February 11, 2015
I remember when Ellen and I were first married and we attended a Sunday school class together at a church near where I was stationed in the Navy. One week the teacher of our class told us that he and his wife were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. Honestly… I could not imagine that. 30 years! My maternal grandparents were the only model for long marriage that I was closely related to and I don’t ever remember any fuss being made over their anniversaries. I’m assuming they got married around 1920 and my grandmother died in 1967 so they had 47 years or so invested in each other. But again I have no memory of their longevity being recognized in any way.
This Sunday, February 15, 2015 at sometime after 2:30 in the afternoon Ellen and I will have been married for 40 years. 40 years; or exactly 2/3 of my life. What do I think of that? First, I recognize that it is not a unique experience. Many folks have surpassed that number by decades. And many are on their way to matching it. So I’m not boasting about anything. But what do I think?
First of all, I guess what I’m about to say is different for different couples. At some unidentified point in a marriage you cross a line. And the line is this, “I can no longer imagine life without you. Nor do I want to.” It makes perfect sense to me now why long term couples often die within weeks or months of one another. The trauma on one’s psyche by having their lives literally torn asunder is real. It’s not that someone you love has died. It’s that part of you has died! For some the “injury” is too profound. There is nothing that can be done to heal it. And maybe nothing that should be done.
I remember that after my grandmother passed away in 1967, my grandfather was NEVER the same. Oh he hung in there, but he was never again as he had been. I recall the day I found an album of his by Bobby Goldsboro. The hit song on the album was “Honey.” (Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW1GpxB0LH8 if you are unfamiliar with it.) I tried to play it but the needle on the record kept sliding over that song because he had played it so many times the grooves were worn out. I wept for him.
For those who have endured 40 years… but only endured it? I weep for you also. On occasion I say to young couples “I know folks who had a wedding 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, but they NEVER had a marriage.” How sad is that?
And for those who never made it to 40… I’m so sorry. No matter the reason. If someone died… that’s tragic. If someone abandoned the relationship… that’s tragic. If someone was emotionally ill… that’s tragic. If someone was abusive in the relationship… that’s tragic. If they just “fell out of love,” well, that’s just lazy and probably selfish. Sorry, not too sympathetic or “understanding” on that one.
Two words then on 40 years, “Joy Unspeakable.” I have done nothing in my life to deserve the honor and blessing and love of Ellen Thompson Little. She always dismisses me when I say the following but it is absolutely true. I would NEVER have accomplished anything of significance without her. College, Seminary, Doctorate, David, Rebekah, Benjamin, Alissa, two long term pastorates… and the list goes on. Ask anyone who knew me when and they will confirm what I just said. She has encouraged me, inspired me, and believed in me when I rarely believe in myself.
I hope it’s not inappropriate for me to write these very personal things. But my intent is to inspire others who may find themselves in situations where they are unsure if they will ever make it to 40… or 5, or 10, or 20. Don’t give up! (I am not speaking to those in abusive relationships!) Hang in there! Both of you work hard. Find out what “sacrificial love” toward your spouse and children means. Husbands, do not stop courting your wives. Wives, tell your husbands how much you “appreciate” them. I can only tell you this. 40 years is worth it. It really is.
Thank you for your patience with my meanderings. I am exceedingly aware that I am a blessed man.