Young Love: The Backstory

When I first published my observations of enduring and sacrificial love from an elderly couple (which you can read here), I had little idea that it would be shared and re-posted enough that it would eventually get back to the man about whom I wrote it. 

I came in the door after a tiring 2-day surf trip with the youth group this summer and had a letter waiting for me. I dropped my suitcase, keys, and sunglasses in the floor and opened it eagerly. And with tears rolling down my cheeks, I read a carefully typed 2-page account of their love story. Jim later told me, “I’ve never written anything like that before.” And he gave me permission to share it with you. So here are the main excerpts from his letter:

Lauren,

That you would observe and write such a beautiful article about us is humbling. I am especially grateful that you see our situation in a positive light, since I do not wish that our ‘nonconventional’ appearance be a negative factor… I don’t wish to bore you, but I would like to make a couple of comments related to the subjects about which you wrote:

…I don’t consider my efforts to be anything outside of normal behavior… I do not [consider it an] obligation…I don’t do what I do ‘because I have to.’ To understand, I need to take you through a little history.

We started dating in high school in 1942 when we were both 15; she was a sophomore and I was a junior. We did all the ‘school things’ and Saturday night movies with hamburgers and cokes (I was a real big spender). We dated as much as we could after my graduation while I worked for a year…then I was in the Navy for 17 months. After the Navy I started my freshman year at [college]…. At the end of my freshman year (August 1947) we married. I will not bore you with a lot of subsequent history; although it is pertinent, it is not necessary to make the point that I am trying to make.

Take a look at our situation when we got married. We were almost 21, she had a steady job… and things were going pretty well for her. To marry me she would have to move away from her family, change jobs, live she-didn’t-know-where, and work for 3 more years so we wouldn’t starve. I, on the other hand, had just finished one year of college, had spent what savings I had on that, and didn’t even have a bicycle for transportation. Even more, with my background of having graduated from only a small 100-student county school in Tennessee, having worked as a mechanic, spent time in the Navy and one year in a junior college, why would she even think I had what it takes to graduate from a prestigious engineering college like Georgia Tech? You would think that such a smart, pretty, employed girl who had so much going for her would have had far better offers than I could make. However, she did agree and we hitched our wagons to my star of becoming an engineer.

During college, money was pretty tight, and I remember once we had a serious discussion about whether we could afford for her to have a 5 cent coke with her sack lunch each day. [We agreed] that when I got out of college, she would keep the home and care for any children we might have, and I would be responsible for providing the income. That would mean we would adjust our standard of living to my salary. That was not to say that everything was easy or always one way. We made most decisions together, and a number were made differently than if I had been single; she could say the same.

So what is the point I am trying to make? In addition to all the above-mentioned reasons for my desire to care for her, there is the matter that she very early-on gave up her independence and put her faith and trust in me to see that she, and a family, were taken care of. I made a covenant with her before God and a few people to do that, ‘in sickness and in health.’ So, am I now obligated to meet her needs for 24/7 care, and do I do it for that reason?…No — I do it because I want to, and even though she does not know it, I want to express my appreciation for the love and confidence that she, as a smart, beautiful, rosy-cheeked, auburn-haired young lady expressed in me 67 years ago, and has continued to do so ever since! I suspect the time will come when I will not be physically able to personally meet her needs and other arrangement will be necessary. Until such time, I will continue to care for her and nothing else will even be considered.

I hope that you will meet and marry a Christian with whom you can have the same love and commitment that [we] had/have, to jointly ‘hitch your wagons to a common star,’ with God’s Word guiding you along the path. You may find that while someone may have to temporarily give up that 5 cent daily coke, it will not matter since 67 years later, despite the circumstances, you can say, “I would do it again.”

Published in: on August 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm  Comments (2)  
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As Long as We Both Shall Live: A Wedding Liturgy

Here’s another fun fact about my youth ministry professor Dr. Surdacki: he loves liturgy.  Like, a lot.  Having been raised in the Catholic church and now a member of the church of Christ at the opposite end of the spectrum, he embodies some of the best things from both traditions.  So for my Introduction to Ministry class, we got to do a liturgy project, which included writing a liturgy of our own.  Hopeless romantic that I am, of course I chose to do a wedding liturgy.  Unfortunately, I had to turn it in as kind of a rough draft since I’m going to SCOTLAND in 4 days.  But here it is.

depositphotos_4138729-Love-is-Patient-Bible-Verse-with-RingsBride and groom join hands at the altar before the pastor. Congregation is seated.

 Pastor: Friends, family, and witnesses, we come together today as a community to celebrate the sacrament of marriage as a testament to the unconditional love of God for His church.  In committing to spend the rest of their lives together in love and faithfulness, N and N are pledging their relationship as a living testimony to what Christ has done in their lives.

As we witness their vows, we are called into covenant with them to help them uphold their commitment, to live in community with them, to teach them to love and care for one another, and to learn from what their unique relationship has to offer.

N and N, you are entering into a covenant relationship with one another, but also with these witnesses here and with the larger body of Christ.  As you vow to love one another faithfully, you are taking on the responsibility of representing Christ’s love together as one flesh.

Reading from Ephesians 5:21-33.

 Pastor: Lord, we praise you for the gift of marriage and all that it represents. May you bless N and N as they begin their journey together, and may everyone here be blessed by their example of love and faithfulness.  Bless their lives with joy, their family with love, and their home with your abiding peace as they make you the center of their lives. Amen.

 Pastor: I invite you to join me in the reading of 1st Corinthians 13.

Pastor: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Congregation: Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Pastor: As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

Congregation: But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

Pastor: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. For now we see in a mirror dimly;

Congregation: but then face to face.

Pastor: Now I know in part;

Congregation: Then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Pastor: So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three:

Congregation: But the greatest of these is love.

 Pastor: N, as you take N to be your wife, committing to be faithful to her, will you, to the best of your ability, love N with this kind of submissive and sacrificial love, honoring God first and her above all others?

N: I will.

Pastor: N, as you take N to be your husband, committing to be faithful to him, will you, to the best of your ability, love N with this kind of submissive and sacrificial love, honoring God first and him above all others?

N: I will.

Pastor to Congregation: Will you uphold N and N in their declaration of love and faithfulness, holding them accountable to their vows and encouraging them in their desire to live in holy union together?

Congregation: We will.

To the man:

Pastor: Repeat after me.

Before God and these witnesses

I make a covenant with you

To love you as Christ loved the church

And gave Himself for her

To love you unconditionally

To seek your highest good

To stand by you faithfully

Together or apart

For richer or poorer

In sickness and in health

As long as we both shall live.

To the woman:

Pastor: Repeat after me.

Before God and these witnesses

I make a covenant with you

To submit to you as to the Lord

To love you unconditionally

To seek your highest good

To stand by you faithfully

Together or apart

For richer or poorer

In sickness and in health

As long as we both shall live.

Exchanging of the Rings

Pastor: The wedding ring is an outward sign of an inward commitment to love and honor one another in a marriage covenant. The circle represents endless love; the gold, both the purity of their love and the refinement that will take place in this covenant relationship. N, you may place a ring on the finger of your bride.

N: I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness to you.

Pastor: By the same token, N, you may place a ring on the finger of your groom.

N: I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness to you.

Pastor: Now that N and N have exchanged these vows and rings and thus made a covenant to one another before God, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.

Pastor: It is my honor to introduce to you for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. N. 

Published in: on March 11, 2013 at 8:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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