Today Christi and I celebrate 22 years of marriage. We’ve been married almost half my life, as she pointed out to me this morning. Someone said we make marriage look easy. What may look easy is the end result of a lot of love, forgiveness, patience, and endurance. Love is only easy in fairy tales. Our life together has been no fairy tale.
We got married in a historic train depot and had the reception on its deck. The day of the wedding terrible thunder storms moved through spawning deadly tornadoes. One almost blew Christi’s grandparents’ car off the road as they made their way to the wedding. It knocked the power out. We ended up getting married by candle light and using a battery powered boom box for music in the sweltering heat and muggy humidity of eastern, NC. That day we made the best of a less than ideal situation. It sort of set the pattern for the rest of our lives together.
Two years later we were both poor college students and working in retail. We had our first child, Grace, in the second semester of a Master’s program I was in at East Carolina, which I completed the following year. A couple of weeks later we learned that my father had cancer and our Grace had hip displaysia. Both would require major surgeries within a few weeks of each other. We had to move back to my home area beforehand to be there for my parents.
We moved in next to my parents shortly after my father had a laryngectomy and was still recovering only to discover there was no running water at our house or theirs. This was just a couple of weeks before our 17 month old daughter was scheduled to have hip surgery. Thanks to some good neighbors we were able to figure out a temporary solution to the water problem that got us by for a while. Like a lot of other things, it was less than ideal.
The next year, June 2003, Christi gave birth to our second child, our son, Ian. It was after this that postpartum depression and incredibly difficult circumstances took its toll on Christi. It was far from ideal. She would battle clinical depression for years to come. Regretfully, I often didn’t handle it very well. At times I was selfish rather than self-sacrificial, resentful rather than forgiving, callous rather than compassionate. At times we both treated each other badly.
Over the nest decade we would have many, many joyous moments, miraculous moments even, but not without hardship. In December of 2005 Anna was born but stillborn until being revived about 10 minutes after delivery by emergency C-section. She not only survived but has thrived by far exceeding the early prognoses of doctors. In 2008 I took a salary of less than half of what I had been making in the business world to pastor a small country church. I also became a full-time divinity school student at Duke. It was wonderful in many ways, but all less than ideal, especially after my mother, for whom I am an only child, developed concerning health issues.
In 2012 I completed my MDiv studies. Just a few weeks before finals Christi had to be hospitalized for a couple of weeks. After graduation we had to prepare for another move. In 2012 we moved to another church that was going through a major financial crisis. And I not only had to move my family, I had also had to find an affordable apartment for my mother and move her too. It was all far less than ideal.
By 2013 it looked like Christi had been finally delivered from depression. In September that year Silas was born. In June of 2015, Catherine was born. In 2016 we moved to another church, and also had to move my mother into another apartment near by. In June of 2018 Benjamin was born. It was all so wonderful, but still less than ideal. By February of 2019 it became evident that my mother would no longer be able to live on her own. I had to stay with her for several weeks before getting her moved into an assisted living facility because of dementia while in the middle of the busiest semester of my DMin program . Today we celebrate our anniversary and await the arrival of our seventh child (another one in June!) in the midst of the uncertainty due to a pandemic and the economic calamity that has ensued. It’s all far less than ideal, but it’s still wonderful.
It’s wonderful because I get to share this less than ideal life with the wonderful, even if less than ideal, woman with which God has blessed me. She is still my wonder woman! We have learned through the years that less than ideal in this world is all we can expect, including from each other. Yet we enjoy the good things in life and each other because of a love that has endured, because we committed to endure together. The hope of God’s ideal world gives us the strength to make the best of what we have now, knowing that “for those who love God all all things work together for good, . . . ” (Rom 8:28 ESV).
Sometimes people miss out on the really good things, the God things, in life because they’re not willing to patiently endure through that which is less than ideal. The marriage that lasts is built on love that endures through a life that is far from easy.
I am far from the ideal husband; Christi is less than the ideal wife. But our life together is still wonderful, even if it has been less than ideal.