Ordinary Marriage: The beauty of the hidden years
This is part of a new series on the blog surrounding the ordinary faithfulness of the body of Christ and the work of the Spirit throughout it. Click here to see all of the pieces. My hope is you will be encouraged and spurred on to be faithful in the small.
“I think I like you more than my motorcycle.”
The words hung in the air between the teenagers. Should she be flattered? Her father warned her that boys with motorcycles brought trouble. Still, the red-headed boy was special.
She smiled, and the humble offering started something.
Weeks turned to months, and soon enough that straight-laced girl married the “troublesome boy” in a small chapel in Muncie, Indiana. Armed with a small budget, handmade dresses, and home-baked cakes, the couple came together to promise each other forever.
Their names are Dan and Norma, and they are my husband’s grandparents. Shortly after I met them, they became my own. Today marks a marriage of 58 years. Yet the days that have filled those years to the brim goes largely forgotten.
Thousands of hours spent planning lessons for their students in their classes have come and passed. The wooden works of art, toy rocking chairs, and furniture created by hours of work are now simply memories on the floor of a wood shop. Much of the time fixing cars, helping on family projects, and their toil under the sun have slipped away. The truth is the world doesn’t hold much weight for such an ordinary marriage. It stands unnoticed.
The world doesn’t know that they loved to water-ski well into their 70’s, or that Dan just completed his 26th mini marathon at 78 with his wife cheering from the sidelines. They don’t know of the weeks spent bicycling across the country twice, or the mission trips to Mexico that have become a huge part of Dan and Norma’s life.
But there are some that do.
They are the rough band of high-schoolers who came to shop class every day and tasted the kindness of a teacher who loved them despite their attitudes, difficult homes, or angry outbursts. They are the same ones who still keep in touch. They are the fourth-graders whose handmade and store bought ornaments still hang on Mrs. Lambert’s Christmas tree. They are the small group of cyclists who spent weeks with my grandparents and tasted their kindness, humor, and faith along the way.
They are the brothers and sisters in Christ in Mexico, who learned of the love of Christ through the teaching of the gospel spoken by Norma and who sit on the pews built by Dan. They are exchange students from countries such as France, Vietnam, China, or Norway- who were given a bed, invited to family holidays, taught how to water-ski, and experienced the love of another family.
They are our family– me, the children, and grandchildren who have grown up through the years, watching a husband and wife not only serve each other, but everyone around them. We’ve stood in a noisy wood shop and learned not only what it meant to plane wood or route an edge, but were discipled in hard work and patience. We’ve seen them selflessly show up whenever we were in need- with meals, prayers, physical labor, or babysitting. We have seen their life- and we have been lifted up, encouraged, and pushed towards Christ because of it.
Scattered throughout the city, state, and the world are people who have seen the life of a nobody couple from Muncie, Indiana, because they used their marriage to serve their God and his image-bearers.
The beauty of the hidden
It might feel like a waste to have a life so hidden. These days we crave impact. We look to the TV stars or Instagram couples we love, and we yearn to have something that feels like it matters. Even as Christians we can stand before the altar- dreaming of the ways our marriage will be used for his kingdom.
Yet reality hits, and the drum of our everyday feels easily forgotten. It doesn’t feel like we are conquering the kingdom for our King. But maybe that’s the point. We need to remember we were never intended to be the conquerors- we are simply the workers. And it’s in the mundane work by his flawed and lowly people that God has clothed his great power (1 Corinthians 1:27).
It is incredible that we have the opportunity to take part in our God’s plan of bringing him glory and showing others a taste of our God’s love (1 John 4:8-12). In his kindness, he has equipped us to be able to do just this through his Spirit and through every experience in our lives, including our marriages. This is why we don’t have to look back at the 2, 20, or 58 years that God has given our marriages and judge them based on numbers. These days may be meaningless to a passing world, but we know, in Christ, they are of infinite worth. He will use them for his purpose (Romans 8:28).
It’s true, many will not see the days of our ordinary marriages. They may not see the hours spent in prayer for or with a spouse, the sacrifices made in order to foster a child, the different ways we use our gifts, or the wear on our bodies made from being continuously broken in the smallest of ways.
But I think of my husband’s grandparents- of their home fully decorated with gifts from the people they’ve loved and served through the years. I think of all the people who saw Christ through their lives all the way back to that small wedding in June.
Many won’t know, but some will. By God’s grace alone they will get a chance to smell the aroma of a marriage that gives glory to the God who gave us everything. Would we be so blessed to hold such an honor.