As my wife and I walked into the church it was beautifully decorated with candles and flowers, trellises and greenery, lanterns and white linens. It looked like one of the grandest weddings you have ever seen – and it was! There were no newlyweds here, no, not at all. It was a wedding celebration for those who had been married for 50 years or more. And to the surprise of most who attended, it wasn’t just a handful of these faithful saints. There were 80 couples, all members of First Baptist Church, Arlington, TX, who were married for more than 50 years!
That was shocking to me because on a given Sunday morning, I generally see dozens of young couples and children, running around and busy about their Sunday morning worship and Bible study activities. Shocking too, because although I realize we are a First Baptist Church, the congregation is vibrant, growing, progressive, innovative and always open to new and exciting challenges.
As I looked out from the balcony over the 80 couples gathered below and their hundreds of family, friends and well-wishers, I was in awe of God’s goodness and faithfulness.
I told several of the twenty-something guys seated near my wife and me to take careful note.
“What you are seeing tonight you may never see again in your lifetime,” I lamented.
At first they look confused and then I explained.
“Gathered in front of you are people who have followed God’s plan and design for marriage and have been committed to his/her same spouse for over 50 years.”
Such long-enduring marital relationships will be hard to find twenty-five or thirty years from now for many reasons: 1) People are getting married much older than they used to, which means making 50 years together more difficult. 2) Many of the folks married today will not be married to the same person 50 years from now. 3) Beliefs about traditional, God-ordained, heterosexual marriage are shifting rapidly in our culture.
I watched with tears in my eyes as over 4,600 combined years of marriage were standing before me, hand in hand, eyes sparkling with love for each other, as they recited their vows of recommitment to each other and sealed it with a kiss. This is better than a romance novel or a Hallmark after school special. This is real life with real people who have made really hard decisions.
No doubt there were amazing stories of difficulties and dreams realized, triumph and tragedies, and untold perseverance. If only the furrowed brows that marked so many faces could speak of the stories of difficulties and the joys these gathered saints had experienced. I was in the presence of true greatness, not because any of them were famous in man’s eye, but because they were faithful followers of our great God and His plan for marriage. They are my heroes, each and every one. Many had seen wars and fought on foreign soil, but that was not their highest claim to fame in my book. They were heroes and heroines to me because they made a decision to be committed to their husband/wife, to the very end. They were men and women of character and commitment, a rare commodity in today’s world.
I have to admit that I was envious. I want to be married for 50, 60, 70 years! But I’ve only been alive as long as they have been married. And I’ve only been married half as long as they have. But they inspired me!
There were two camera crews from local DFW stations that covered the story and the local newspaper featured it on their front page. But why weren’t the national news channels covering this story? Why aren’t we telling these stories of inspiration and perseverance to the world? Why is an NBA player announcing his sexual preferences more important than 4,600 years of marital commitment? With bombing and saber rattling and rumors of wars abounding, we need some genuine good news, and this was the real deal.
I’m sad for our current generation of young people who will not know of such longevity of relationships, depth of commitments, and personal sacrifices for the good of the one you love. They would do well to take a lesson from this great generation of committed saints.
When one of the ladies was asked, “What’s your secret to staying together?” She quickly answered, “If you want to stay married, don’t get divorced!” Wisdom!
These seasoned saints seemed to know something that too many have forgotten – sacrifice. Life was not about them, it was about the other; about family, love, commitment, and right decisions because they are right. It was about God and family and commitment. It was about honoring God and seeking Him in everything you do. It was about believing that anything worthy of praise is going to be difficult, but worth the hard work.
They are the greatest generation and I am afraid there will never be another like them.