Today Shannan and I celebrate thirty-eight years of marriage.
Thirty-eight years ago we were barely out of our teens. I was a college junior in Memphis, Tennessee. I served as a part-time youth director in a little Baptist church and waxed cars in my spare time to pay the bills. Shannan worked for Memphis Communications Corporation and attended school at night. I lived in a small apartment that sat atop my friend’s garage. She lived with her family in a nice home in Germantown.
I had more love than money and more confidence than common sense. When I sat across from Shannan’s dad at Danver’s Restaurant to ask his permission, I’m glad he didn’t quiz me about my bank account. His “Yes” would have become an emphatic, “No.”
I was running on love, not cash.
I sold my 1965 Ford Mustang to pay for her wedding ring. For a car guy, that is true love!
For me, the depth of my love is measured in memory, or more accurately, my lack of it. I don’t remember what I drove after the buyer drove off with my pride and joy. I do, however, remember that in the days leading up to the wedding, I was sleeping on a friend’s couch and driving his Datsun B210 to run my errands.
I wasn’t worried. I was marrying up. Shannan had a brand new Dodge Challenger. We were going to make life work with one car. No problem! I had $50 to give the preacher and enough forethought to plan our honeymoon at The Inn at Gristmill Square, a quaint boutique inn nestled in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia.
She wasn’t in it for the money.
I did not have much, but I married a woman who was not in it for the money — or the prospect of having a lot of it. My wife (if I may use that possessive phrase) has always possessed a God-sized portion of agape, love that looks outward, not inward, and is defined by commitment not cash.
Proverbs 31:10-31, which is the A-Z of womanly excellence, begins with the words which describe Shannan and sum up my life these last 38 years.
More precious than jewels . . .
Back in 1980, God’s gift to me was a woman with relentless love, boundless devotion, and ceaseless adventure. While that was evident prior to our honeymoon, it was more then evident on the way back. We were returning to Memphis, plodding mile after mile through a night rain. Actually, “we” were not driving. She was! Shannan was driving because I was sick with the flu and feeling absolutely miserable. And . . . since our home was not ready we would be staying with friends temporarily until our temporary rental was ready, where we would be living until our home was complete.
Yes you read that correctly — temporary to temporary to “home sweet home.”
As I write these words, I am flipping through the pages of my memory from that infamous drive. For the life of me I cannot find the page where Shannan said, “I did not sign up for this!” or “We’re staying where just a week after getting married?!” or “What were you thinking!”
I cannot find those pages because they never existed.
Shannan’s M.O. has always been selflessness and patience, whether enduring and grieving a miscarriage at 2 a.m., or tent-camping with our six kids in the frosty Grand Tetons, or hosting our 34 kids and grands this summer, or doing major remodeling in our home while living in it (three times!), or moving to Florida to plant a church, or traversing to Europe or South America to help me do what God has called me to do, or opening her home “one more time” for family, friends, and acquaintances.
Selfless devotion marks my wife. The clock stops when she enters a conversation. While it drives me crazy at times, I realize it is my wife being my wife. It is also part of the reason those words from Proverbs 31:11 have resonated through the years.
I too am the recipient of that love, a love that can only be explained as coming from the Father. “We love,” John tells us, “because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
So this anniversary, I say, “Thanks” to God for this precious woman, and “I love you!” to Shannan. My heart trusts you like no other. Indeed, I have no lack of gain.