“Let marriage be held in honor among all,” Hebrews 13:4
This past week we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. It seems kind of surreal to think that a quarter of a century has passed since we exchanged vows. I look back at the 24-year-old woman who walked down the aisle with a bouquet in her hand and dreams in her heart, wishing I could tell her some things that will help her through this marriage journey. These things may not have prevented some hard moments, but maybe they would have given her a little peace and perspective.
Dear Younger Sherry,
- You will buy a lot of coffee pots until you learn the importance of descaling. During our marriage, we have destroyed about thirteen coffee pots because we were ignorant about mineral build up in our favorite appliance, causing the heating element to work harder and eventually overheat. Just like our coffee pots, it is important to regularly maintain our marriage through proper communication. Too often, we have let minor disappointments and disagreements build up, causing us to react in anger and bitterness. Instead, I need to be aware of my feelings, address the heart issues and talk about it in a way that is respectful to Terry’s heart. I don’t always get it right, just like I might let two months go by before I remember to descale my coffee maker, but I am working towards this approach in communication. By the way, we have managed to keep our current coffee pot alive for four years!
- You will live in three different states, six houses, and make five different churches your place of worship. The home you create with Terry is not dependent on where you live or where you worship. It is also not dependent on the chrome table you had in the beginning of your marriage or the modern farm table you now own. Addresses and styles change. What does not change is the atmosphere you intentionally build in your home that your immediate and extended family and friends experience when crossing your threshold. This atmosphere is built by working together, being open to God’s direction, and growing as individuals and as a couple.
- Marriage will have some of the highest of highs and some of the lowest of lows. You will have some mountain top experiences, where everything has a romantic filter as you waltz through meadows filled with flowers. At the same time, your valleys may be full of rocks, cold, lonely, and difficult. Do not define the success of your marriage based on those mountain top experiences or make permanent decisions in those desolate valleys. Instead, your marriage success will be measured by the daily little decisions you make in ordinary living.
- He loves meatloaf, you do not. You love cilantro, he says it taste like soap. You thrive in big cities; he feels claustrophobic after a few days. Marriage is not about the differences, and it is not even about the compromises. It is about creating wins for everyone. Sometimes we have meatloaf, and I focus on the mashed potatoes and peas. I add a lot of cilantro to my pico de gallo but leave it on the side in the guacamole. Sometimes we travel to a big city and explore, other times we find a small town with quaint shops. This way everyone is happy!
- Despite your differences, you will come together on the important ideas, including our faith, raising children, home education, and your beliefs on community. These moments will help define your marriage, strengthen your family, and add to your ministry.
- Finally, Terry was never intended to fulfill all your hopes, dreams, and longings. Although he is a Godly man, he will make mistakes and fail. Conversely, you will fail a lot and certainly cannot meet all his needs. Those deepest desires that were not met in childhood can only be fulfilled in the arms of Jesus. Focus less on what you bring to the marriage or what Terry brings to the marriage. Instead, spend more time getting to know Jesus, discovering what He wants to do in you, and bring that to the marriage!
I am sure we will eventually have to replace our coffee pot again, and I am sure we will continue to have some hard conversations. We will likely have a few more addresses, but we will continue to have an open-door policy for our family and friends. We continue to discover differences between each other but also new ways to connect. And most importantly, I look forward to finding my fulfillment in the Lord, as I partner with Terry for the next twenty-five years or longer!