Thinking about someone who’s been married nine times brings up a handful of mental images for me. The first are famous people like Larry King and Elizabeth Taylor, each married eight times. There’s King Henry VIII; but he only had six wives – and had two of them executed. Then there’s my parents – both of them.
But while they may share a seemingly dubious distinction with numerous memorable names, my parents are different in from the others in one very key way: they’ve married each other nine times. Every five years since they were first wed, they have renewed their vows as part of marking the milestone anniversaries. This weekend we celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary.
This one was a small gathering of family and close family friends and was all about fun and memories. The “she’s been married nine times!” joke was my Dad’s joke when we ran into friends at the local auction house where my Mom helps out most Saturday nights. We joked about taking a joyride and being late for the wedding – just like they were for their first marriage in 1976.
I was asked to give the blessing before dinner, which caught me unprepared but was a bit of a personal blessing as well. It seems I’ve done similar actions many times over my adult life, and I feel like what i say probably seems slow and measured, but it’s because I like to consider what it is we’re exactly experiencing, and how should we thank God in the process of asking for his continued Grace. I feel like I’m waiting for the words – almost like I’m asking for words to speak.
While I don’t remember the exact things I said, it was something along these lines:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to gather today to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Sandy and Steve. Through them you have given us an example of how we should love one another. We thank you for this food tonight, and ask that it might nourish us the way Steve and Sandy have nourished each other. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I might have said an extra sentence or so, but honestly I was so filled with emotion that the (hopefully) brief pauses during the blessing were as much to contain emotion as it was to listen for Divine Inspiration. After the blessing, Mrs. Outspoken joked about me practicing it on the drive down in response to others approval of what was said (completely untrue!). It truly was a blessing to pray about such a wonderful family event, and consider the positive example they have set in today’s instant gratification society, where marriage is often thought of as something more of convenience (or inconvenience, I suppose), and probably rarely as something intended to be eternal.
I vaguely remember the 25th Anniversary of my Dad’s parents, which I think would have been in 1977. Ultimately, they were married for 56 years before my grandfather’s death. I was only five, and I don’t recall ever seeing any pictures, but I do remember the celebration. It’s odd to think that I’m experiencing the same milestone next year that I remember my grandparents celebrating; I must be getting old! While we didn’t have any young children present Saturday evening, I hope the teenagers remember this moment when things get a little rocky in their eventual marriages. Marriage isn’t easy, but it truly is and should be a gift from God. It takes some work, but the rewards can be great. And often a good marriage will even bless others.
Thank you Mom and Dad for being such a great example of Love and of God’s power in our lives.