Once upon a time, a 13-year-old girl walked into the high school band room after a football game, searching for her older brother. Little did she know that that night would change her life, for that night she would meet a friend of her brother’s, a guy who was immediately taken with her and would one day be her husband.
At first meeting, however, he did not appear to her to be Prince Charming. She actually considered him more of a frog than a prince, and over the next year or so, that’s how it remained. However, at some point, she softened toward the skinny, shy guy, and they began dating.
By the time she was 16, they both knew that God had brought them together. In fact, at a revival meeting, the pastor called them forward and joined their hands, confirming what they had both already felt. Their lives had intersected, and now their paths would merge into one.
However, all was not well in their kingdom. While this girl loved her prince, she loved her God more and served Him wholeheartedly as she had done since childhood. She began to sense that her prince, while truly loving God, was placing her in the position that could only be filled by the Most High.
With an aching heart, she let him go and broke up with him, so that he might solidify his relationship with God. She knew that she could not trust him with her heart until his was completely God’s.
After a few months of separation, the Holy Spirit brought them back together, stronger and more founded in Him. And yet, their troubles were not over.
Being young as they were, not all were supportive of their plans to marry once the girl graduated high school. Her father was among them. This was probably due in part to the fact that her prince had proclaimed arrogantly that once they married, he intended to be a missionary in Africa and take his bride with him. Thankfully, that was NOT God’s plan for them.
Despite hardships and heartache, the girl planned her wedding, made her dress and veil, and decorated the church, and God guided them to their wedding day, where the two became one.
Now while most fairy tales would end here, quite prettily tied up with a sparkly bow and declare, “And they all lived happily ever after,” this was not the end of the story for the girl and her prince, but rather the barely-beginning.
The beginning was important, though, because the next few years, and the years after that, and the years following those, would all require the same confidence and trust in God’s plan, the same determination to keep Him as the center of their relationship, the same willingness to be honest with and accountable to each other.
That barely-beginning belonged to my parents, Jerry and Cindy, who are now celebrating 43 years of marriage. Forty-three years that have included better and worse, richer and poorer, and sickness and health, but also always included having, holding, loving, and cherishing. During those forty years, they have lived in five different states (and various cities within those states); worked many jobs; served in ministry in some way pretty much constantly, often ministering together (My father has been in music ministry, a youth minister, a home group leader, an elder, and a pastor, with my mother right there beside him all the way); and raised four children, adored 12 grandchildren (9 grandsons, 1 granddaughter, and 2 granddaughters by marriage), and welcomed one great-granddaughter.
Some might look at their lives and say it has been nowhere near a fairy tale, and they would be right.
Fairy tales aren’t reality. What fairy tale do you know that actually goes beyond the wild, exciting, romantic first year of meeting (and that’s being generous…most fairy tale princesses are married within a few months or even days of meeting their prince) and the big, beautiful, perfect wedding? Do any ever show the actual marriage??? No. Because while married life is wonderful, lovely, and blissful, it is also about self-sacrifice, commitment, hard work, giving, and forgiving. (My mother says, “Without forgiveness, we would not have made it 43 years.”)
And yet, what is truly more beautiful? A story that ends with the couple riding off in a grand carriage, accompanied by rice-throwing mice and ribbon-draping songbirds, but never shows them triumphing through struggle, growing together, or giving more of him/herself daily for their spouse?
Or one that tells it all? Where the couple honeymoons in a fishing cabin with no running water (true story – my mom is a saint!), where they share years of laughter and tears, arguing and making-up, where they experience the joy and frustration of raising a family, and where every day, they rely on God through it all and He comes through every time.
I’ll take the “tell it all” version any day because it’s real. It’s life. And it’s the story I’ve read in my parents throughout all of their “happily ever after.”
Happy anniversary, Mom & Dad! Thank you for living a beautiful example of all God created marriage to be. I love you both!
(Updated August 2018.)
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