whole other challenge. On our journey we have seen God at work, drawing us to himself in different ways and on different time tables, yet He is faithful.
What makes these two stories connected and similar in spite of the difference in years of marriage is Jesus. He is sovereignly in control and at work in all of our hearts. An eternal perspective. In forty years, my parents are still learning and having their character developed by the God of the universe. They are still learning to love each other and trust God in totally new ways.
For my wife and I, the last six years have been a journey of developing in service to the Lord in church together. Now, He is pushing us out of the nest in brand new ways. Their is a new church. There is a new school for my oldest son. There are new passions for serving God, both in life and at a new church, that we are both trying to understand and learn to trust God in. And we are learning to love each other continually through these changes. We have learned that, while there are things we would like to see improvement on and areas of hurt that we have to let go of, we have it pretty good in each other. My wife is an amazing woman in so many ways and she blesses me continually. I want to spend the rest of my life watching her grow into who it is that God created her to be. If there were no other reason not to quit on our commitment there is this, God has not given either myself and my wife or my parents, permission to quit. He provides the perspective of eternity as our guide for what is really important.
A Heavenly Marriage
Much of what is driving the relativization of truth, commitment, faithfulness, and the definition of marriage is the lack of a vital misunderstanding of God's eternal plan. Jesus tells us in three of the four gospels that there will be no marriage between humans in heaven(Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:20, Luke 20:35-36). You see, at the end of time, when this life ends and eternity begins there will only be one marriage that matters. This marriage will be between the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and His church. There will be a marriage supper of the Lamb(Revelation 19:6-10). In that moment, none of the flaws of this age will matter.
This eternal perspective of a heavenly marriage that begins now is what we must keep in mind as we read the instructions of Paul in Ephesians 5 that tell us to love our husbands and wives in the same way that Christ loved the church. Because at the end of the day, we as believers are the church and Christ sacrificially laid down his life for us so that we could lay down our lives for each other.
This is the perspective that has held my parents marriage together for forty years. This is the perspective that holds my wife and I's marriage together. This is the perspective that can hold your marriage together so that one day you are able to look back on many years of ups and downs and say to each other and to the Lord,
We're Still Here!
May it be so in Jesus name.
Thanks to my Mom and Dad and to my lovely wife for helping to provide a proper example.