Lessons from the Last 20 Years

Gratitude Day 502

Wed., Aug. 26, 2020

John 15:9– (Jesus said,) “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love.”

Twenty years ago.

The day began with an early morning storm. While I sat in a chair at the beauty salon, rain gushed down city streets. Wind caused an electrical outage in some sections of town, including the location of our reception.

Minutes before the ceremony began, it was discovered that my soon-to-be mother-in-law forgot to make the requested communion bread. Fortunately, my sister Denise had a couple uneaten small buttered buns that were intended to be pre-wedding ham sandwiches for her kids. They became our communion bread.

Just eight months out since Hubby Rick’s eldest son had been killed in a snowmobiling accident, emotions were still raw with grief. Yet, this tragedy also convinced Rick and I that if something was important to us, we should not wait.

And so, we didn’t.

Twenty years ago today, Hubby Rick and I were married in the small church that had always been his family’s church. Fourteen months earlier, I began serving this church as their pastor, which is where Rick and I met. Months later, we joined hands and shared vows in front of family and close friends and began our lives together as husband and wife.

Fast forward 20 years later, and we remain convinced that God brought the two of us together as much now as we did on our wedding day. How else would a single gal end up serving a church with an available man who also served as the Ad Council chair? Little did I know when I met with members from the two churches that I would serve in my first clergy appointment, those present included my future husband as well as my future in-laws.

While attending seminary, I sat through a pre-marriage counseling class in the months before our wedding. Rick and I completed the strengths and weakness survey the pastor who performed our wedding asked us to complete. We knew that our personalities are as different as oil and water. And so, we felt ready to make the huge decision of choosing each other as our spouse and were confident this was the “right” choice.

Yet even all of this preparation didn’t prepare me for marriage. As a person who has performed north of 150 weddings, I know the honest truth when I say that weddings and marriages are not the same thing. Yes, a wedding is required for a marriage. But the much more difficult challenges of living a marriage day-to-day pale in comparison to the decisions made for a wedding day. No amount of preparation can be adequate for the special circumstances that will arise in a couple’s marriage.

In marriage, I have experienced the truest depth of joy and happiness I have ever experienced. Likewise, I have felt the deepest level of disappointment and sadness because of circumstances that arose as a result of situations from being married. I constantly remind myself that if I want to experience the greatest joy life can offer, I must accept the grief and sorrow that tags along. Often, these situations are not a direct result of a decision made by Hubby Rick or me. They are simply part of what happens when two people choose to marry and spend their lives together.

There are so many, many things that I value and thoroughly appreciate about the person who is my husband. When I’ve been asked to serve various churches and we’ve been required to move into new towns and locations, he’s made the most of every one of those moves. He’s been patient when I’ve had to cancel a vacation because of a funeral or waited until after 9 PM to eat too many meals because I had a night meeting that ran long. He’s fixed so many things at the church buildings, helped with worship countless times, provided constructive critique about my messages (whether I wanted to hear it or not) and attended thousands of church functions as a way to support the churches and their pastor.

When I felt called to step away from pastoral ministry and pursue other callings, he whole-heartedly agreed and challenged me to pursue my dreams. I have lost count of the number of remodeling projects he’s completed at every house where we have lived a long time ago. And when I wanted to run one last half-marathon, he trained for it and we crossed the finish line together.

It’s not always comfortable for him when I share something that has happened in our lives either in a message, a blog or as a teachable moment. Yet, he also admits that he provides me with an unending amount of material.

If I were asked what the most important quality is that Rick brings into my life, I know my answer: his unconditional love for me. Spouses are encouraged by God to love each other the way God loves all of us: with a deep unconditional love that has no beginning nor no end. The Greek word is agape. Agape love is rooted in faithfulness, commitment and is an act that a person chooses to make. It’s much deeper and bolder than our English definition of love. I know that God is the only One who can fulfill the complete definition of agape love in my life. But Rick comes in as close second as any human being can.

I was into my 30’s when I married. Rick was well into his 40’s. We didn’t have to get married. We chose to make this commitment to each other. It’s a choice that we continue to make EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. OF. OUR. LIVES. What’s the secret to a marriage? Continuing to make this choice. Every day. On good days. On challenging days. On days that never end as well as on those days you pray never end. On the days when your spouse drives you crazy as well as on the days your spouse thinks you are crazy. On the days filled with unmeasurable grief and sadness as well as on the days in which the joy and happiness cannot be contained.

As long as Hubby Rick and I remain in God’s love and see this as the source of our love for each other, we’re committed to making this choice until one of us is no longer here on this earth. For me, this IS the secret to marriage. Nothing more. Nothing less. Thanks be to God I have a spouse who makes the choice to unconditionally love me daily, warts and all. And who is as committed to choosing me as I am to choosing him.  

For the gift of Hubby Rick’s unconditional love and place in my life, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – What began 20 years ago at a service where we committed ourselves to You and each other, Hubby Rick and I celebrate today. Thank you for bringing us together and being with us as we experience married life together. I pray we see You as the glue that holds us together today and every day going forward. Amen.  

Join us for a special edition of Devos With Dianne tonight. Hubby Rick will be joining in! 8 PM Central Time on Facebook Live.

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