He sat by her side every day in the hospital and never complained. This past April, my Mom was unexpectedly hospitalized for eleven days with a severe reaction to food poisoning. My Dad made sure that he was there as much as possible and helped in any way that he could. Ironically, only one year earlier, it had been my mom who was beside my Dad’s bed everyday as he recovered from major back surgery. Little did he know that he would get to return the favor in so short a time and that he would be healthy enough to make the daily trek back and forth. Though my Dad was not able to do much from a medical standpoint, his emotional support made all the difference in the world. As I walked with him on many of those days from the parking garage to her room and back, I couldn’t help but admire his enduring commitment to a woman that meant so much to him.
Today, they celebrate fifty years of marriage and a life of faith that has lasted the test of time and trial. Recently, I came across an on-line article that described the marriage they have lived before my eyes. Here is a brief except,
Great marriages are formed, not found. Christian marriage is the opportunity to practice fidelity over time, so you can look back and call it love. A Christ-centered marriage has less to do with finding the right one and more to do with committing your life to the one you found. It bears witness to the same kind of sacrificial faithfulness Christ has for his church. And while this self-giving marriage may not make me more fulfilled all the time, if done right, it will most definitely make me more holy. Therefore, it is faithfulness, not fulfillment that is the defining mark of Christian marriage.
Before you begin to imagine that my parents are super saints, I need to point out that they are human beings. Like all marriages, there were times of squabbling and disagreement, but there were also many more times of laughter, joy and forgiveness. As I grew up, I never had to wonder if they really loved each other and the strength of their commitment to God made their marriage that much stronger. I was blessed to watch two people who were very different learn to lay down their own agendas for the greater good of our family and their ministry. Arguments normally happened behind closed doors and affirmations often happened in public. Mom and Dad stood side by side in their parenting and supported each other’s decisions making it very difficult for us children to try to “divide and conquer”. Nothing put the fear of God in us more than mom saying, “Wait till your Dad comes home” for us to receive a punishment.
During most of their marriage my parents worked in the same ministry and often worked alongside each other. The kind of work related stress they endured over the years could have destroyed many marriages. To God’s glory, my parents not only survived but thrived as they worked together to serve people all over the world and to fulfill their joint passion to see people come to faith and maturity in the Lord Jesus Christ. At the core of their relationship was a deep friendship and an unrelenting commitment to prayer. I cannot remember a day that they did not have our family pray together and their practice of praying as a couple has grown as they have had more margin in their schedules in recent years.
For some reason my parents love the board game Scrabble and they play it a lot. With so much practice they are really good at it. I have often wondered if it is that same tenacity that has infused their marriage all of these years. No matter how challenging the circumstances they faced, they did it together in full reliance on God. It is no surprise that all of their children are now in long term marriage relationships and committed to growing in grace. May we all reach this illustrious fifty-year milestone and honor the God we love like our Mom and Dad have modeled so well for us.