Anniversaries are Good, Growth is Better
Kristin and I took this selfie last Sunday morning when we visited Brush Prairie Baptist Church. Thirty-five years ago we stood on the platform in that same sanctuary and said our vows of marriage before God and several hundred witnesses. Kristin grew up at Laurelwood Baptist and I was at Evergreen, but neither church had the capacity for the large number guests we expected, so Brush Prairie Baptist graciously agreed to host our ceremony.
We have received many encouraging words in the last few days from so many friends and family. It is incredibly humbling. Many expressed admiration and gratitude for our good example. One especially meaningful note came from our daughter, Autumn, who married Chris Crenshaw a week ago. “Thanks for being an example for Chris and I to follow. We love you!”
Autumn’s note is uniquely sweet since she’s our one and only baby girl. But her comment helped fueled my reflection on our 35 years of marriage. What kind of example are Kristin and I setting? On the one hand, simply remaining reasonably happily married for 35 years is good in and of itself. As Woody Allen is reputed to have said, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.” Kristin and I have been showing up in the same house for all these years and we are quite confident we will go the distance.
But simply staying married, while good, is not the goal. A couple might stay married out of sheer stubbornness. I’ve met some old couples who seemed to be doing just that; sticking together so they can keep arguing with each other and complaining about each other to any who will listen. Anniversaries in this setting would be like marking time in prison.
Kristin and I don’t just want to stay together, we hope to grow in our love and in our joy as the years go by. It is quite easy for us thanks to the pastoral exemption from marriage problems all ministers receive at ordination. (If only!) The truth is, growth in love and joy is a fight against sin and selfishness, and even recently I have been tempted to despair at ever making substantial and lasting changes in the ways I fail in our marriage. As I told Kristin Sunday, I know I am no picnic to live with sometimes. I am just so intractably…me. Kristin’s health challenges over the last couple of years have only made this reality more clear.
But one of the best things that happened in our time away last week was God renewing my faith in his power to change me. By God’s grace, I am daring to believe what I believe. We even have some simple plans in place to help us cultivate this needed growth. I am grateful to my wife for 35 good years. She is a great treasure. But I am most grateful to God for his promise to make the coming years even better. He is the greatest treasure.