Saturday, September 17, 2011

In Celebration of 30 Years...

It’s been a big month for my parents. Several weeks ago, they returned home from a long road-trip to drop my sister off for her first year at Wheaton. When they returned home, they were empty nesters—it was just the two of them for the first time since 1986.

On Monday, they will celebrate another milestone—30 years of marriage. It will be a quiet day, in all likelihood. With my sister in Chicago, my brother in Denver and myself in Tokyo, there are no big parties in the works… at least not planned by the three of us. So I write this as my personal celebration of my parents’ marriage, a long-overdue thank-you note.

As long as I’ve lived, there has never been a single doubt in my mind of my parents’ love and commitment to each other. For most of my childhood, I simply took this for granted. This was just the way things were, and it never once crossed my mind that there could be any other way.

When I grew a little older, I began to observe just how many of my peers came from homes where this was not the case. I got to know people who came from homes where the parents constantly fought… homes where one parent had been abusive to the other… homes that had been torn apart by divorce… homes where the parents had been unfaithful to each other. As I realized just how fragile marriage could be, how lightly the bonds could be taken, I became all the more grateful for my parents.

It’s not an absence of trials that makes a strong marriage, but rather the response to those trials. My parents are both busy people—demanding jobs that seem to generate more stress than joy at times. My mom has spent most of her marriage to my dad raising horses, and I know that this was not the life my dad envisioned for himself… definitely it has been a source of disagreement with my mom on occasion. I know that my dad can occasionally be grouchy, and not at all easy to talk to when he’s in a bad mood. I know that my mom can be opinionated, sometimes even stubborn.

I say these things not to be critical (I see some of these traits in myself), but to establish the point that my parents are human and their marriage is not the result of some mysterious lack of faults or challenges on their part. As I mentioned, it’s the response to trials and challenges that determines a successful marriage. My parents both understand that marriage needs to be based on a foundation of faith—rooted in relationship with God.

They understood this, though almost certainly on a much more superficial level, 30 years ago when they exchanged their vows, and have learned this truth more deeply and more fully every day since then. Their marriage has been a partnership in the truest sense of the word: a partnership to know the goodness and grace of God more fully; a partnership to raise children to know the goodness and grace of God; a partnership to support and serve their church through time, money and effort; a partnership to nurture and encourage each other’s gifts and interests; a partnership to support and care for friends and family. Through all of these tasks, my parents have striven to be thoughtful and reflective, to truly make their Lord the center of their lives and decisions.

Only now that I have started life as an independent adult do I fully understand just how difficult this is. To truly serve, whether it be serving each other, friends, family or the church, a husband and wife must be selfless and find their identity in Christ. I am thankful for my parents’ selflessness, for their near-constant service, and for the wonderful example of marriage that they’ve given to my siblings and me during our lives with them. Though it must be somewhat lonely to become empty-nesters, to establish a new routine that doesn’t include their children on a day-to-day basis, I am glad that my parents will have time as a couple once again. I’m eager to watch and see the new ways that they will find to serve those around them with the extra time and mobility that an empty nest now brings them.

So, to my parents—congratulations on 30 years of marriage. Thank you for your wisdom in communicating with each other, in making decisions and in working through trials. Thank you for your undying service to the many people in your lives. Thank you for your faithfulness to each other, and thank you for modeling in your lives with each other the relationship between Christ and his church. Surely your marriage has been a “first-fruit”, an encouragement and blessing to all who have known you.

I hope and pray that my future wife and I can be so wise, so selfless and so faithful—I’m eternally grateful that I know what a good marriage looks like, having been blessed with the two of you as parents, and I wish you many more years in partnership with each other, in Christ.

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