Looking through an old notebook I’d used for wedding planning when some of our kids were married, I was stunned when I came across a yellow sheet of paper I had forgotten about. It was a letter I had hand-written to my three children long ago, when they were very young:
May 9, 1983
Dear Joel, Justin and Sarah,
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. How can I possibly convey to you the awesome fulfillment that each of you has blessed me with in my being your mother? I love each of you so deeply. God has blessed your Daddy and me with three very individual, wonderful gifts.
Joel, you made me a card. Two, actually. And a ceramic plate with your handprint on it. You and Justin made me special flower pictures. And Sarah, well, you kept me busy diverting your attention away from the things that fascinate year-old toddlers. And Daddy wrote me a letter– a beautiful, long letter– sharing his love, appreciation, thoughts and feelings. What a wonderful man!
It occurred to me that it’s the most meaningful of the many letters he’s ever written. Deeper, and more exciting even than the love letters he wrote nine years ago when we waited for our wedding day. Deeper, because after nine years, our friendship is greater than ever before, because the hopes, desires, and goals we shared are what we hold together now. We have shared experiences that have served to bind our hearts and minds into “one.”
I don’t take this lightly. I treasure what we have! It’s the awesome result of trusting the Lord and each other, and being so committed to seeing the BEST fulfilled in each other that we’re willing to struggle, if necessary, for it.
It reminded me of the cruise we went on several years ago. When we headed out of Miami, everybody on board eagerly awaited the pleasure of what was ahead. Nobody anticipated seasickness! But very soon, we came into an unsteady current that was necessary to cross so we could get to the smooth water of the Caribbean. It only lasted a few hours, but the only ones who were unaffected by it were the crew members who had weathered the current many times before and mastered their sea-legs.
In a similar way, very few people enter marriage anticipating the “currents” that are bound to happen. They think theirs will be the one without frustrations or adjustments. But currents will come.
The good, good news, however, is that the rough currents will always come to an end if you wait it out without jumping ship or turning back. And the “smooth sailing” will be an experience far, far surpassing any good thing you can ask for or imagine! There will always be currents of course, and in fact some storms at sea. But you’ll have developed sea legs by then, and you’ll get through with a growing, amazing appreciation and even deeper love for each other.
I hope that by the time you read this, society’s view of marriage will be different, and better. Always remember: our hope is in God. Marriage doesn’t really make a lot of sense without Him, but in Him, it’s the highest fulfillment of the joy of earthly relationships, the pattern that shows us the way we ought to live, leading us into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, and it’s the tool He uses to form the character of Christ in us.
My great hope is that each of you will find and experience that truly awesome provision that God has for each of you that is “exceeding, abundantly above all that we can ask or think about, according to the power that is at work in us!”
I love you all so deeply!
Twenty years to the day after I wrote that letter, on May 10, 2003, we were gathering to celebrate our daughter’s wedding, several months later our son Joel’s, and several years later, Justin’s. In a beautiful stone chapel on the edge of the Cascade Mountains on Joel’s wedding day, I listened to their pastor, Dean Hellekson, speak to him and his beautiful bride, Rachel:
“Joel, in this union, you are representing Christ. Just as Christ gave Himself up for the Church, so you must also give yourself up for Rachel… Joel, with Rachel under your care, she should become more and more beautful with the passing of every season. So may the world look upon how you love her, and see a picture of the Gospel.
Rachel, in this union, you are representing the Church. You are to submit yourself to Joel as the Church does to Christ… Rachel, when you do this, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is made manifest to the world.”
That’s really what marriage is all about.
Dan and I had been married for nine years when I wrote that letter. Now, it’s been almost 37 years that we’ve invested great effort, considerable study, some very hard work, lots of forgiveness, and serious commitment into this idea–marriage– that God came up with. We have not merely “survived intact.” After 37 years of investment, the resulting product has become far too valuable to be careless with. We’ve learned from our many mistakes, and found unbelievable joy from our successes. We’ve laughed together, cried on each other’s shoulders, and together have born great grief as life’s inevitable sorrows came our way. After all this time, our relationship just keeps getting better and better and better. I had no idea it could be this good.
Now, we’re watching our children and their generation reflecting Christ, finding their strength and hope in God as they work their way through the smooth waters as well as the inevitable currents that life brings.
Marriage is a wonderful thing. It really is.
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