What Makes a Marriage


This month my parents will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. On May 27, 1989, they held trembling hands before the altar at a little church in Yorktown, Texas, the same church where his parents had stood a few decades before. Both knew the pain of previous marriage and divorce, neither knew the love and grace of Christ. My dad proposed over the phone, scared, but knowing it was right. He was to be transferred across the country in just a few weeks. They bought a plain gold band—all they could afford—and two weeks later she walked down the aisle in a simple, knee-length white dress. A few friends and family surrounded them as they vowed a lifetime to each other. They may not have understood all that was said or prayed that day, but God did, and He blessed their union.

In the next few years, Christ drew my mom to himself first, then my dad. My siblings and I have had the privilege of being raised in a gracious, Christ-centered marriage. Knowing this milestone was coming up, Audrey, Alex, and I wanted to honor and celebrate them, so last weekend we threw them a surprise silver anniversary party, with a Texas touch. We had a country band and awesome barbecue. We hugged, danced, cried, and talked about what we’ve seen in their union these last 25 years.

As I prepared to give a toast, Proverbs 3:3-4 came to mind: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you. Bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.” Those two things are what a marriage is made of: love and faithfulness.

The love part is easy, at least at first. It’s assumed. There’s no better picture of all-enveloping, relentless, Father God-like love, than the way a groom looks at his bride, and the way she admires him. I still see that love in the way my parents look at one another, the way they hold hands, the way they serve each other. This is the part of the equation that culture generally pushes—the part the gives happy feelings, butterflies, and foot-popping kisses. It’s what Cinderella and other fairytales exalt. It’s what I always thought happily-ever-afters were made of.

But I was wrong about that. It took getting engaged and staring flatly at the reality of my happily-ever-after to realize that it takes more than that love. Love runs out, at least the romantic gushy sort. That’s where faithfulness comes in.

Faithfulness isn’t feeling; it’s character; it’s a long obedience in the same direction. It’s a reflection of our covenant-making—and covenant-keeping—God. This is why we make our vows in the presence of witnesses and of the Church; because we don’t have the strength to keep them on our own. My dad has always been a picture of faithfulness to me, of constancy, patience, quiet strength. Ultimately, the faithfulness we lean into when the happy feelings run out—that’s the beautiful part of marriage. That’s intended to be a reflection of God’s faithfulness to his Church (even in the face of Her unfaithfulness)—indeed, it’s an extension of the faithfulness we receive in Christ.

In a wedding ceremony, we bind two people into one on the foundation of love and faithfulness. But what will hold love and faithfulness together throughout their lifetime is grace. The grace of Jesus Christ, the grace my parents each accepted—and then reflected to one another day-to-day.

I’m only two years into my marriage, and I can see how much we need grace to sustain both love and faithfulness. I look at their 25 years, and I am amazed. I saw grace in their marriage, day-to-day, in the way they spoke of one another, and laughed and cried and prayed together. They certainly hurt one another, but they gave grace generously. That’s what it takes.

Mom and dad, grace is the heart of your marriage. And—praise God—we don’t have to muster it. He gives it us in his Son. Thank you for choosing love and faithfulness. Thank you for leaning into grace. Glory to God for your union. I love you, and I’m so thankful for the example that you’ve set for us.