One of the special joys of parenthood is the privilege to speak into the lives of our grandchildren, especially when they are the ones asking the questions about our lives and faith. During a recent ‘babysitting’ event at one of our children’s homes, the older granddaughters asked Sally and I some personal questions about how we were married. I have said publicly that our marriage was more of an act of obedience to God than a story from a romance novel. They were curious if we recommended our experience for others to consider. After several hours of happy discussion with them, we followed up with this letter…
It was special for Grandmom and I to spend an hour sharing about how our engagement and marriage was more an act of obedience than a story from a romance novel. That was a keen question to ask, “Would we recommend our kind of ‘romance’ to others?” We certainly do! It has always been our hope and prayer that our children and grandchildren would be encouraged to follow us – but only as we follow Christ! However, it may be helpful for us to mark out a few things that might make our companionship type relationship more understandable.
The lines are fallen unto [us] in pleasant [places]; yea, I have a goodly heritage. (Psalm 16:6)
First of all our relationship was about God. God drew us to Himself, and we pursued Him, not each other. We like to say, “God chose our spouse.” As we stated, everyone is going to have a unique, one-of-a-kind marriage story, and some people may never get married, but if it’s God’s story, it will be a worthy story! A worthy story is about God, His love and His interventions and work in our lives, and not about ourselves. Isaiah 2:11 says it best, “The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day!” Our story is very special to us because God revealed Himself to us; first through being born-again by His Spirit, second by directing our steps together. That being said, it is important to point out certain details of our story so that telling it gives God all the glory. While our story is not some kind of model, we do recommend that you too let God choose your spouse! God delights in variety and He loves to manifest His glory in such a vast array of ways! However, He will choose your spouse if you will truly seek Him. (Matt. 19:11)
A word about romantic affection
Perhaps it is a little misleading to say that we married in obedience to God, without a “romantic” notion of falling in love. A few comments might help here. Grandmom and I were weary of the so-called romantic notions of the early 1970’s. Romance then was mostly just attraction to the opposite sex by hormonal stirrings. We had experienced enough of that kind of superficial boy-girl relationship BC (Before Christ) and as new Christians, were liberated from the chains of bondage of the “Free Love” of the 60’s. We were not looking for love in all the wrong places. We were discovering friendship and companionship in Jesus – in all purity. Looking back, we now see what is plainly taught in the scriptures, though we didn’t realize it at the time. Our kind of Jesus-first relationship is only possible for two truly devoted Christians.
What is romance anyway? Is it not the special bonding of two hearts together for life? In that case, our story is actually very romantic! The romantic part of our story is how God knit our hearts together in Christ first, and that grew into a strong bond of surrender to Christ before we were married. Our marriage grew out of our mutual love for Jesus. It was more about Him and not so much about ourselves. Actually, it was very romantic! We pursued after Jesus with all of our hearts and God surprised us with the wonderful, exciting prospect of getting married in order to follow hard after Him our whole life. We got really excited and said, “Yes!” to Jesus Christ.
While our relationship wasn’t typical to the traditional dating world, we were inseparable companions. Maybe “companionship” is a good label to put on it. We spent an enormous amount of time together talking about the Lord and the Bible and how it all applied to life. Our companionship happened in a small window of time that God provided uniquely to us, and thus it is impossible to mimic. The Holy Spirit had so filled our hearts with the satisfaction of Jesus’ love that He was the centerpiece of all of our conversations. We really, really liked being around each other. We were able to understand and enjoy a mutual friendship in Jesus.
Actually, we didn’t really know what was going on; we didn’t put a label on it. We were just hanging around together doing everyday life. It was Jesus who was laying the most important foundation needed for marriage: time together growing up in Jesus. Providentially, I came to live for 3 months at Nana’s and Grandad’s house. (Hurricane Agnes hit, stranding me at the house for several days and then I was invited to stay there until we got engaged.) That provided a significant amount of time for us to confirm God’s plan and foundation for a life-long journey of continued growth in Jesus. The engagement lasted another 3 months, and our 47th wedding anniversary is soon upon us!
A Solid Rock for Marriage
We have been the closest companions in Jesus for 47 plus years! Our special heritage feels like what Malachi wrote in chapter 3:16-17 which says, “Then they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another: and the Lord listened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for those that feared the Lord, and who thought upon his name. ‘They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him.’”
Yes, we were pretty young (she was 19 and I was 20 the year we were married) but we had the Solid Rock on which to build our home.
Marriage is a formative institution. God’s design is for the couple to “grow up in Christ” together! Our “companionship” is centered on Jesus and His Word. Today, that still is the essence of the romance in our marriage. We have weathered many a storm for sure, but our marriage has stood firm because it is built upon that rock, which is Christ. We have much more to share, and we look forward to another chance to share our testimony of the goodness and kindness of God’s love in our lives! He alone is worthy of all our thanks and praise!
Grandmom and Pa