Thirty-eight years ago today with God as their witness my parents made a promise to love each other for better or worse, in rich and in poor, and in sickness and in health. Mom was 18 and Dad was 19. Just two kids in love, but that didn’t stop them from taking their vows seriously.
On their wedding day they had no idea that worse might mean struggling during some very lean years or being forced to dole out tough love to a child grappling with a drug addiction. Nor did they know that better might translate to one day living on the shoreline of a lake and witnessing that same child not only recover, find himself and his God but also devote his life to ministering to others. They had no idea that sometimes they’d be rich with hope and love but that there would be other times when they would have to work at this marriage gig and would occasionally feel poor, at least in spirit, despite the many riches in their life. They could never predict the sickness that might befall their relationship – from watching sick loved ones die to dealing with my mom’s recent back surgery.
Last weekend I watched as my dad took care of his bride. He held her like a newlywed, her arms wrapped around his neck. Only he wasn’t carrying her over the threshold. He was lifting her out of the bed when she was too weak to do it herself.
Then, earlier this week I saw my dad crack jokes and her beg him to stop. “Stop making me laugh! It hurts,” she said through her uncontrollable giggles. My mom always laughs at my dad’s jokes.
I saw my worrywart dad hound my mom about taking it easy and eating (he plied her with chocolate every chance he could get and she, the chocoholic, did not resist). When my dad told her to stop walking around and go take nap, my mom rolled her eyes at him, but I knew she appreciated his vigilant care.
Seeing them interact during my mom’s recovery reiterated what they’ve taught me all along about marriage. Throughout the years, I’ve seen my parents’ affection for one another. I’ve also seen them fight and then later reconcile and forgive. I’ve watched them laugh and kiss and tease one another. I’ve seen them support one another during rough patches. I’ve heard them pray together. I’ve witnessed them make their marriage a priority.
Because of Mom and Dad’s commitment to one another and to marriage, I learned early on that how you feel when you’re in love means very little to the other person. Your feelings are about you when marriage is ultimately about making someone else happy. It’s what you do that matters to the person you’re in love with. And what my parents have done is simple: They have renewed their vows over and over. They have made a daily “I do” to one another. I do love you despite all of your imperfections. I do want to serve you even when I’m tired or worried or stressed out. I do care about you and I’m going to try to prove it to you with my actions even when I don’t feel like it. I do love you and I always will no matter what. I do forever.
Mom and Dad, thanks for helping to teach me what marriage is all about. Happy, happy anniversary!