Anniversary day brings reflections of what was and what is to come
Just because I can do it doesn’t mean I should do it. Actions have consequences so I’ve learned to count the cost.
The clock struck midnight just a few minutes ago and here I am – still up. Body pacing, mind racing with memories, some pleasant, some bittersweet; it's been that way for the last few weeks.
Why? Well, today is Wednesday, November 9, 2022; exactly 26 years ago today, November. 9, 1996, I walked down the aisle with one of the most beautiful women in the whole wide world. 26 years; 312 months; 1,355 weeks; you get the picture – a really long time.
I’m up because I’m just marveling at the amazing grace of God who has delivered us to this day. I feel incredibly blessed to be married to such a godly, good woman. To a woman who truly loves the Lord and seeks Him, a woman with a heart for service and who would do anything for family and friends. A woman who lives out “pray for them that despitefully use you.” It has been said to me many times and I concur – I’m blessed.
On average, the length of a marriage in the United States is seven to eight years, and our country’s well-known divorce rate hovers around 40 to 50 percent. The U.S. divorce rate is the third-highest in the world. That is one of the saddest statistics I know. I had a friend recently tell me – “if this one doesn’t work out then I’ll just move on the next.” That is not the mentality for a lasting marriage.
Marriage remains the most important institution for a civil society, and I’m thankful that Vanessa and I have been able to withstand the inevitable storms of life together. We’ve learned some invaluable lessons with and from one another, and we have grown through setbacks, shortcomings, failures, and some successes along the way.
We have some things we can be proud of – our three sons rank high on that list. They are men of high character who also love the Lord and stand on His word. They are saved and that is a truth that is of utmost importance to us. They don’t belong to us – they belong to Him!
One of my favorite “Vanessa stories” occurred a few years’ back when I was visiting family in Louisiana and became ill. I called her to let her know that I was fine and told her in no uncertain terms to please stay put – she didn’t need to come. My mother and sister were with me, and I was doing well. Four hours later, there she was walking into my hospital room and greeting me with a warm hug and long embrace, with a bag packed to stay the night. (By the way – that was a five-hour drive. I’m just saying.)
That’s love in action.
There are so many other stories like that, but the overwhelming fact is that genuine love makes a difference. Genuine love can transform a bum into a gentleman, a loser into a lady, a creep into a champion. My wife’s love has helped me become a better man.
Have there been occasions when we let each other down? Yes. Have there been failures? Yes. Are there things I wish I could “take back?” Of course. But I have learned – and I continue to learn. Through the vehicle of my marriage, God has confronted and continues to conform my character.
Let me hasten to say that I have not arrived – clothed in this flesh, I will always be a work in progress. But over the course of these 26 years, I’ve become a better decision-maker, I’ve learned that my actions affect more than just me, and I need to think before I act on every impulse – financial, moral, social, and otherwise. Just because I can do it doesn’t mean I should do it. Actions have consequences so I’ve learned to count the cost.
Collateral damage is a real thing and I never want to bring dishonor to my wife, my family, my friends and my God. My God – He is the grand architect of this thing called marriage and this thing called love. Above all, His love has transformed both Vanessa and me. He has reminded us that our marriage represents Him. His agape love is transcendent and remains our goal for daily living.
Our Father loves us all – even those who do not believe. He beckons all to come under His holy tent, and His real estate has no end. Vanessa and I relish reminding people of how great His love is for each of us. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, God loves you. He loves you regardless of your race, your gender, your social status, your sexual orientation, or anything else you want to throw into the pot. Don’t get my words twisted – He doesn’t condone sin and a true believer simply cannot abide in a sinful life, but God’s love doesn’t increase. It is perfect and complete.
So as the morning now fast approaches, my thoughts are flooded with sweet memories of the past – our wedding day those many years ago in Dallas, Texas. My sainted grandmother, Willie Mae Hall, trekked from South Carolina to surprise us and attend our nuptials. She wasn’t well, but she came and we were so excited to see her.
When I was a little boy, my family didn’t have much, but every Christmas without fail, we received a care package from my Grandmother Hall. She died at 88. I don’t profess to know how Heaven works and what our interaction will be with our loved ones, but I greatly cherish the thought of seeing her again. I wasn’t mature enough at the time to tell her just how much she meant to me.
We were surrounded by family and friends as we took those sacred vows. Vanessa was resplendent in a painted-on dress, just stunning. Me – I was nervous and fairly clueless as to what was to come. Change and challenges did come, and still do, but God has used them to turn us into who we are today. We are two imperfect people serving a perfect God and grateful for all the good He has brought into our lives. Marriage is designed to mirror our Creator’s unconditional love for us.
I’m feeling a little tired now and I think I can sleep. What a journey! All glory be to God for the great things He has done.
Here’s to you Vanessa – and to the next 26. May we wear them well, in Jesus’ name.