I have made some really bad decisions in my life. But fortunately I made a couple of really good decisions that put the bad ones in proper perspective.
In 1968 I decided to follow Jesus. I believed that He was the way to be forgiven and justified from my sin. I was fifteen years old and unfortunately my early teaching was short on grace. But that legalistic church got the Jesus/salvation part right. That decision kept me from going down some very dangerous paths during the tumultuous cultural changes of the late ‘60’s. I cannot imagine how my life would have played out apart from that declaration of faith in Christ.
In 1975 I made another great decision. I decided to ask Joni Banks to be my wife. Great decision 2 would not have happened without great decision 1. We met at staff training for the organization formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ.
July 17th marks our thirty-sixth year of marriage. Joni has hung in with me and trusted God when I was, frankly, not so trustworthy. She has never tried to change who I am but she has always challenged me to develop my unique design in partnership with the God who loves me. She has prayed for me and our boys more than I can even comprehend. When our marriage monitor flat lined a few years ago she did not give up.
I did the American guy thing for many years. I worked too much. I took my young bride for granted. I craved success and praise for my accomplishments. And too often I left her chasing rambunctious boys and wondering if her husband valued her. I failed to lead her well spiritually for too many years. We have endured some really hard things. The death of a daughter. An armed invasion robbery in our home. Cancer. Yet we are happier than we have ever been. How can that be possible?
We have learned one important lesson that is communicated so well by my friends at Truefaced.
“The abundant life is comparing God's character, faithfulness and ability with my particular circumstances and believing that God's character trumps my circumstance.”
And that statement is absolutely true. I have heard so much stinkin’ bad teaching that the abundant life means financial blessing, perfect health and relational bliss. Our experience has been financial ups and downs, health problems and seasons of marital joy and despair. For many years I thought I was doing something wrong. Where is this abundant life? And I finally figured it out. The abundant life is all around me. A wife who stayed with me until God could get my attention. Three honest, bright and Godly sons (more good work by Joni). Great friends who have my back and love me even though they actually know me. More stuff than I will ever need and enough left over to give to others. And trusting a God who is trustworthy.
Through all of the tough times and bad moments God proved faithful and trustworthy. He redeemed every heartache and every trial. God refined us through the storms and His love did trump our circumstances.
A song by James Taylor fits nicely here regarding both of my “great” decisions. “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” expresses my heart toward both my Lord and my wonderful bride. But since a wedding anniversary is being celebrated allow me to concentrate on that event with these lyrics sung by “Sweet Baby” James.
I close my eyes at night
Wonderin' where would I be without you in my life
But you brighten up for me all of my days
With a love so sweet in so many ways
An' I wanna stop, thank you, baby
I just wanna stop, and thank you, baby
How sweet it is to be loved by you
I cannot imagine where I would be without her in my life. Like many couples we had the verses of 1st Corinthians 13 read at our wedding. The Message has a fresh take on the familiar passage.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
I am so grateful to celebrate my 36th year with this wonderful lady. If I may quote James Taylor one more time.
I just wanna stop and thank you baby.
Thank you for an amazing journey so far and praying for much more to come.