More Than 40 Years Together
June 17 marks 41 years of wedded bliss for my wife, Patty, and me. Of course it all hasn’t been bliss. It’s been sickness and health, richer and poorer, better and worse. Marriages that survive must endure many heartaches and unexpected turns.
As I reminisce about that muggy day in an unairconditioned rural Iowa church more than four decades ago, I’m reminded how uncertain life is. I didn’t know that my sister Margaret would die the following year. Or that Jim, my best friend growing up and one of my groomsmen, would die in a head-on car crash a few years later.
I didn’t know that Patty and I would be blessed with three sons before her hysterectomy at 32. Or that I would be fired from my first newspaper job because I helped form a local pro-life group. We learned Philippians 4:19 firsthand as God supplied all our needs during four months of unemployment.
Certainly, as someone who grew up in a small Iowa town, I didn’t foresee ever working at a daily newspaper in Sacramento and later the Chicago suburbs as news editor of Christianity Today to pursue my career. How could I have predicted that I would move to Springfield, Missouri, working at the Assemblies of God within blocks of where my parents grew up in the 1920s?
As I recited those vows so long ago I didn’t understand that my wife would endure a five-year debilitating illness that threatened the viability of our marriage. Or that she would emerge from that awful period with her health miraculously restored. During that difficult, confusing interim, she often quoted Oswald Chambers: “If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart.”
Sadly, I look back over all the friends we’ve known in churches over the years and count as many broken marriages as intact ones. For one reason or another, many couples — usually one, but not both, of the parties — decided to call it quits along the way.
I’ve now been married more than two-thirds of my life and worked for AG publications nearly one-third of my life. Our three sons are long married and we have five wonderful grandchildren. I’ve learned that praying for children is even more vital once children are grown, once they move out and live their own lives.
Looking back to 1978, even the staunchest gay and lesbian proponents couldn’t have foreseen the radical marriage makeover society would experience. No one conceived at the time that same-sex marriage would become the law of the land in 2015.
Through all the surprises and disappointments — as well as cultural upheaval — one fact is clear: God is in control. Without Him it’s impossible to meet the uncertain challenges that face us over the long haul.