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The wedding

The couple is young, but there is a depth in them not often seen in their age group.

I met her through a mutual grief. Death often draws people together. I shared my own devastation at my mother’s death when I was in my thirties. She was in her twenties when it happened to her.

We had breakfasts and lunches and did lots of talking, as women do, in between bites of food and tear drops. We came to call each other friend.

I had the privilege of being part of her wedding through my gift of music.

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I’ve sat on many a piano and organ bench during my musical life, watching from the sidelines as a couple promises with all their hearts to keep the vows spoken. I believe they mean those words at the moment. Too often I have seen those words fall and shatter into tiny pieces as troubles and trials and all manner of life situations bombard the two who were meant to be one.

It happens and I cast no stones, because I live in a delicate glass house that at one time almost fragmented into a million pieces.

My young friend’s wedding was a sacred event. From the songs chosen to the intentional sharing of a new family Bible, the service was planned with care and with the desires of a husband and wife who want to be all God has planned for them.

I look forward to watching this young couple grow in love and acceptance of each other. And I anticipate seeing them be vessels of God as He points them in His direction and fills them with Himself.

Their lives at this moment are a beautiful thing to behold.

But lest we see things with only rose-colored glasses, there will be challenges. They will feel like they have hit a wall sometimes. They will not always experience the euphoria of “being madly in love” as they did on that special wedding day.

Such is the way of a man and a woman joined together in holy matrimony. What draws one to the other is a mystery of sorts, but what keeps them together is grace. God’s tender mercies and everlasting love do what is not humanly possible.

He designs for iron to sharpen iron and never were there so many sparks as in a marriage. We learn to be patient with one another’s idiosyncrasies and personality bents. We adjust our standards of orderliness and punctuality, of being the life of the party and the need for alone time.

We learn to speak the truth in love, to ask to be forgiven and to forgive in return. We decide to pick our battles and then fight the good fight, not tearing at the heart of the one we are called to love but attacking the problem.

And we are called to love. Love is that action word that keeps demanding much of us when the cozy, fuzzy sensations wane and the “I just don’t love him anymore”  non-affection surfaces.

That is not the time to give up and give in. No.  NO.  NO!  Do. Not. Give. Up. 

Studies show if couples will stick it out when the marriage looks lost, the feelings can and often do return. Ask those who have celebrated those 30, 40, 50 plus years of marriage if they are glad they didn’t throw in the towel when the towel was dirty and smelly and full of holes.

I for one will say, “Yes, I’m glad we did not give up.”

God uses a spouse to make us better in so many ways. I could list them, but let your own ideas develop in your mind. The rough edges of who we are rub like sandpaper until those places begin to smooth out little by little. It’s irritating to say the least and often painful in the truest sense.

I’ve not really liked the process, but I am thankful for the results.

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Sweet William and I celebrate 45 years of marriage today. They have been hard-fought and grace-filled years. There have been joyous and gut-wrenching seasons. We’ve been healthy, strong, able to take on the world together. We’ve been sick, weak, desperate for relief. We have laughed together and cried together. We have questioned and wondered and grieved together. We have rejoiced at births and wept at gravesides together. We have attended church, Bible studies, and counseling together. We have built strong walls and torn down barriers together. We have climbed tall mountains that looked impossible and walked through valleys of lush green and still waters together.

We have prayed together.

The key word here is “together.” We are still together. Thanks be to God for His amazing grace and His gift of enduring love. I’m so glad He did not give up on us when we would have given up except for His mercies.

We are together until death shall part us.

Steven Curtis Chapman sings it for us and for you who are still together.

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Still together

It’s our wedding anniversary, Sweet William’s and mine.

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I’ve watched so many young couples stand at the altar of covenant, pledging their love to each other, promising the impossible task of loving completely until death parts them. It is a goal too lofty for any of us to do on our own.  Because love does not originate from our own flawed hearts.  It comes from God.

Our loving feelings usually last as long as things go our way.  Then we become frustrated, disillusioned by the unmet expectations of the happily-ever-after wedding vows and joyful celebrations.  The newly-wed season begins to fade into everyday hard work.

Marriage is not for the faint of heart.  It takes guts to pledge and promise and then walk it out day after day.  Sometimes we think it will be easier to just walk away when it gets too hard.  Many have and I am in no position to judge them at all.  Because we were once on the verge ourselves.

But can one ever just “walk away” when hearts and minds and bodies have been joined together in ways meant for marriage, with a vow to stay in the good and the bad, to hold on when it’s the last thing we want to do?  Walking away is not the easy solution it would seem.  For hearts joined are only parted when they get ripped asunder.

