Dear Bonnie and Jared,
Your wedding is a mere month away! It is hard to believe that the time has finally arrived for you to take your vows as husband and wife. I have no doubt that you will be very, very happy in your marriage because I know that God has planned your union. In the meantime, there are a few loose ends to tie up. This is one of them.
Several weeks ago, you gave Dad and I a copy of the "Parent Questionnaire" from your pre-marital counseling handbook. We have worked together to fill it out, trying our best to give you what little wisdom we might have to offer from our many years together. But one question stumped us: What one memory or time would we choose to represent the essence of our marriage? It was a tough one; 38 years have brought a myriad of experiences our way. Some good, some not so good. We filled out the rest of the survey with no problem, but the answer to this one eluded us.
Finally, though, we have found that one particular moment in time, in the span of 38 years, that stands out above the rest. And here is that moment, far too rich in memory to fit onto the few lines on the questionnaire, and far too important to share with just the two of you.
Ron and I renewed our vows in front of Pastor Lou Tripler; Lou commented on what a miracle it was that Ron had survived, that our marriage had survived. We felt, at that time, as if we had indeed come through the fire. We could not have known that the next 14 years would demand even more of us and our commitment to one another.
Each of the kids did or said something special at the service. Dennis painted a family portrait, the one that hangs in the dining room and in which Allen resembles Austin Powers. Bonnie sang a song and let us know how much her family meant to her. But it was Allen, only 14 at the time, who gave us the word that has come to epitomize our marriage, and that we think should define any marriage.
"Mom and Dad," our youngest said on that day, "from the two of you, I have learned the meaning of the word 'courage.' You have survived Dad's accident and you have stayed together and you have kept all of us together because you have courage. And because you have shown me what courage means, I know that I can have courage, too."
So, we can describe our entire marital experience in one word: Courage. It takes courage, dear ones, to be married and to stay married. It is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage to take on an unknown future, full of possible hills and valleys, to continue holding onto each other's hands and trudging forward, to not get lost in the dark of night. It takes courage to continue to love when love means changing bandages and sitting through surgeries and visiting emergency rooms. It takes courage to both lose and gain what marriage brings.
Joshua 1:6 has this to say about courage: Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Often, we think that courage belongs to heroes and soldiers, but courage allows us to fight against the powers that would destroy us and our relationship. It allows us to trust fully in God and the partner he has given to us and to know that, even when times get tough--and they will--, he wants to bless us and our marriage.
I Chronicles 22:13 goes onto say this:Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfill the statutes and judgments which the LORD charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed. It is often hard NOT to be discouraged or dismayed! There are so many, many things that can strive to destroy a marriage. As it is a sacred covenant with God, Satan would much prefer marriage not exist! We must remain strong and of good courage to forward God's kingdom AND receive the blessings that a marriage can bring.
So, dear ones, have courage. Take courage from one another. Take courage from God. We hope that, in some way, our life and our marriage has shown you what you really need to make a success of your own union: