I have a confession to make.
I didn’t know what I was doing on June 11, 1991 when I asked you to marry me. I hadn’t thought things through. I didn’t consult a list to see if you “checked all the boxes”, or consider how I was going to support us. I just knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. I also had no clue about the sacred covenant I was entering into on January 11, 1992 when I took you as my wife. All I knew was that I loved you and I would never stop.
Normally on occasions like this, our 26th anniversary, I wax romantic and talk about what an incredible wife and mom you are; brave, beautiful, bold, brilliant. And, while those things are even truer today than the last time I said them, the topic that has most captured my attention this anniversary is the marriage itself.
Considering my confession above about entering into this thing ignorant and unprepared, how did we rate the good fortune of such a beautiful union? It’s tempting to write it off as an impetuous decision of youth that turned out lucky. We were a just couple of flawed kids who dug each other and wanted to give it a go. But, as I think about these past 26 years and marvel at the strength and beauty of our marriage it’s glaringly obvious that it could not be the product of dumb luck. Luck might account for finding a $100 bill on the sidewalk, but it can’t account for a vibrant relationship that has lasted more than a quarter of a century.
So how did we get here? We didn’t much prepare for it, and we haven’t worked all that hard at it along the way, either. Sure, we’ve invested a lot of time and effort over the years. But that came from a place of love and gratitude rather than sacrifice and struggle, so it didn’t feel like hard work to me. We’ve never had to muscle through tenuous times as a man and woman, reminding ourselves of the importance of staying together. We may have had struggles in other areas—with our finances, our businesses, our music, our kids—but never with each other. There’s never been a time when our marriage was on the ropes, much less on the rocks.
So, why us? How did we end up doing so well? Maybe it’s because of my uncanny husband instincts and your finely honed wife skills. Or maybe it’s because I have the patience of a saint, and you have the wisdom of a queen. Ha! No, the truth is that our marriage is not great because we are great, but because God is great. Before we had any idea what we were doing God chose, in His grace, for reasons that are His alone, to bless us with this gift. I’m convinced that just like God’s love, this marriage is not something we earned, it’s something we were given. He drew us together, then drew us to Himself.
Because God, and not our own efforts, has made this union strong we can’t boast about it. And because it was made for His glory, not ours, we can’t take it lightly. All we did was decide early on—when our faith was weak, and our walk unsure—to let Him into our lives. And He gave us the gift of a beautiful marriage from which so many blessings have emerged, not the least of which is our two marvelous daughters. The world offers happiness and pleasure for a moment. But it’s void of real meaning and unable to satisfy. By the grace of God our marriage has brought us steadfast joy, rather than fleeting happiness. It’s become a safe place where we can be vulnerable; a sanctuary where we can grow, love, grieve, heal, and celebrate together.
How astonishing to realize that today, 26 years later, you are every bit as committed and devoted to me as I am to you. We have come to see each other through the eyes of Christ. Which is not to say we are perfect. Far from it. Over the years we’ve argued, gone through seasons of closeness and seasons where we need space, made mistakes, said things we shouldn’t. But despite our flaws, because of our commitment to each other, through the faith God has given us, you and I have enjoyed the comfort of knowing that we are ultimately loved, forgiven, and accepted by one another. This is Christ in us.
Today I’m a little wiser and more mature than when we met. I know you a whole lot better than I did back then, and I’ve finally begun to understand the weighty sacredness of holy matrimony. From this vantage point, knowing what I know now, I would marry you again in a heartbeat. You are still my brave, beautiful bride. I still love you with the passionate abandon of youth. But now that love has deepened and matured; and it’s become even more real.
I am so thankful to God for 26 amazing years at your side. And I’m praying that in His boundless grace we’ve got at least another 40 to go.
Happy Anniversary, Debbie Doll.
(Author’s note: The large image at the top of this article is the Minneapolis park bench where I first proposed to Deb in 1992. We visited the same spot 24 years later where our oldest daughter Sami took this photo.)