My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this year, and in honor of the occasion my brother and sister and I threw them a party. My sister and I sought to re-create some of the special details of their wedding day, from the yellow roses and Queen Anne’s lace to the sugared flowers on the ‘wedding cake’ to the gardenias (the ultimate wedding flower for a Southern bride!) we gave them both to wear. Mama was so lovely in her swishing organza dress, and Daddy looked dapper in his seersucker suit, and all day people kept remarking on what a fabulous couple they are and how they really had the look of a bride and groom about them. Liz and Zach and I know how blessed we are to have parents who have been so faithful to God and faithful to each other–what a cause for celebration! I asked my mother to share some of the blessings and insights that come from being married to your true love for 40 years–I have a feeling you will all be as encouraged as I have been by their testimony. -Lanier
by Claudia Adams
Claudia, do you take Harris to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?
On June 22, 1969 I stood before God and all my assembled family and friends and “plighted my troth” and promised to love, honor and obey my husband. Yes, I wanted obey included in my vows even though I knew that phrase was rather out of date. I believe I thought it sounded noble and romantic. I did mean what I said…I just did not fully understand the working out of those vows.
My husband and I were married while we were still in school; I was an undergraduate and he was in law school. We met at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. I remember the first time I ever saw him. It was in the fall of my freshman year and I was sitting in chapel at the Thursday morning assembly and turned to see him standing in the back of the chapel. The thought went through my mind that I was going to marry him…it was as if I knew I would. For the remainder of that school year whenever I saw him he just stared at me and never said a word to me. The next fall Harris transferred to Georgia Tech 100 miles from Macon. I thought that I must have been wrong about marrying him since I had never even spoken to him! That same fall my cousin, who was my roommate at Mercer, received a phone call from Harris asking her if she would set up a “blind date” with me for the following weekend for both Friday and Saturday nights. That was such a long week!! I still remember what I wore that first date and how I felt coming down the stairs from my room and seeing him waiting for me in the “date parlor”. One year later we were engaged and the next year we were married. I was 20 and he was 21…soooo young!
Being married while still in college and law school was quite a challenge. Sadly it was a challenge that many of our friends were not able to overcome. My husband and I both came from families where marriage was considered to be a lifetime covenant and commitment. I know God protected and blessed us in thousands of ways through those years. For me, as a young bride I felt safe and protected in the assurance that my husband was going to take care of me. That first summer, I stayed in our little apartment and wrote wedding thank you notes and tried to get used to planning meals and buying groceries with not much money. My slightly-built husband worked pouring concrete that hot summer and came home every night with blistered hands and a sunburned face and back. Those weeks set the whole tone for our marriage. Through the years whenever storms would rage around us and it sometimes felt as if we would literally drown I would recall how my husband laid his life down for me from the first weeks of our life together.
I still am amazed when I look back over these forty years to remember all the tender mercies and blessings that the Lord bestowed so richly on us. I vowed to love and honor my husband and to forsake all others. One of the great challenges of those early months and years was to do just that. All of my friends were still active in our sorority and school activities. They did not go to the Laundromat every Saturday or try to buy groceries for a week with $25.00. We lived several miles from campus so when we were home we were home and when we were on campus we were in class. I could not drive back and forth to sorority meetings in my old dormitory. It seemed strange, and out of place. We had lots of friends and spent a great deal of time with them but I felt that my sorority activities belonged to a past season of my life. So I forsook those “others”.
This is a pattern that I have followed all my married life. In post-college life my activities with my girlfriends were times that were not only enjoyable but fit well into the pattern of our lives. But when our children were very small, it seemed that every time I would go to an evening meeting for Junior League or Symphony Guild Harris would have to call me because someone had a raging fever, an earache, a stomach flu or some other “I-want-my-Mommy” event. I found that I could be very fulfilled in keeping many of my activities during the day and keeping most nights at home unless I was on a date with my husband. We were blessed with our most precious Mary who took care of our children on date nights and all the times we were away from home.
“Forsaking all others” looks different to everyone. Certainly the Biblical command to be faithful to your husband is not to be violated, but I believe in our society that we do not think enough about the “others”–whomever or whatever they might be.
I trust my husband completely and he does me also. That has always been a major part of my “knowing” my husband. He is an honest man and has a very deep devotion to the truth. That freedom has been a blessing in our marriage and in the lives of our children. I think being faithful to your husband also means speaking well of him. I’m sure you know the old saying, “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.” Harris has often said that just because I think something does not mean I have to say it! He is right—I do struggle with saying things I should not have said. I am glad to say that I can thank God that He has taught me to keep my mouth closed a little more!! I have had many women tell me more than I wanted or needed to know about their husbands. Yes there are confidences shared when counseling or praying with a friend with a burden or struggle. But casual, disparaging remarks about a husband is in reality being unfaithful to him. “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her.” (Proverbs 31:11)
In the Name of God, I, Claudia take you, Harris, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.
Just typing these vows makes me want to shout, GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS!!! Sometimes in these past forty years we have literally held each other through deep valleys and almost overwhelming grief. Maybe not as much as some couples experience, but enough to know that we have always come out of those dark valleys with a deeper love for each other and our Lord. In 1986 both Harris and I came to the realization that having minors in Christianity and being what my mother-in-law called “good church workers” was not enough. We had both been baptized as children and had regularly attended church and been involved in teaching Bible school and serving on various committees. We were both convicted within months of each other that we had never totally surrendered to the Lord. What a transformation in our lives and the lives of our children. He led us in paths that were life-changing for all of us. Those years of teaching our children and working together to build firm foundations for them were some of the richest days of our marriage.
When I vowed before God to have and to hold in sickness and in health I blithely thought of the flu and sprained ankles. But we have been through those dark paths of bedside vigils of sick children, hospital stays that seemed to never end for two of our children, miscarriages and the deaths of the dearest of our friends. Many of the couples that we have known over these forty years are now divorced. In these later years our parents have all gone to be with Jesus. We have lived in abundance and with a tightened budget. We have survived cancer and cancer surgery and radiation therapy. As a young bride I could never have imagined any of the deep wells of joy and grief that would enter our lives but neither could I have imagined the love that Harris and I have. I did love him when I married him but it was an untested love. No storm, disease, death, heartbreak, loss or disappointment has ever undermined our relationship. On the contrary our marriage has grown stronger through every trial we have had.
Nor could I as a 20 year-old bride ever have dreamed of the great joys that would come into our lives. Our Lanier, Elizabeth and Zachary are the sweetest blessings that the Lord has given us. Harris poured himself into investing in the lives of our children. He drank thousands of cups of tea with our girls, watched every Jane Austen movie, all of the Avonlea series and Anne. He showed them their great worth and value as young women. He played basketball, tennis, golf, hiked, fished—whatever Zachary was interested in. Not one of them ever touched the piano without having him as a listener. He praised them as well as corrected them when needed. They always knew they could talk over any issue or problem with him. He has been a counselor and confidante for them as well as for me. All these years I have had absolute trust that my husband would take care of me and protect me. He values my counsel and I need his wisdom. We are each other’s best friend and confidante.
Everyone that knows me knows how I revere Shakespeare and these lines from Sonnet CXVI really express what it is like to live and love together for forty years:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken…
I do not like to think much about the last line of my vows: “till death do us part”. It is a reality, but we are married and we will be until that time. It is a reality that makes me a very blessed wife.
P.S. And the “obey” part of my vows…Harris is noble and romantic so that was never an issue!