Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Musings of a Happily Married Man

Thirty years ago today Susan and I exchanged vows at Ebenezer United Methodist Church, just outside of Rising Sun Maryland. It was a sweltering hot day with 200+ people packed in a small country church with no air conditioning. There was no sacristy or side room for the groom to hide in, so there I was standing in front of the whole congregation, for some reason trying not to make eye contact with anyone as I awaited the bride. As Susan walked up the aisle, she was obviously more nervous than I was. Her hands were shaking so badly that I thought the petals on her bouquet were going to start dropping.

We had somewhat of an ecumenical service, officiated by the Rev. Lloyd Foard, a family friend and former minister of Susan’s home church, and Father Douglas Dempster, a Roman Catholic priest and personal friend. Between the two of them, we probably had received a total of one hour of pre-marital counseling. I don’t fault either of them for it, because it’s not like we exactly sought their advice. Looking back now, I think if we had approached the pastors of our current church, Solid Rock Church, and said we wanted to get married, they would have lovingly and wisely asked us to reconsider. We were both much too selfish and immature and had no clue what we were getting into. Scratch that sentence. I was too selfish and immature and had no clue what I was getting into.

AND YET… here we are thirty years later, happy and fulfilled, and head-over-heels in love. Of course it hasn’t always been that way. I must confess that for the first year or two, I was wondering if I had made a serious mistake. Not that there were any specific problems. I just felt rather empty inside, and I really did not “feel” like I was “in love”. On the other hand, there was no question in my mind that I had made a commitment. Walking out on the marriage simply was not an option. I remember telling myself that I was going to stick with this even if I had to be miserable for the rest of my life. I was determined to think, act and behave as if I were in love. And a funny thing happened. I fell in love.

Through the years, the ups and downs of living life together certainly helped things along. The birth of our first child--well before we even thought about starting to have children--certainly forced our hand at growing up. But truth be told, our first born, Christine was a dream child, generally compliant and very easy to raise. Luke and Angela, on the other hand, though just as loved and every bit as much a blessing, presented the special challenge of raising autistic children. This too brought us closer together. Unfortunately, that is not a guarantee, as the trials of raising special needs children can either make couples lean on each other or drive them apart. I remember going to many parent support groups or autism society meetings and seeing mothers of autistic children whose husbands had left them. Situations like these both sadden and anger me, and in my self-righteousness I feel like kicking such men in the teeth, or in another part of their anatomy if they have been unfaithful. But then I remember, there but for the grace of God go I.

In the past several days, I mentioned to some folks in casual conversation that I was about to celebrate thirty years of marriage. In addition to the general congratulations, some remarked how thirty years of marriage is quite an achievement this day and age. I replied—somewhat flippantly yet also seriously-- that it was very easy for me, because I got the better end of the deal. I certainly have. On the one hand, I have a beautiful wife and best friend who keeps me well loved, well fed and well cared for. On the other hand, I think of some of my persistent remnants of immaturity, such as my tendency to make cutting and sarcastic remarks if my expectations are not met. I would be shocked if Susan ever responded in kind. Instead, if she needs to extend a word of correction or adjustment (which I need quite often), it is usually in the form of a question or a request.

I approach this day--and indeed every day--with much gratitude. First of all, thank you Lord for your grace—your totally unmerited favor in our lives. Given my sin and immaturity from the very outset of the marriage, we could have easily become another divorce statistic. Instead, You not only preserved our marriage, but also helped it to thrive.

And thank you, Susan, for being my friend, confidant, and wonderful wife these past thirty years. I am an incredibly blessed man. Happy Anniversary!


JD Curtis said...

I just got married in March. I can hardly wait for the time to pass and be able to reflect upon my life with my wifeand see all that we have accopmplished together. God bless.

Leo B. VadalĂ  said...

Congratulations, JD! For better or for worse, the time will pass all to quickly, so may you enjoy and cherish each day with your bride!

“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.” (Proverbs 18:22)