Sweet William and I stood at the altar of covenant a long time ago.  We meant what we said in those promises but had no idea how they would be tested.  The road has been rocky now and again, and yet there is great joy as we travel together.

It is by grace that we celebrate today.  God’s unmerited favor on two broken people joined in holy matrimony.  And it is a holy thing.  Marriage communicates God’s loving covenant to a world in desperate need of seeing it lived out in the every day rough and tumble of life.

I’m sure some people didn’t think we would last.  They were almost right.  But God . . . those two words hinged together make all the difference.  His mercy resurrected us when our hope was gone.  The One who is Love gave us Himself and healed our brokenness.

Today we walk together though our steps may falter a bit.  We smile through tears at times.  We are a little bent over, and we hold each other up often.  We walk hand in hand realizing what a precious thing God has done for us.  He provided His love to us when we had run out of our own.

Steven Curtis Chapman penned a song I sing today.

Here we stand, here we are with all our wounds and battle scars
From all the storms and all the wars we’ve weathered together.
We had no way of knowing when we started way back there and then
How the road would twist and turn and bend.
We just knew we belonged together.

And if it wasn’t for God’s mercy and His grace,
There’s no way we would be standing in this place.
But because He has been faithful every step along the way
Here we are together.

If it had not been for God’s grace, where would we be today?  Not here.  Not together.

But we are.  The merciful and loving God we serve blessed us with love fresh from His hand.  And it is to the praise of His glorious grace that We. Are. Together. Still.

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Wedding bells

 

I attended a wedding last week, smack dab in the middle of December. Actually I played the organ for the ceremony. This sweet young bride had picked some very classical and traditional songs, Canon in D, Bach’s Prelude in C, Bridal Chorus, and Wedding March. She knew what she wanted. I had to wonder if this bride had dreamed of a Christmas wedding since she was a little girl.

There is an electrical tension in the air the hour before the service starts. The photographer caught a few candid photos along with some specifically posed shots.  The videographer (now that’s a 21st century word) set up the tripod in preparation.  The wedding coordinator was a flurry of activity.

The groomsmen were ushering in guests, and the groom himself nervously paced about. I had to imagine the room where the bride and her court were making final touches to make up and hair.

The music started, the candles were lit, and it was now or never for the bride and groom. The bridal party marched in. The four children came down the aisle and performed their parts perfectly. They went to sit with their parents during the remainder of the ceremony, a wise decision. Children can steal the show with their cute, childish antics.

The color theme was red, of course, with bridesmaids dressed in beautiful red satin dresses. The church’s holiday decorations of Christmas wreaths and seasonal greenery blended beautifully.

The bride marched in on her father’s arm and the groom’s eyes were on her and her only.  The mothers dabbed their eyes with a tissue.

From my vantage point on the organ bench, I usually have a bird’s-eye view of the couple as they stand at the altar and repeat their vows. They have stars in their eyes, looking dreamily at each other as they repeat things like:

for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”

If they are anything like I was at my wedding, I expected that there would never be another really bad day. After all, we were entering into wedded bliss, and just like the movies, we would live happily ever after.

Not!

The bridal couple never expects “worse” or “poorer” or “sickness.” They expect the path to be paved with rose petals, endless meaningful conversation, and romance every evening. They don’t count on bad hair days, sour moods, angry words, in-law problems, or where to spend the holidays. Who even expects the exorbitant cost of car repairs, a maxed out credit card, or the rising price of groceries and gasoline.

It’s probably best we don’t know the future, or we would gasp in fear and run the other way. God in His wisdom keeps our future a secret known only to Himself, promising His grace and His presence for the journey.

As I sat listening to the young bride and groom confess their love for one another and make a commitment for life, I prayed they would fight for their marriage, that they would not give up when it got hard, and that God would help them remember their promises.

Marriage is not to be entered into lightly. It is a covenant we make before God and these witnesses to love each other no matter what.  It isn’t easy to do.  But it is worth it when we arrive at those 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th anniversaries.  A committed marriage is a legacy we leave our children and our children’s children.  It proves to them it can be done and that they can do it too.

 

There are no final words I can give on marriage. But there are a few things I’ve learned during my almost 39 years of marriage to my Sweet William.

  • Forgive and ask for forgiveness – often.
  • Pray for one another daily.
  • Go to church together.
  • Seek godly counsel when necessary.
  • Try to understand the other person.
  • Love with deeds when the warm fuzzy feelings are missing.
  • Hold hands and laugh a lot.
  • Don’t let anything or anyone come between your hearts.
  • Keep only to each other.

And ask God to help you love like He loved you. It’s the only way it can be done.