Thirty-six years ago at 2 pm in the afternoon on a clear but cool June day, Marilyn and I exchanged vows and began life together. What do I recall from that day? One thing was that any nerves I had disappeared at the moment I saw Marilyn at the head of the aisle on the arm of her uncle. My heart leaped for joy at the sight of her and the thought that in a few minutes we would be joined in marriage. I remember both of us paying tribute to our parents and thanking them for all they meant in our lives (several couples we saw married before us did this). I don’t think I remember a word of what my beloved pastor Bob Mulholland said except those magical words declaring us husband and wife. And in one of those crazy moments that every wedding has, I remember us going the same way when we tried to kiss, looking like a couple eskimos! You can bet that we had a lot of people saying to us, “you are really going to have to practice that.” Needless to say, we did! Pictures and reception were a blur. Finally, we were on the road to our honeymoon and what I most remember was the clear blue sky, the crisp weather, and this wonderful realization that WE WERE MARRIED!
And, blink, it is thirty-six years later! How did this happen? More amazing is the realization of all that has happened over those years. It’s probably a good thing young couples don’t know all that is coming! I think what we’ve found is that God gives grace for each of the changes and new situations we face, and that if we let Him, He uses it all to forge our characters and the tie between us. For us, that includes living in three different cities, raising a son through a broken leg and a few other medical scares along the way, and lots of absolutely delightful family memories we will cherish in our hearts. We cared for aging parents, first Marilyn’s mother, and then my mom and dad to the end of their earthly journeys and faced a scare with cancer together.
Even though we had dated through college before marrying (we met the second day of our freshman year), the journey of marriage seems to be one of continual discovery. Sometimes it can be absolutely frustrating to butt up against the different ways each of us looks at the world or approaches life until you realize that it is that different view of the world that has made life richer, and sometimes has protected you from great harm–usually from yourself. I didn’t realize until more than ten years into our marriage that I had married an artist, not only with paint but with the ways she makes a home a comfortable and safe space. And along the way, learning to embrace and affirm and celebrate the ways she is an artist led to beginning to discover and accept in myself a different set of artistic gifts that I think I had buried in a combination of false ideas of “maleness” and the press of work life.
I had no second thoughts on the day we married and no regrets since. I truly think myself the most blessed man alive to have had such a companion to share the past thirty-six years with. I think one of the reasons they seem to have passed like the blink of an eye is how rich and full and fun they have been–full of family memories, the students, faculty, and friends we’ve known, the places we’ve been, the home we have made together. No marriage is perfect, least of all ours, and yet our story is, I think, one of how good marriage under God’s grace can be. The idea of grace is that of an undeserved, freely given gift. Our marriage has certainly been that to me, and so I’m thrilled both to celebrate this day and thankful to receive as many additional years of this gift as our God chooses to give. And so I will end with the words that we say to each other every day: I love you, Marilyn!