See this truly innocent, frightfully young, love-blinded couple?
It’s Friday night, August 22nd 1975
and they have no clue.
Well they have an idea, but that’s about it. The idea they have is that their meeting, which led to these holy vows, is all part of a giant conspiracy and that somehow they are destined for something but at the moment- exactly what- is beyond their capacity to grasp…
They hope they might do some good in the world for God.
It may be a long shot.
These are strong-willed- slightly rebellious types-
Jesus People to the core.
He is a partially reformed hippie.
She is good girl from a dysfunctional family.
They are both firstborns.
They’ve known each other one year. He popped the question-suddenly- New Years Eve - week 8 of their relationship. They were eating a steak dinner at the picnic table on the back porch of her parent’s house. He had no ring. Had not come planning to ask. But with his steak half eaten, he’s overcome and bursts out, “I’m sorry. I just gotta ask…Will you marry me?!”
On the first date she knew.
They’re students with part time jobs. They’ve scraped together 900.00 for dresses, tuxes, invitations, flowers, rings, photography. What the photos don’t show: the Church Ladies have made the bride’s dress and the essentials for the simple, old fashioned, Southern, stand up, Fellowship Hall reception- cake, punch, egg salad sandwiches and all. They are Baptist-so no DJ -but there is a nice pianist in the corner playing something considered appropriate.
It’s no frills.
In the months leading up to this they’ve interviewed mature, Christ-following couples in their church with solid, happy marriages. They take notes. They say up front divorce will never be an option. They have promised never to use the word -even jokingly. It’s the long haul or not at all. They read marriage books, study the Bible and pray together out loud. They believe they have what it takes.
They’re going to need it.
They say anyone can tie cans to the back of a car that reads “ Just Married.” They want their getaway to make a statement about the kind of people they are and the life they plan to live. So a helicopter drops out of the sky onto the 13th green of the golf course just across the street.
Here the bride is discovering there are no doors on the helicopter. Another cost cutting measure? Is this a sign?
As they fly into the night they have no idea that next year, along with deep, life long friends, world-class mentors and 4 am discipleship groups, poverty waits. At seminary there will be times they have no food except oranges someone leaves in a bag on their porch or money someone slides under the door.
But they’re eating wedding cake now
In the blink of 2 years they will bring into the world
the first of what will- in 9 years -be three baby boys.
And in hopes of instilling a strong spiritual destiny
they name them after mighty biblical heroes.
Among other things they don’t know tonight
is in 4 years together they’ll be called to a country they’ve never see to plant a church in an school gym with 5 couples they’ve never met. Surrey, British Columbia. As far as the east is from the west. This will turn out to be one of the most defining seasons of their lives- eternally marked by enormous amounts of leadership, faith and steadfastness required to see several hundred people come to Jesus and form what will become Village Hills Baptist Church.
Nor do they know their hearts will shatter when they’re uprooted after 4 yrs there by a crystal clear call to go home. They will sob, grieve and argue with each other for months over this. Yet there’s no denying the Voice. They will leave the people they’ve love like family- pack their 2 pre-schoolers & a two week old in a 1983 Chevette and drive to Orlando.
If they really knew on this day ALL that would be required of them
they might have declined to go.
But they cannot know--
and surrendered they go to ultimately carry the burden and blessing for what will over two decades become thousands of lives before God, hundreds of staff, several facilities –preaching the Good News of Jesus, leading the people of Discovery Church-- in season and out—by the truth of His Word and the power HIs Voice year after year after year.
This joyous night
there’s no comprehension of the trials that will send them to their knees. A newborn’s cancer, financial crisis, friendship implosions, funerals of both their mothers, ministry disasters that become legend
Oh and they will have more than their share of side splitting laughter, unbridled happiness and crazy love –they will comment on the undeserved richness of their lot almost every day.
But there will also be arguments some lasting for days, a few smoldering for weeks.
They ‘re on the same page right now
but she doesn’t know he’ll easily get bored, itching to change things particularly in the church and he doesn’t know she brings to the altar a debilitating fear of such changes that will surface at almost every critical transition he wants to make. He’ll say she’s holding him back, she’ll think he’s hasty, needs more facts.
She will be late…a lot.
He will -at times-speak without thinking, say things in public for shock value
He’s a maverick, a loose canon.
She’s insecure, sensitive.
They’re backgrounds are night and day.
Some wedding guests don’t give them much chance.
But the vows they’re making anchor double deep.
And they will love each other passionately.
And serve God in their generation.
Though clueless about them now, the three sons
born to them will bring the greatest joy
they’ll ever know, the deepest satisfaction and at times the most acute pain.
They will love these boys fiercely, train them faithfully and fail them humanly. But today they’re planning to make the best family possible by the grace of God. What they can’t know now is when it’s all said and done it will indeed be a mighty good one. And in time the boys will have weddings themselves and with great joy and a little trepidation they’ll expand the circle to include their godly wives and then the six remarkable grandkids they will give them.
This young, idealistic couple would laugh and cry
till they ache
if on this night you tell them
one day they will be
married for 35 YEARS (!)
live in two countries, three states, four apartments, one townhouse, six homes – travel to or teach leaders in over 25 countries, write books, he will nearly drown in the Zambezi River, she will lead worship for thousands, he will preach to hundreds of thousands, take off and land on an aircraft carrier , they will own something called personal computers, snow ski, wakeboard, sail, hike in Alaska, be on television, radio and something called the Internet, take movies of their grandkids on something called a cell phone--and literally walk where Jesus walked…
12,701 days they will be one
Jesus Christ -their Lord- the One
they are surrendering this
as yet unknown marriage , family and mission to
will have faithfully carried them all the way
Ah, if only they knew.
How much bigger might they dream?
How much fuller might they trust?
How much deeper might they love?
And now- for the 35th consecutive year…
husband of my youth…
oh Captain my Captain…
in the presence of God our Father and these witnesses…
I pledge my heart to you alone….
for as long as we both have to live.
This is a big one.
Happy Anniversary, Honey!
You make my heart sing!