It was a hot night when we got married.  Late August in Phoenix, Arizona, is always hot but by the time our wedding started, the temperature outside had cooled down to a balmy 97 degrees.

There weren't very many people at our wedding--less than 100, I think.  Except for my family they were all local people.  The ceremony itself was not unique.  In fact, I don't remember much about it except that the minister conducted the ceremony from behind a pulpit, the only time I've ever seen that happen.  I do remember that in those fateful few minutes before it all began I stood in a small room off the sanctuary listening to my Dad and the minister calmly discuss the real estate market in the Phoenix area.

The minister must have read some Scripture but I don't remember what it was.  We didn't write our own vows the way a lot of couples do nowadays, so whatever the minister said, we must have repeated.  Marlene's friend Jenny Abel sang two very nice songs.  My Dad was my best man and my three brothers stood up for me along with my friend Ricky Suddith.  I personally picked out the tuxedoes.  They were a black wavy design on a white background.  To me they were beautiful, but whenever people look at our wedding pictures, they burst out laughing.  Marlene says they looked like the fabric from a very cheap sofa.  The bridesmaids wore beautiful pastel gowns and those floppy wide-brimmed lace hats that were so popular back in the 70s.

What else?  The ceremony was short.  We were in and out in about 15 minutes.  My brothers claim that during the recessional I yelled "All right," but I don't remember that, either.  It happened so fast that the whole thing is basically a blur in my memory.

Afterward, we went to a country club for the reception where everyone offered advice and congratulations.  We drank punch, cut the wedding cake, posed for a thousand pictures, changed our clothes, loaded up our little green Pinto and left for our honeymoon.  Bob Cosby and my brothers had thoughtfully decorated our car with tin cans and tissue paper.  The windows announced the news for all the world to see--"Just Married!" 

We did make one mistake.  For our honeymoon we decided to drive to a resort ranch in central Arizona.  It was a bad idea.  We didn't leave the reception until almost 10 P.M.  The drive to the ranch took us over two hours through winding mountain roads. 

We arrived sometime after midnight--thoroughly exhausted--only to find the ranch closed up tight.  The lights were off, the doors were locked, nobody was around.  After much pounding, we roused the night clerk who checked us in and went back to bed.  Our room was around on the south wing.  You couldn't get there from the lobby because the inside corridor doors were locked.  There were no outside lights, which meant we had to feel our way along in the darkness.  Eventually we turned on our headlights and discovered that a swimming pool stood between us and our room.  Threading our way alongside the pool, we found the outside door, unlocked it, and made our way to our room.  It was nearly 1 A.M. when we finally settled in.

On such an unlikely note did our marriage begin. 

It wasn't exactly a storybook beginning, but at least it makes for a good story. Today we celebrate our 30th anniversary. Meanwhile, I sit at my computer pondering what our marriage is all about, not marriage in general, but our marriage, this union of two very independent and very different people.

We have had our share of problems, but they are not unusual or unique.  I meet couples every week who face problems far beyond anything we have encountered.

But we are still married.  That much is true.  Not only that, but we are happily married.  There is joy here, and fulfillment, and oddly enough, freedom.  There is commitment here, and contentment, and a sense of crazy unpredictability that keeps us on our toes.  There is warmth and tenderness, the sharing of deep dreams and unspoken fears.  There is growth here, and excitement, and great possibilities for the future. 

Mostly she is here.  Because she is here, I am here.  I am amazed that she is still here, and when I say it, a beautiful smile breaks across her face, then a serious look, then "I'm amazed I'm still here, too."  Then a grin and a hug. 

It isn't perfect, but it is wonderful.  And to my great delight, it gets better as we go along. 


To sign up for Pastor Ray's free weekly sermon email list, click  here. You can find his daily weblog, online sermons, travel schedule, and other resources at www.keepbelieving.com. You can write Pastor Ray at raypritchard@calvarymemorial.com.