Thursday will be the anniversary of my wedding to Beth Anne Jerome, a tiny 21-year-old angel with a soft voice, smiling eyes and long dark hair who wore a heavenly white gown when she walked down the aisle in a little Baptist church in Van Wert, Ohio, on a sunny Saturday, June 20, 1970.
I personally think that's a significant achievement — particularly for Beth, having to put up with me that long. And it has made me think, at this particular time in history, that I should write a few words in support of this institution called marriage, which has been battered and scarred, like a ship sailing through the shoals of an increasingly shallow society.
It's not just the divorce rate threatening marriages (more than half in the United States fail every year). It's that many couples ignore the institution of marriage altogether by living together and having children out of wedlock.
It's not just the careless and cavalier approach to being married that many have. It's the misunderstanding of what it even means, how it was ordained and what consequences we as a nation suffer when we abuse it the way we do.
I'm proud of the fact our church requires a process of mentoring couples who wish to be married there. It's a nine-week process in which the prospective bride and groom meet with an older married couple from the church who lead an ongoing study and discussion of the various aspects of being married. It doesn't guarantee success, but it certainly makes the young lovers consider in detail what they are getting into.
Beth and I have been privileged to be mentors to a few couples in that program.
It is an intentional attempt to uphold and maintain the value and respect of marriage, which in this era is being slapped and slandered by infidelity, irresponsibility, pornography, and physical, verbal and emotional abuse.
There are serious consequences to abusing marriage. Divorce leaves hurting and needy children, despondent mates, and debts and multiplied financial obligations. Other abuses like those above undermine the intent of what marriage is intended to accomplish and what I sincerely believe it has accomplished for Beth and me.
Our “traditional” marriage has not been perfect, but still one of the best I've ever seen. We've not always been reasonable, patient, unselfish and understanding. But we've stayed together. We've been accountable to one another. We've been faithful to each other and to the commitments we made on that day nearly 43 summers ago.
The benefits have included delightful children with outstanding spouses and children of their own — and a love that goes beyond feelings and that ties us together through our faith in God, companionship and security, laughter and tears, hard work and great reward.
And I wouldn't have had it any other way.