Your dad and I have been married for 25 years today. Pretty crazy, isn’t it? When did I get so old? And why didn’t you plan a party? I’m just kidding: we didn’t expect a party. However, you might consider it for our 30th.
I’m marveling at the passing of the years, but I’m also looking ahead and thinking of your own marriages – should some of you choose to marry. Singleness is certainly a valid life option, but I want grandchildren so I hope you won’t all take that particular path. So I’ve decided to share a few thoughts for those of you who will marry.
Obviously, you should choose your spouse wisely. It’s one of the crazy realities of life that many of us make the most important decisions we will ever make – including with whom to share the rest of our lives – while we are young and kind of stupid. At least I was of kind stupid. “Love,” as Buffy once said, “makes you do the wacky.” And that wasn’t a euphemism for sex. So I know how this works; when you fall in love, you will feel that your love operates by different rules, is not subject to ordinary mortal logic. But for the sake of your old mom and pop, please, pretend that it is. Choose wisely. Don’t settle for someone who insults you, controls you, limits your dreams, defines your worth by what you own, sees you as an accessory rather than a partner –
Well, I could go on. There are a million ways to go wrong in choosing a spouse. And, no, there is not only one way to get it right. Because even if you choose wisely, you will not choose perfectly. I know this will come as a shock, but your father did not get the perfect wife when he married me.
Go ahead and laugh. I’ll wait till you are done. Having a spouse who can acknowledge their own flaws is good. Laughing is always good, too.
So you will marry an imperfect person, and your spouse will marry an imperfect person and you will live happily ever after. Sort of. With intermittent problems.
I know a wonderful old man, a widower now, who says that he and his wife never, in 57 years of marriage, had a fight. Never! Now, maybe you and your spouse will turn out to be that one in a million couple. But I suspect not. I suspect that you will have to fight.
And when I say that you will have to fight I mean not only that you will fight with your spouse, but you will fight for your spouse, and for your marriage. At various times you will need to swallow your pride, and screw up your courage. Receive forgiveness and extend grace. Hold your tongue and speak hard truths. I strongly encourage you to pray like mad. Pray together, if possible, but if not, pray anyway. When you are in the middle of an argument and you’ve got the perfect stinging retort on the tip of your tongue, pray. When you have just been hurt so that you think you will never be able to forgive, pray. To live with the same person for a lifetime takes (to quote Phyllis Tickle) “a lot of Christianity and a good deal of imagination.” Some days it will be indescribable joy, and some days it will be spiritual warfare.
And some days – if you are like the rest of us mortals – you will wonder if it’s worth it. So let me tell you now: it’s worth it.
To look into that same face you have loved for years and years and decades and a lifetime is a tremendous gift. To share growing up together (because whatever your age, marriage always involves some growing up) as well as growing old, knowing that this person has seen your best and worst and is still with you, is a tremendous gift. To share a lifetime of memories – or, as in our case, to have a spouse who keeps track of the memories for the one who tends to forget her own name – is a tremendous gift. To trust each other – not to be perfect, but to be present – well, you just can’t imagine how much that matters in a world of things that cannot be trusted. Is it worth it? I can’t think of anything worth more to me than the life your father and I have built together.
I had the privilege of being with your Grandpa and Grandma just a couple of weeks before Grandma died, and I saw how much they loved each other as the end was drawing near. It was powerful stuff, kids. And let me tell you, I remember the fights! I’ve got my share of childhood memories of voices raised and doors slammed and cars squealing out of the driveway. But they always came back to each other, always kept forgiving and being forgiving, always found new ways and reasons to love each other. Right up to the end. Would Grandpa say it was worth it? Would Grandma?
So in conclusion: choose wisely; fight to stay together; throw us a party for our 30th anniversary.
As for you dad and I, we’ll keep loving each other and growing up together, and we’ll keep laughing and praying and forgiving. Right up to the end. That’s the plan, and I think it’s a good one.