That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.—Genesis 2:24
He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favor from the Lord.—Proverbs 18:22
Carey and I have been married twenty-one years today. We were married on December 16th, 2000, at Orenco Presbyterian Church in Hillsboro, Oregon, on the Saturday after Carey finished her final exams for the fall semester of her junior year of college. We lived in the Portland area while she finished school, and then in the summer of 2002 we moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, for a 3-year ministry training program at a church there. After that, we moved to Lincoln City, Oregon, where our three children were born while I served as a pastor for almost 15 years. Then in March of 2020, almost two years ago now, we moved to Susanville.
The Bible says that marriage was God’s idea. People didn’t come up with it; we were made for it. (Which means, by the way, that we’re not free to mess with it, but that’s a conversation for another day). But because of sin in this world and in our flesh, we don’t always find it easy to be married. It is the source of a lot of joy, but also a lot of pain. Marriage can make life better, but it can also make life really hard.
In our church, as in any church, we have hurting people who have been through divorce, grieving people who have lost their spouses, lonely people who wish they could get married, and people who have been treated terribly by their spouses and wish they had never gotten married at all. We have people who try to invent their own arrangement and have the benefits of marriage without the commitment of marriage. None of this means that there is something wrong with marriage. It means there is something wrong with the world, and with people. What God created is good and right; we just struggle to live up to the original design.
Because people have such varied experiences of marriage, it’s a delicate thing to talk about or preach about in the church. How do you say “Praise God for this wonderful thing He created!” when for half of the people listening it hasn’t been all that wonderful? You want to be sensitive to everyone’s experience, but you also want God to be glorified for His wisdom and kindness in giving us such a gift.
In my case, this second part is easy to do, because I am blessed to be happy in my marriage. When I met Carey, she was 15 and I was 19, and I was a summer youth ministry intern at her church. When I could no longer deny the feelings I was having for her, I told my pastor, and rather than rebuking me for having such a thought, he counseled patience. It was four and a half years from that summer to the first time I held her hand. There were times during those years that I thought the agony of waiting for her would tear me apart, and other times when I gave up entirely, dated other people, and tried to forget about her. But when she became my wife, it was the biggest answer to prayer I have ever experienced.
Twenty-one years later, I’ll admit that we don’t wake up every day grateful for God’s kindness to us in giving us each other. The reality of raising three kids, serving a church, paying bills, cooking meals, doing dishes, and living face-to-face with each other’s flaws on a daily basis can make the honeymoon seem like a long time ago. But it doesn’t take much to remind us that we are blessed. God gave me a partner in life who loves Jesus, loves me, and is truly my favorite person on earth to be around. My favorite memories in life are shared with her, and when I imagine the things I would still like to do in this life, she is central to those plans. God’s design is to take two people and make them one, and I am so glad Carey is the one He decided to make me one with.
I am an introvert by nature, someone who is energized by time alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love people. I love the church, and I love my role in the church. I am privileged to have a job that I find deeply fulfilling. But when I’m tired, when my tank is empty and I need my batteries recharged, I have discovered that time alone is the best way for me to be spiritually refreshed for whatever comes next.
But I have also discovered something else: when I need a break from people, Carey doesn’t count. She isn’t “people.” Time alone with her is as refreshing as time by myself. She is the one person I can be completely relaxed around. She knows me completely, loves me unconditionally, and is always on my side. When the Bible talks about God being our “refuge” and our “hiding place,” I feel like I have an idea of what that looks like because of my wife. When l feel like I want to hide away from the world, Carey is where I want to go.
To be clear, she is no substitute for God. A wise mentor told me once that “a wife makes a great partner but a lousy Savior.” There are certain needs we all have that only God can meet. But I’m grateful He decided that Carey would be my partner. I’m grateful that in our case, becoming one with another person has been a good and beautiful thing. After twenty-one years, we are still excited about our future together. We pray that our marriage would glorify God and bless others, despite our very real flaws and struggles. We thank God for the gift of marriage, which is a good thing even when it’s not an easy thing, and we pray for His help to love each other well for the next twenty-one years.