Forty years ago today Charlotte Lawn and Gary Wiley were united in holy matrimony in the Jamestown, NY, Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Both in our early twenties, we could not imagine at that time all that life would bring our way, as is true for every couple who begins their lives together. For all the things we didn’t know, there were two things we were committed to:
- Our relationship with Jesus Christ. We were willing to follow Him wherever He would lead us.
- Our relationship to each other. We expressed it that day by vowing that we would never let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26), and by promising each other that divorce would never be an option in our relationship.
And we lived happily ever after? That would not be an accurate description of the past forty years. There have been times of defeat, discouragement, disappointment, depression (me), and distance, if we’re honest. But the two things that we committed to before God served as a foundation for the potentially deadly “D’s” that came our way.
Over the years we had the privilege of offering premarital preparation for 50 plus couples, mostly in New York City, not typically thought of a great place to begin a marriage and see it thrive. The experience with each couple allowed us as mentors to work on our own relationship and share our experiences of how God was faithful in the early years, the child-rearing years, in the empty nest years, and in those years when the things we had hoped for didn’t always come to fruition.
Two and one-half years ago, we experienced an incredible blessing in our relationship when we had our marriage convalidated just a few days after coming into the Roman Catholic Church. What that means is that we “brought our marriage into the Catholic Church” and partook in the Sacrament of Matrimony, recognizing that our true vocation is that of being married and living out our sacrament before a watching world.
Looking back at the commitments we made 40 years ago, I’m so thankful. God’s mercy and grace were present to us then, even when the challenges of life were overwhelming. And now, we’re even more aware of God’s faithfulness.
Happy anniversary Charlotte! I am a blessed man! Here’s to 40 more! Saints Anne and Joachim, pray for us! Amen.