August 19, 2020
Twenty five years today.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Erik stood at the end of the infinity stage my Dad had built out of scaffolding, the view of the Selkirk mountains and the lake below framed by the floral trellis. The Cinderella style carriage, pulled by a horse, picked me up and delivered my smiling face to my Dad. Arm in arm, we glided down the aisle to my young groom. As we said our vows, I spoke them with such optimism and joy.
That day was straight out of fairy tale.
We returned from our honeymoon and moved to a new town a day later. I started a new teaching job, and Erik began medical school. It was here we traded the fairy tale for real life.
A couple of months in we realized that marriage was going to be work. Life wasn’t easy. I was adjusting to working full time, coaching, and leading Young Life, and he was pouring himself into his new career, studying harder and longer than ever before. It wasn’t long before we faced another move, secondary infertility, and deep financial strains. These are the refining fires of a relationship.
I’ve never believed that good things come easily. Quite the opposite, I believe that anything worth doing is a challenge. We have to lean in to the difficulty and that is part of what makes it so rewarding and good.
I can say with complete authenticity that twenty five years later Erik and I have a strong, healthy, deep, and loving marriage. But make no mistake, it’s been hard won.
In every season, we’ve kept choosing to move toward each other, instead of away. We’ve pitched our tent and camped in love, the deep kind, the burning embers kind. The kind that says, “I love you anyway, I forgive you, and I’m choosing to stay – not just physically, but emotionally.”
Last weekend we set up a picnic in the same exact spot we got married to renew our vows. Saying vows twenty five years in means something completely different. Life has been a teacher of what those words really mean.
I, Krista, take you, Erik, to be my husband. And I promise, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful wife.
Stop there. To be your loving and faithful wife.
What does it mean for me to be continually loving? To show great, great care. To never stop showing it.
We can’t hide in a marriage. Our truest, most raw selves come out. As I have rooted myself in the love of God, I have found the well to tap for this kind of continual loving. It’s been the only way.
and faithful wife.
We are all one decision away from kicking faithfulness to the curb. One decision. Erik and I decided early on that guarding our small, daily choices was going to be important. The statistics on infidelity and divorce in the medical profession are sobering to read. Long hours spent away from family are a set up for a breech in faithfulness, on my part and his. We named and put into practice boundaries that we continue to practice.
In plenty and in want
Oh how we have seen both sides of this coin. We have lived in matchbox sized apartments with barely two nickels to rub together, and we have lived in spacious houses with more than enough.
Some of the greatest moments in our marriage and family have been in tiny houses. In want we learned how to lean hard on one another and trust God for provision. In plenty we’ve learned that financial abundance does not equate to happiness or satisfaction.
The state of our hearts and our relationships is the real measure of our lives, not our bank accounts or physical spaces.
In joy and in sorrow
I have vivid memories to fit both of these categories. The joyful snapshots of all of our children being born, the day Erik graduated residency, the Alaskan cruise memories from our twenty year celebration, so many moments fill this cup.
And the sorrow. The deep sorrow. Some moments caused by the other. Some a result of situations beyond our control. Here too my memories and snapshots run deep. Maybe even more so. I picture myself with knees on the floor, praying, crying, speaking words to God out loud.
In sickness and in health
The day of Erik’s ski accident. Hearing he may never walk the same again, and certainly would not run, hike, or climb. The months that followed with a wound vacuum as our constant companion.
And then there is the less dramatic, but slow break down of our physical bodies. We do our very best to remain physically strong, but there is a reality we cannot fight. Our physical bodies were not meant to last forever. We change. Even today as we leave for a backpacking trip with our boys, adjustments are being made so I will be able to make the climb, especially the climb down.
Part of loving well is growing old together – literally.
As long as we both shall live.
Maybe the most important. In our renewal ceremony we created vows that we said to our children. One of them was “I promise to love your (father/mother) and only your (father/mother) as long as I am living.”
This simple choosing and vowing to stay in this one primary relationship is deeply powerful, both in our lives and in the lives of our children. It matters. Deeply.
In this same section in our vows to our children, we said,
“We believe that a healthy thriving marriage is the cornerstone on which society itself is built and generations of family flourish.”
We hold to those words. And that big impact begins with the very small decision to remain.
As long as we’re living, Erik and I have chosen to stay in our marriage. After a quarter of a century, we’re still all in.
1 John 4:11-12 says
Delightfully loved ones, if he loved us with such tremendous love, then “loving one another” should be our way of life! No one has ever gazed upon the fullness of God’s splendor. But if we love one another, God makes His permanent home in us, and we make our permanent home in him, and his love is brought to its full expression in us.”
Rooting ourselves in the deep love of God has made all of the difference in our twenty five years. God making his permanent home in us has allowed us access to love without end, love without boundaries, and love without measure.
The fairy tale life I imagined from that Cinderella carriage on my wedding day did not come true. But it’s so much better. What we have now in our marriage is deep and real. We’ve come through fire, and we are refined, stronger, and more resolved.
I can honestly say that when God’s love and grace is leading the way, marriage truly does get better with time and experience.
By God’s grace, we’re living proof.