My dearest friend asked the other day, “aren’t you approaching your 25th wedding anniversary?” I answered, “Yeah, I guess I am.” Then she added, “You have to do something! that’s a really big deal these days!”
Hmm, A really big deal? Her words lingered in my mind. Until that moment I hadn’t given it too much thought, but privately I was grateful for her reminder. My heart kept rehearsing her words …it’s a big deal…it’s a big deal… yes, it is a big deal -especially for us. Phil and I don’t need a trip to commemorate 25 years, we have plenty of those, so I thought I would re-visit this dusty blog with a post about our very big deal.
I remember when I first got engaged, my family and friends would say, “It’s like a Cinderella story!” I was just 19 years old, met a handsome man at church, he asked me to marry him right away, and I did. I guess to those looking in from the outside it looked pretty glamourous. However, what was unique to us is that Phil and I bypassed all the traditional parts of dating. We met, we got engaged, we married. We skipped the pre-marital counseling, we skipped the getting to know each other part. I had heard about eastern arranged marriages that had good success, so I figured I had good odds, right? See, I had only two criteria for my future marriage; the man had to love God, and that my marriage would draw me closer to God. That’s it. I told God, met Phil, and closed the deal.
Our story should have been perfect, letting God do the matchmaking and all. Yet, instead of happily ever after, a slow process of refinement set in.
Phil and I got to know each other after the wedding. What we learned is that we had vastly different upbringings, and backgrounds. We learned we had different communication styles. We learned that Phil is an introvert, quiet, he processes ALONE. We learned that I am a capital E, extrovert, and needed to verbally process. We learned we didn’t agree on how money should be handled, or where we should live, we learned that we couldn’t even agree on what type of trash can to buy for our first kitchen – officially our first argument.
Phil was drained from all my needs, and I was drained from all his silence. And while we shared many God moments together, we were quickly learning that marraige was both painful and wonderful much like a quote from Tim Keller’s, The Meaning of Marriage –
“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us.”
So, yeah you probably don’t want to come to us for “traditional” marriage counseling. We can’t tell you how to communicate effectively, or how to have healthy conflict resolution, or how to create a family budget. We can’t share with you the ten principles of marital success, because we don’t have them. But we have this ONE thing. There is one thing we know we got right, one thing we can tell you about, His name is Jesus.
The one thing we got right. Jesus.
You see long before Phil and I loved each other, we loved Jesus, and it proved to be both essential and enough. We made God the centrality of our lives when everything else we did seemed frustrated. In the midst of many storms, our love for God always drove us back to our singular passion, Jesus. No matter how many mistakes or messes we made, we always had a place to run to that wasn’t to each other, we both ran to God, and in turn God always put our pieces back together.
God helped us to see where we were united when all we saw were our differences. God showed us that our core values were the same. While Phil and I couldn’t agree on most things, we were in perfect agreement on three core issues: our children, our faith, and our future with God. We both sacrificed deeply and privately to ensure our kids always felt loved, secure, and enjoyed every season of life. While we didn’t make date night a priority, Sunday morning church was always set in stone. Our hearts for missions and discipleship was one and the same. We loved God first, that was our united front.
While it’s not a fancy story worthy of instagram filters and romantic captions, it is our story. A story of God’s grace, God’s goodness, and God’s faithfulness. And while we probably didn’t pass on to our kids the example of a perfect marriage, we have passed on our love for God, and the fruit is evident in their lives- and oh my goodness, if for that alone, Phil and I are eternally thankful.
I wish I can tell my 19 year old self, “don’t worry! this quiet guy you’re marrying is going to take you around the world one day, and he’s going to love your kids so, so well, and don’t worry about having more children, you are going to have so many children around the table to love, and spiritual children to love, and when you go through all your junk, he’s not going to walk away, and don’t worry about all the stuff you don’t have in common because you both have Jesus, and girl, that’s enough!”
So our story could be summed up in two words – Only Jesus. And we’re sticking to it for another 25 years.
Today we are married 25 years. Y’all, that’s a very big deal for me.