Last Sunday night, 30 couples gathered in our church fellowship hall for a Valentine’s Banquet. It is an annual tradition at Antioch, and every year we laugh, eat, dance and hear encouragement from a few of the couples about love and marriage. The theme this year was “Lasting Love,” and we celebrated the longest marriage among us — 47 years — the two most recent marriages — just 15 months old — and everyone in between. If we added all of the years of marriage together, from their anniversaries coming up this year, there was 655 years of experience in the room that night. That’s a long time to love together, and several thoughts come to my mind about that.
First, every one of those marriages is on solid ground because of their relationships with God. They all have their struggles, but they are all growing in love for Him and for one another. We played a game where we had to match up the 30 couples with their wedding date and their honeymoon location. The ones who just visited the mountains for a few days are as happily married as those who traveled to distant and exotic lands. One couple, married 45 years in 2015, said they honeymooned at their little house. Another, married 37 years, said they spent their honeymoon driving straight through from Florida to Utah, along with a new puppy, and the groom’s brother. OK! One traveled in three states, visiting artists and art museums. Some were sick on their honeymoons the whole time, others had traveling difficulties and at least one of us was just kicking a 10-year nicotine habit. Cindy told me about 30 days before we were married in June of 1982, “I need for you to choose between cigarettes and me.” I chose wisely, to quote from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” and went cold turkey in May. However, there were some tense moments on our honeymoon, as I recall. Once we were walking from our hotel in Charleston, S.C. to see some sights or go to dinner and had an argument. She turned around to go back to the hotel and I kept going. Foolish boy. But love prevailed and we survived my selfishness.
The second thing I saw last Sunday is that every one of those marriages is blessed with growing wisdom. One young couple has been married for 12 years and he was a submariner in the Navy for most of that time. All together, he missed two years of their marriage. They learned to not be as sentimental about birthdays and anniversaries, because he missed a lot of them, and even missed the birth of a child. They practiced celebrating the time they did have together, not resenting the time they had to be apart.
The third thing I noticed was that every one of those marriages is filled with joy. There is no one in that group, as far as I know, who is simply enduring a life together. One couple that has been married for nearly 35 years met at Liberty University. He told us last Sunday that he was wearing a green leisure suit and white patent leather shoes when they met. She laughed then and they are still laughing today. She confessed that he is her best friend and she would rather be with him than anyone.
Try as it might, the world can’t improve on God’s plan. He said, “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” I know at least 30 couples that would say amen to that.