It was a hot June day in central Illinois 39 years ago when standing at the church altar we repeated vows and made promises and a commitment that are still in place to this day. Like many people before and after us we made promises that we did not fully understand and we would experience challenges that we could not comprehend fully that summer afternoon. Looking back on that day and reflecting on the goodness of God I truly am overwhelmed with His love, protection and grace.
Susanne and I met at Olivet Nazarene University. After graduation I went to Seminary and she went back to her home town to teach. After the wedding she moved with me to Kansas City Missouri and I finished Seminary. We have had the same kinds of experiences that you have had, some wonderful, some valleys and lot of things in between. As I reflect on the last 39 years here are some of the lessons:
- Commitment is the foundation for life. Some see commitments as restrictive, I would see commitment as the opposite, in fact I see it as essential, without which much of life does not work well. Commitments give your life boundaries, meaning and direction. Making a commitment takes the guess work out of life. I stood at an altar and pledged to God, my beloved and our family and friends that I was in this for life. Because of that public commitment many decisions were made for me and I never had to revisit the subject. There was no other option, we were committed. This kind of commitment does not mean there are no conflicts, differences of opinion or troubles. What it does mean is that you are committed to the hard work of making your life together result in a marriage that honors God and each other.
- God has to be at the center. Our values were similar, we both wanted to have a Christian marriage and home and we were committed to God and to each other. Nothing good can be built in life without a strong foundation. For us our faith was at the center. Again, this does not mean there was never a conflict or disagreement. What it does mean is that you are committed to God and to each other, regardless of the circumstances.
- We are partners and friends. We come from different but similar backgrounds, our personalities and likes and dislikes are somewhat different. Because of this we have added immense value to each others lives. I cannot imagine having done life with anyone but her and if I had to choose again, I would absolutely choose Susanne!
- Growing older is a good thing. When I was young I thought old people (anyone over 40) had little to offer. I find I am doing some of the best work of my life in this season. You can not replicate or buy experience it comes from graduating from the University of Hard Knocks. Susanne received a call to full-time chaplaincy at a chaplains conference in Colorado in 2003. For the next 16 years she went back to school, graduated from the Course of Study in our denomination. Received a local, and district ministers license, was a volunteer staff member at two churches. and then was ordained. She was a volunteer at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan and took Clinical Pastoral Education units in Michigan and in downtown Indianapolis. She earned a Masters Degree, was endorsed by the Church of the Nazarene as a chaplain, and then this summer met the requirements and passed the interview process and has become a board certified chaplain. It is never too late to follow God’s dream for your life. Do not use age as an excuse
- Love grows or dies. What began in the early days as romance has developed into a deep and satisfying relationship built on trust, appreciation, commitment and yes romance. Samuel Logan Brengle said that” it is the nature of a fire to go out.” Therefore the fire must be tended. Just as a fire will die from neglect, so will love. That must be why we say “kindle the romance.” Life comes at us in realtime. Everyone gets busy and distracted. Do not neglect your spouse. Tend the home fires! I can honestly and without reservation say I love my wife more today than I did 39 years ago.
- If you are loved, you are a blessed person. When you love someone and they love you. You pretty much have most of what you need in life.
Susanne is the love of my life. It is been a happy 39 years. I quote Robert Browning’s words, that when I was young I thought were odd, seem to make more sense to me everyday