Fifty-five years ago today, I stood at the front of Bethany Church in Paterson, N.J. I was looking over the heads of the congregation to the back doors of the sanctuary. An angel in white, my beautiful bride, appeared there. As music played, she walked slowly toward me and almost took my breath away.
We were 19 years old. I didn’t know what I was getting into. Had I known, I would have been breathless. How can I now possibly describe over half-a-century of love?
I was quite immature when Lois married me. Didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. For five years bumped from job to job, heading nowhere, while Lois was a rock. At the end of those five years, when I told her I believed the Lord was calling me into ministry, she didn’t blink an eye. It meant a life she hadn’t signed up for. It meant leaving our apartment, putting our furniture in storage, leaving our families and heading off to an unknown future, from Bible college halfway across the country to three pastorates in N.J. and Florida.
She felt inadequate because she couldn’t play the piano. (In the Assemblies of God, way back then, most pastor’s wives played.) She was far from inadequate. Piano? No. But pastor’s wife? Yes. She was always an assistant pastor without the title. She loved people graciously. Prayed and taught and encouraged. Spoke words of wisdom to the pastor. Looking back over 44 years of ministry, whatever “success” we enjoyed, it was because we served together.
Our marriage had some ups and downs. But the downs were not so low (most downs my fault), and we always wanted our marriage to be model for other couples. We didn’t set out deliberately to do that. We just wanted how we loved each other to influence others. Only heaven will reveal how much we succeeded.
We’re both retired now. Pastoral ministry is history. I’m wheelchair-bound. Lois has a few wrinkles. But we still love each other. No, wait. That’s not right. We don’t still love each other: we love each other more. How can that be?
Well, I wonder how she can love me more, since I’m far from the dashing young specimen I once was. But she says she loves me more, and I know I love her more. How is that possible? True love weathers. It’s like a tree on a high mountain–beaten back over the years by winds, but toughened by them, still standing, stronger than ever. Maybe that’ s not so romantic an image, but a good one. We’re a bit bent. But we’re still standing (me, metaphorically), arm in arm, heart to heart deeper in love for the years together and the adverse winds.
Couples who don’t survive decades together, for whatever reason, never have this kind of love to treasure. In our culture, young love is exciting. Old love is, well, old. Don’t get me wrong. If we could be young lovers again, I’d jump at the chance. (Not too high.) True, this old love may not be as exciting, but it runs deep and strong. Nothing can dim it. Nothing can wound it. It’s sweet and tender, but it’s also tough.
That’s because our love has always been grounded in Christ. We were married before God. We pledged ourselves to each other in his presence. We never considered not being together, because he made the two one.
Honey, as we celebrate yet another anniversary, I want you to know . . .
“You are so beautiful to me,
Can’t you see?
You’re everything I hoped for
Everything I need
You are so beautiful to me.”
That old Joe Cocker song isn’t Christ-centered, but every so often (like today) I play it for Lois–and I cry because the simple lyrics say what my heart says and the moving chords pull at my heart’s strings.
I wish I could sing it to you, honey. But know that, when I play the video. I’m singing to you in my heart. At 55 years, you’re my more-beautiful than ever bride. I love you. Happy Anniversary.
P.S. Excuse any errors. I didn’t want my proofreader to see this.