Twenty Years, Eight Months And Eleven Days

People warned me during my engagement that marriage is hard work. So I tried to prepare myself for lots of relational conflict with John. We fought often throughout our engagement, leading me to expect a lifetime of conflict that God would use to humble me. Accordingly, I took my wedding vows in an attitude of fear and trembling, extremely conscious that living happily ever after only happens in fairy tales.

It’s been over two weeks since I sat beside my husband’s hospital bed watching his body release his soul to be with Jesus. As yet, I don’t think I quite believe he’s really gone. I look at the gold box on my couch that holds his ashes and I sleep alone in the bed that we shared, but something in me stubbornly thinks that this is just another long hospitalization and that he will come back soon.

Tears haven’t come easily, partly because I’ve been busy with ladies helping me and people visiting from California. And actually, I never did cry much when people close to me died — my daddy, my mom and my mother-in-law. But when I want to cry over John, the thought of him in heaven, rejoicing in the presence of his Lord and Savior gives me such joy that I don’t really feel like crying. Reflecting on our marriage, and how God blessed me with such a loving husband, dries my tears before they even start.

To my surprise, marriage to John was astonishingly easy! Of course we fought occasionally, and I struggled with submission for a ridiculously long time. But John loved me as Christ loves the Church, making our marriage feel effortless. I often wondered why people said marriage was hard and why they insisted that it takes a lot of work. For twenty years, eight months and eleven days, I actually did have a fairy tale marriage to a real prince charming.

So how did I get blessed with such a beautiful marriage? What advice can I offer to women who are preparing for marriage? I’m certainly no expert on marriage, but perhaps these few random thoughts might prove useful to some of you,

Pre-marital advice is easier to give because I believe John and I prepared well for our marriage, As I already admitted, we fought quite a lot during our engagement, but those fights almost always centered around theological differences that needed to be resolved in order for us to have a life together. We knew that all the romantic feelings in the world wouldn’t make marriage work if we disagreed on foundational Biblical principles. Those fights, while unpleasant, helped us turn to God’s Word and align ourselves with His perspectives.

So the first thing I would tell a newly engaged woman is to make triply sure that she agrees with her fiancé on major points of doctrine. I know that no two people will agree on every single point of theology, and that’s okay. John and I, for example, differed on which Bible translation to use in our personal devotions, and on how to structure our prayers. But we agreed on the doctrines that we deemed essential to our walk with the Lord, ensuring spiritual unity in our marriage. I cannot overemphasize the crucial nature of theological agreement in marriage.

John and I failed to discuss dealing with in-laws before we married, but we quickly learned to set boundaries on the frequency of visits, Did we hurl a few feelings? Of course we did! But our families needed to accept that we had our own life, with our unique traditions and our preferences on how we scheduled our lives. Once we worked out how we would interact with our in-laws, things went much more smoothly.

Once I finally learned to submit to John’s authority, our marriage developed a dimension of joy that I’d never realized we’d never been missing. Throughout the marriage, I’d tried to submit, mind you. As rebellious and strong willed as I was, I knew what the Bible said about wives submitting to husbands, and I prayed daily that the Lord would conform me to His expectations. John’s tendency to spoil me probably didn’t help matters — I always knew that he’d eventually give me my way.

But the blog series I recently wrote on Titus 2:3-5 challenged me to examine myself, and I found myself submitting to John more fully than I ever had. I also noticed him feeling much more confident in assuming leadership in the marriage, which definitely made him happier. Our already easy marriage became even easier, leading to even greater joy between us. Honestly, ladies, our last year of marriage was probably our sweetest year precisely because the Lord finally taught me how to submit to John.

Looking back, I can see that we had more good times than bad. We did face continual trials with Personal Care Attendants, Medicaid, and health crises, to be sure, and changing churches took a toll on us. But in those adversities, God taught us to lean on each other and on Him. As I look back on the marriage, I pretty much forget the hard times and just remember being married to a godly man who really did love me as Christ loves the Church. God indeed blessed me with an extraordinary husband and a beautiful marriage.

Twenty years, eight months and eleven days may sound like a long marriage in this day and age. And, given John’s health issues due to Post-Polio Syndrome, it did last a great deal longer than either of us expected. Almost everyone was surprised when he survived his bout with cancer in 2012, quite frankly. And yet, those twenty years, eight months and eleven days passed much too swiftly. That was truly the happiest time of my life.

3 thoughts on “Twenty Years, Eight Months And Eleven Days

  1. Hello Debbie:
    Sorry for to hear the passing of your husband.
    I enjoyed reading your story, and happy that you had such a great marriage! Also, the love that both you have for each other.
    Your in my prayers.
    Much love,
    Karen Wyss


  2. Such sweet and touching words about your wonderful husband John. May God bless you with strength and peace as you remember him tenderly with the joy of the Lord in your heart. ❤️‍🩹🙏🏻


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