Before sunrise, while the moon still lingered in the sky, I carried a surprise breakfast basket across the court and placed it beneath our neighbors’ mailbox. It was the dawn of their 50th anniversary, a day deserving of celebration from its first waking moment to its final sleepy breath, and it reminded me of another morning years earlier.
That cold, January morning, my boyfriend and I were headed north for a ski weekend. We stopped along the way at a small bakery, where we’d stopped before, months earlier. On our first visit, we’d waited in line behind an older couple. Gently, the man had reached for his wife’s hand and said, “After 50 years of marriage, I still look forward to being with you every day.”
“Wow!” I thought. “Fifty years of marriage. That’s a lifetime!”
My own first marriage had lasted less than two years. I’d married young, too young, foolishly ignoring the wiser counsel of those who had encouraged me to wait. I knew firsthand how difficult marriage could be and wondered what had sustained not just this couple’s marriage, but also their deep love for one another through fifty years.
I stepped out of the car on that icy winter morning, remembering those tenderly spoken words and wondering if I’d ever love that deeply, if I’d ever be loved for a lifetime. Then I opened the bakery door and froze, for right there in front of me stood a cake frosted with the words, “Cindee, will you marry me?” My boyfriend, touched by the memory of the older gentleman’s words, had chosen this place and this moment to propose. He grinned as dozens of people – employees, town residents, even the local newspaper photographer – poured from the bakery’s back room, while I stood mute, shocked and amazed, trying to take it all in.
“Well,” someone finally prompted, “are you going to marry him?”
I laughed through tears and simply nodded yes.
Two decades later we’re married, raising a gaggle of children, and still very much in love, but we haven’t done it alone. We couldn’t have. We’d never have made it. It’s only as we root ourselves deeply in God every step of the way that He weaves each heartbeat and every breath of our lives together, for He is our strength to forgive, our truth in a sea of contending opinions, our gentleness and joy, our peace through life’s storms, our patience and compassion, our hope in the midst of disappointment, our grace in despair, and our love that never fails.
Without God, we might have survived. We might still be married, but we’d have missed out on a love deeper, richer and more beautiful than we ever dreamed possible, a love designed and inspired by God, a love only possible because He first loves us. That’s the kind of love that lasts a lifetime, a love built on the bedrock of God – eternal, divine, perfect – the very foundation of our lives.