I’m amazed that “as long as we both shall live” has turned out to be quite a long time. And so much has changed in the past forty years!
Weeks before we married in 1976, Jim bought his first new car, a Pontiac Sunbird, for approximately $3000. The leaded gasoline for our honeymoon trip cost around 50 cents per-gallon. Months later we bought our first home, a small white stucco house priced at $27,000.
But increases in the cost-of-living aren’t the only big changes. The young bride and groom in our photos hardly look familiar, even to us. And while we’ve transformed both inwardly and outwardly “for better or for worse,” the culture around us has likewise morphed.
The understanding of marriage as the union of a man and woman joined together by God1 has suffered from the effects of radical social changes over four decades. The institution of marriage has taken an unholy trajectory, and Christian families aren’t immune from the fallout.
I appreciate these lines of the song, “Together,” by Stephen Curtis Chapman: We had no way of knowing when/We started way back there and then/How the road would twist and turn and bend/We just knew we belonged together/And if it wasn’t for God’s mercy and His grace/there’s no way we would be standing in this place.2
A fortieth wedding anniversary is now less common than it should be, which is lamentable. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate it, with thanks to God, who ordained marriage and sustains it.
Forty is not fifty—golden. Yet it’s a biblically significant time span. The Israelites spent 40 grueling years in the desert before entering the Promise Land. Three kings later, Solomon enjoyed a glorious 40-year reign over Israel before he died and the nation divided in a hostile divorce. God’s people had gone from poor to rich and from depending on God to trusting in horses and chariots. Marriages can follow a similar track and leave everyone wondering what went wrong.
The Promise Land in marriage might be the golden years, but it still won’t be heaven. As pastor and author Timothy Keller says, “Christian marriages can display a small bit of the joy that awaits us in heaven.”3
And a small bit of heaven is surely something to celebrate.
1See Matthew 19:6; 2from the album, The Glorious Unfolding (2013, Wixen Music Publishing, Inc.); 3from The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller (2015, Viking)
By Blue Ribbon News faith columnist Patti Richter of Heath.
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