Today marks the anniversary of our wedding! That is, 45 years ago, Judy and I exchanged wedding vows before our family and friends and in the presence of God. In that ceremony, we completely committed ourselves to one another. We promised in the name of God, to love and cherish one another – to honor and prefer the other above ourselves for as long as both of us were living. Although this form of marriage vows were popular, that is to say, traditional, when we made them, the keeping of them has not been nearly as prevalent.
Just to set the scene: Judy and I stood at the front of a church (God’s house) filled with our parents, siblings, extended family members and close friends. The presence of God was further symbolized by a pastor who conducted the ceremony. He began with words to this effect: “Dear friends, we are gathered here today in the presence of God, and the sight of these families and friends to unite this man and this woman in holy matrimony…”
It seems so obvious. We were calling on God to witness the sincerity of our promise to one another. We recognized that we were making a lifelong commitment to each other – for better or for worse. When we vocalized those vows to one another (and to God), we had no concrete idea of what would be involved in keeping them. There have been many ups and downs over the years – many joys and many sorrows. There have been times when depth of feelings have waxed and waned, and then waxed again.
Others attest to this truth. For instance, I once attended the funeral of the mother-in-law of one of my mentors. As I approached the gravesite in the cemetery, I found myself shoulder to shoulder with this elderly gentleman. Having not met him personally, I introduced myself and attempted to express appropriate condolences. As we walked on, he said, “I’m really going to miss her. She gave me 50 of the best years of her life – not bad, out of 60!” (Note: I’m a bit fuzzy on the actual numbers but the story is true!) He then quipped, “Never once did we consider divorce – murder maybe but never divorce!” He was right. There are many great days of joy and happiness and many, but fewer, days of difficulties. The many average days in our experience of lifelong commitment have been punctuated by highs and lows.
By God’s grace, Judy and I have maintained our wedding vows; we remain faithful to one another. Through times of difficulty, through times of ease, through times of happiness and times of sadness, God has enabled us to face the challenges of the unknown together. For the first 40 years of our marriage we probably endured equal challenges. Perhaps Judy’s were more challenging than mine as she had to put up with me.
I am certain, however, that the last five years have been much more difficult and challenging for Judy than for me. Although I am the one who is handicapped, she is the one who has had to demonstrate unending and enduring love in action. I’ve written previously regarding the details involved in my care and her commitment to keeping her promises. So I will not rehearse all of that now. Nevertheless the needs do go on and on…
What I want to highlight is the unrelenting demands and seemingly ceaseless concerns of caring for the needs of someone who is unable to care for himself. Like caring for a newborn (24 hours a day/7 days a week) the litany of needs, even simple things, expands and increases. We praise God for the help that he has provided from our immediate and church families. We acknowledge the grace of God and his kind Providence towards us. We praise the Holy Spirit for strengthening us to do God’s will. We are thankful for the Veterans Administration and other assistance we receive through a service agency. Yet, life goes on and with life comes problems and “issues.” And sometimes they seem overwhelming and all-consuming.
So it is from within this context that my affection, admiration and appreciation grows for this lovely lady. Some would say that I made a good choice, others that I chose better than I knew. But I treasure her as a gift from God – far better than I deserve.