Yesterday was my 18th wedding anniversary. At this moment 18 years ago Kristi and I were in San Francisco enjoying our honeymoon. It was fun but I look back now and think what a kid I was, even though I was a married adult in the eyes of the Church and the State of Tennessee. 18 years of marriage has not been easy. In fact, if someone had done a social history of my life on March 3, 1994 and made an objective hypothesis about whether or not the marriage would last, the most likely answer would have been, “Hell no!”
Here are the facts: My biological parents divorced when I was five years old; both of my biological parents experienced a total of eight (yes, 8!) marriages between them; I experienced childhood trauma in the form of abuse and neglect; I moved so often as a child that I cannot remember all of the schools I attended, nor do I have a memory of childhood friendships…to this day long term memory is hard for me to possess; chaos and loss of familial relationships marked my childhood. (I have biological family on my mother’s and father’s sides of the family scattered all around the USA – none of whom I have a relationship with). The odds were NOT in my favor.
Yet, here are the other facts: Married to the same woman for 18 years; father of 3 amazing children; residing in a fantastic city with my brother, his wife, and daughter (I literally cried last year when my brother called me because my niece Caroline wanted to talk to me and tell me that she loved me); wonderful in-laws in LaVergne who know both my strengths and weaknesses as a husband, yet love me and are incredibly supportive; a niece whom they are raising who is a living embodiment of God’s grace; a mother in law in West Virginia whom I love, who loves me, and makes the best damn gravy and biscuits in the world; and more friends than I can cram into our house for a Super Bowl party!
Why would the hypothesis be wrong? Because the social history did not take into account one glaring reality…God. That is the only thing I can surmise. I KNOW that God has marked my life. From Abraham to David to Peter to Paul, God has been in the business of taking damaged goods and making something beautiful out of it. I have been blessed these 18 years to learn to know what love is. I thought I knew love when I said “I do” at College Hill Church of the Nazarene (and, yes, I’ll admit it to those of you who were there, we had way too many prayers in the ceremony!) I was wrong. I did not know love until Kristi and I walked this road together, through the financial, relational, and spiritual ups and downs. Through it all we have made a life together…wait, that is not correct, through it all, we have been willing to be open to receiving a life together from God. As one of my favorite theologians said, love is not the prerequisite for marriage; marriage is the proving ground for learning what true love really is. I have been a glad participant in that proving ground for 18 years.
Yesterday on our anniversary date, we stopped at Home Depot to pick up a thermostat for our hot water heater. That is what 18 years of marriage gets you – a date with my wife to go to Home Depot to get a part to fix the hot water heater. 18 years ago, I did not know what a hot water heater looked like, let alone how to diagnose a problem with it. Today, I can buy a thermostat with Kristi beside me, enjoy our date, go home, and install the damn thing so that she and the kids have hot water to get ready for Sunday church. That is love and marriage. That is why I am the luckiest (most blessed?) guy in the world. My experience is that God doesn’t play the odds…he stacks the game in his favor in order to win and that “stacking the game” is what we Christians call “grace”. And that is why I cannot be sufficiently grateful to God for what he has done in my life these past 18 years and counting.