The celebration of our anniversary had a unique perspective for me this year. For the last two weeks, I have also been in the throws of planning a celebration for my parents's anniversary--not just any anniversary, their 50th!! Even though theirs won't be a huge affair (thank you, Pinterest, for showing me all the things I won't be doing for my parents...), the preparations for it have given my heart time to consider a little more what my parents' marriage is all about, and how to best honor them and thank them for their years of dedication and love.
You could say I had a lot of catching up to do in my research on their marriage. For goodness' sake, they had been married for 17 years already by the time I was born. I asked about homes they lived in and schedules they kept. I asked about their pets and about their churches. I asked about trips they took together and about their dates. And then my dad said something that gave me pause.
"I was never the type of man who made enough money to take your mother out on dates."
He said it with a twinge of sadness or regret in his voice.
And then he recounted a time that he tried to take my mom out for a special anniversary meal at a Korean restaurant, and they were served cabbage that tasted horrible. And he felt sorry that it did not turn out to be the beautiful celebration that he had anticipated.
I was instantly sad that "dating" was not a part of their married life, mostly because going on dates with my husband is one of my most favorite things about my marriage. I was also blindsided with the reality that God has provided Dave and me with blessing upon blessing--each time we get to go out to spend time together is a privilege. And then I was humbled by the many times I have taken that for granted.
My mom piped up from the background, "We didn't go on dates. We had children instead!"
If you could ask my parents if they would give back any one of their six kids in exchange for more dates, they might stare at you in disbelief that you would ask such a stupid question.
And so, my question is this: in an age when all the marriage experts talk about the importance of dating your spouse, what were the things my parents did that held their marriage together, in love, through the good and the bad? I came up with a few from my perspective. I'm sure they could share more.
Christ is their cornerstone. They are one in faith and service to God, and He has blessed their marriage with many years because of it.
They never let divorce enter the conversation. My mom moved from living a "comfortable" life in the nice home of a successful businessman (her dad), to less-than-ideal church parsonages and pinching every penny. But she still loved her husband and stayed by his side. My dad had to go through many years of seeing my mom battle severe and manic depression. But he still loved his wife and stayed by her side. Their actions of love were strong, even when their feelings of love were probably weak.
They always believed that their kids were God's kids first, and that we were just in under their care for a time. We children were undoubtedly important to them, but it was clear that our parents' relationship with God was their first priority, and that the same should be true for us kids. There is no doubt that this brought a plumb line to our family and their marriage.
I think my folks have done alright with their system. Six kids, each in a relationship with Jesus, married to wonderful spouses. Sixteen grandchildren who love them dearly. A legacy of craziness and love and grace for those of us who follow them. Not much money in the bank but treasure upon treasure in heaven.
He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.