I did a quick search today. It’s been twenty years since many of us were logging on to AOL dial-up to read news about Bill Clinton’s trouble, the Columbine shooting, the Aggie bonfire collapse, and the 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Turkey that killed 17.000 people in 37 seconds. News that year was particularly bleak, even by sensational headline standards. If you were alive then, you may also remember constant ads on the radio for emergency food supplies ahead of the certain economic and social collapse when the calendar flipped to a new millennium (which wasn’t new until 2001, but computers apparently didn't know that). In case you weren’t alive then, or were too young to remember, computers didn’t implode, and everyone who invested heavily in freeze-dried rations is probably still reconstituting beef stroganoff for dinner every now and then just to get their money’s worth.
Something else happened that year that probably didn’t have a direct impact on your life, and maybe never will, but aside from knowing Jesus, is the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s also the one of the hardest.
My husband and I got married.
Today we celebrate our twentieth anniversary.
As it turns out, it’s not just old people who celebrate twenty years of marriage. It’s also cute, vibrant youngsters like Daron and me.
Twenty years doesn’t seem like that long, and yet in many ways, it’s a lifetime. In fact, those two babies that got married in a dimly lit church aren’t even the same people they were then. And not because of that “all the cells in your body replace themselves after 10 years” myth, but because Jesus is kind. If we had stayed who we were, it is likely we would both be dead by now. Not in the “romantic” Romeo and Juliet kind of way, either. Rather, in the homicide kind of way.
When we got married, we were skinny and energetic. I was headed to law school and Daron was striking out on his own in business. Life looked up and to the right. Less than two months in, I realized law school wasn’t for me. Five months in, I started teaching (I wasn’t certified to teach). Five and a half months in, we found out we were six weeks pregnant. Our first daughter was born a month after our first anniversary. Our business failed a year later. By year three, our lives didn’t look anything like what we expected them to look when we stood at the altar and said, “for better or for worse.”
Life comes fast, and within the first three years of marriage, we had weathered storms that I didn’t even know were possibilities. During those years, I don’t mind admitting that I despised our struggles.
Now, though, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
It think it was Tim Keller who said that marriage isn’t meant to make you happy. It’s meant to make you holy. Keller doesn’t mean that holiness is in opposition to happiness. Rather, holiness won’t settle for mere happiness. Holiness rejects what is momentary in favor of what is enduring. The way it has played out in our marriage is that early on, we faced some hard battles. Some were with each other, but most of them were against external things. As I look back at who we were then, what I realize is that the struggles we faced in those first few years put us on the same team when, under a different set of circumstances, we would have been at odds. The challenges we faced put us shoulder-to-shoulder. Not face-to-face. When other young marrieds were enjoying employment and saving for retirement, we were on our faces praying for groceries. We built muscles in those early years that most couples don’t. We sacrificed more than we cared to, but we gained so much more than we even knew to want.
Twenty years later we aren’t skinny. We’ve long forgotten what it feels like to be energetic. Gray hairs are starting to outnumber whatever color they would be if I didn’t dye them all. We’re starting to be referred to as “seasoned.” We aren’t who we were by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ll tell you this. By God’s grace, Daron and I are holier versions of ourselves than we were the day we got married.
I’ll tell you something else. We’re happier, too.