50 Years!

50-yearsNot that I have not done it before, but today, the 50th anniversary of when Ruth and I looked into one another’s eyes and said softly but confidently, “I do take thee.. come what may.”, I will try to consolidate some of what God has shown me throughout our marriage.

I remember as a 19 year old, before Ruth and I began our relationship, that I prayed, “Lord, I want a Proverbs 31 Wife- one whose worth is far more than rubies…whose husband can have full confidence in her… who brings him good, not harm all the days of her life.” The Lord showed me later that the real problem is not in finding such a rare wife but rather the real challenge is in being the kind of husband who allows those kind of virtues to develop.

And God answered my prayer and gave me Ruth who fits the Proverbs 31 description perfectly. The end of this passage in Proverbs 31:10-31 states, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her.” Sometimes at the end of a meal I would say to the children, “Let us practice Proverbs 31.” At that point we would all stand up and say to Ruth, “You are Blessed.” She would always wave us down at this point, protesting that she did not want the fanfare.

I used to think if I could be a psychiatrist and pastor I would be able to be a good husband and father. But I discovered that neither of these roles made me a good partner. In fact she might have said “ Do not analyze me or do not preach to me. “ Actually I do not recall her saying either of these things for I learned early on that my role was to be by her side and not to attempt to be her therapist or her pastor. I discovered that what made our love blossom in our courtship was also required to make it continue to grow and prosper. And that was simply the gift of being present to one another; to listen carefully and lovingly and to respond always with love and concern. I recall thinking that for money I would give my clients my undivided attention for an hour. I would allow no interruptions;. I would allow no regrets from the past or anxieties about the future to intrude. I would listen as well as I knew how and I would respond in the most helpful way possible. But sometimes for the one I loved the most, I would fail to give what I gave my clients.

It never occurred to me that Ruth might at some time divorce me or that at some point I might want to divorce her. Rather our commitment was absolute and for a lifetime. Ruth’s love and commitment created a safe place for me to continue my journey of maturing. When we married I was 21 and Ruth was age 22. I did not know myself and I had a lot of blindspots. Ruth believed in me and loved me. This allowed me to take risks. And by taking risks I was able to learn and to mature. I always believed Ruth to be wise and capable; so if she affirmed me, I could more confidently take the risks of expressing myself outside of our safe relationship. If my feelings were hurt in the process of expressing myself in the marketplaces of life, I always knew that I could count on Ruth for comfort and affirmation. Her words were more important to me than an anti- anxiety or anti-depressant medication. Her words comforted and healed and encouraged me forward.

Although our relationship was secure, I learned not to take it for granted. I learned that I needed God’s grace and reminders to be present to Ruth and not to be so busy with everyone else that I had no time with her. If I was away, I called her at least once and usually twice a day, be if from Africa or India or from the nearby prison where I might be putting in a long day at work. And we both were careful to protect one another’s feelings in the public arena. I would never make Ruth the subject of a joke to my friends. And we kept short accounts. If either of us were even mildly offended by something the other had said or done, we quickly resolved it and came into peace with one another, “before the sun went down.”

And today as I reflected on our marriage, I realized that we have throughout the years practiced, Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” God has made it very simple to experience His favor and blessing. If only two people come into agreement with Him and with each other, God will answer their prayers. So, as husband and wife, Ruth and I were always the “two of you on earth” coming into agreement about everything: our children, our grandchildren, our finances, our purchases, or giving, our work, our travel. And we always did this with the foundational awareness that what we were agreeing on was what God was wanting to do.

So today we celebrate the faithfulness of the Lord. He has done what He said He would do. He has given us a blessed marriage, a blessed family, a blessed church, blessed friends and even blessed enemies.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

And in conclusion we place God’s blessing on you our friends (Numbers 6:24-27, The Message) : “God bless you and keep you, God smile on you and gift you, God look you full in the face and make you prosper.”

And God promises that when this blessing is placed on His people by their elders, “I will confirm it by blessing them.”

So expect a blessing!

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