Yesterday marked the second year I have been married to my beautiful wife Judy. Though it isn’t necessarily part of my husband repertoire to plan out finely detailed surprises and events that floor my wife, I wanted to do something a little special this year. After all, I felt like I owed it to her after this past year. Let me explain. She was in labor with our ten month old daughter Kalen on her birthday, so we didn’t really celebrate that day as Judy’s birthday though the day lead to a joyous occasion. I promised her that I would make it up to her on her half-birthday that year, which I forgot to do. I forgot to celebrate her first Mother’s Day, because ordination exams were that week, and obviously ordination exams are more important than celebrating a mother who gave birth to your only child, right? Oh, and I left her to take care of a child by herself on three separate occasions where I was out of town between two and six days–all while she had a full-time job that required her Monday to Fridays from 7 am to 5 pm. Yet, somehow, she followed me out here across the country to Philadelphia, because I had an opportunity to serve as a full-time minister after graduation. A bit one-side? It might be an understatement to say that I dropped the ball. You might begin to understand why I felt like I needed to spice things up and stir up some kind of wonderful for this anniversary.
Though I didn’t necessarily plan out all the details, I came up with the idea to take her to Manhattan. We would spend one night there and enjoy the city with each other. After all, it was one of her favorite cities in the world, and it gave me another selling point on why moving to the east coast was a great move. After I had explained this to her for the first time, she expressed her approval with great enthusiasm, validating my idea and lifting my self-worth as a husband. I was feeling pretty good about the state of our family until I received a phone call from the moving company that was lugging our belongings diagonally across the nation. In brief, he told me that our stuff would be here by the 12th or 13th, and he couldn’t be flexible with the dates. Out of sinful anger, I did my best to make him feel worse about himself, because he had ruined our anniversary that had been planned out and approved. All of this, because that date July 13 was a special one. It was special and worthy of an extravagant celebration. This got me thinking to ask a provocative question. What is the purpose of a wedding annivesary?
Less than two years ago, Shelley Emling wrote on The Importance Of Wedding Anniversary Celebrations on the Huffington Post. There she elaborated upon how the beginning years of her marriage involved romantic gestures exchanged through worthwhile investments in celebrating her wedding anniversary with her husband. With life’s busyness, the two began to invest less and less in their annivesary celebrations which was reflected in their less passionate kisses and placement of work and children above one another. Thus, she stated the following:
“Celebrating one’s anniversary must never be overlooked, as it reinforces the fact that your marriage is a priority. An anniversary celebration also allows you to pull back from your daily grind and relive a moment that changed your life forever.”
While sharing various annivesary ideas of others, the general message was clear: Remember. What goes forth to be important in life is remembering the right things in light of being so consumed with all the present things. I’m all in with that notion, especially as a young husband, because I don’t want to imagine a relationship with my wife that is void of affection and emotion. I can’t imagine our bond being something that we can’t categorize as special and unique beyond what is stated legally on papers.
In a self-serving way, my wedding day was the best day of my life. It was a day when I made the love of my life my very own in front of the family and friends that mean the most to both of us. Then, it would only make sense that we would look back at this special day to recount the positive emotions and whirlwind of the lovey dovey that was filled in our hearts. As Emling said, every annivesary celebration is a chance to look back at this day and relive the moment that changed our lives forever.
What once saddened both Judy and me was what is written in Matthew 22:30.
“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”
We couldn’t imagine that the glorious day of resurrection and everlasting joy would be one where she and I would not call one another husband and wife. After all, marriage is a priority for us, and we can’t imagine life apart from one another. Yet, one crucial aspect of our wedding day that we forget is the utterance of our vows. Of course, we remember the tears flooding through our eyes when reciting and hearing vows for one another. However, what we often overlook are the vows stated to God. We forgot that we vowed to God to take care of his daughter, his son. We forgot that we did not belong to one another but that we belonged to our Father in heaven. We forgot that we had the privilege of this because of the most glorious of wedding feasts and celebrations that we will take a part in. It’s not Sun and Judy’s special day but our special day with our Lord. No matter how much I swear to love Judy with all of my heart, it’s imperfect and is in no comparison to how much Christ has spilled his love upon her as her great shepherd. It would be outright selfish on my behalf to tell her that the best thing to do in remembering our wedding is to think about our mutual humanly love for one another. There’s so much more for her to remember on that day than Sun Kwak.
My professor in seminary enlightened me with an analogy of the gospel-centeredness of a wedding ceremony. The groom wears black and goes before to symbolize the sin incurred, as husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). Climactically, the bride wears white and is highlighted as the jewel of the event, pure as her husband bears her sin and adored as he deems her as his treasure. In light of this, I remember the moment I saw Judy walk down the aisle, and I remember how insufficient I felt in thinking of the responsibility I had to love and care for her as Christ did for me. I bet Judy remembers that very moment too, filled with eager expectations and uncertainty in getting married to a clown show like myself. Yet, what brings me much joy and satisfaction and comfort is knowing that she has better things to look forward to, because there is one who loves her far greater than her current self-centered husband ever could. What kind of husband would I be if I were to shine the light on an imperfect lover as myself and take it away from the God who is love in dying for our sins and giving himself up for us (1 John 4:10)?
Unlike our wedding anniversaries that celebrate a past event, which may mark the highlight of our lives, remembering our marriage to the Lamb of God points to the past and to the future. It reminds us of the great cost Jesus took in vowing his perfect love to us, showing us true sacrifice and true humility to serve our greatest need in saving us from our sin. It points to the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9), where God wipes every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4) and hearts will be full and satisfied. Would it not be the best thing for husbands to do when they lead their wives to the true bridegroom who gave himself up? Would it not better each respective spouse’s love for one another in reflecting upon a selfless act of love toward them in spite of their perpetual self-seeking desires? Then, I find it most fitting for spouses to think of their vows to God, at the very least, on their wedding day. We are temporary caretakers and belong to our Lord Jesus Christ. His love for us gives us power to show true love for one another if it is pointed to him. It is, then, not a cause for sorrow in thinking about Matthew 22:30 but a cause for joy. We together are joined to the greatest wedding of all, where we are loved with a love we don’t deserve.
Judy, I don’t deserve you as my wife, I will always do what I can to express my love to you. I will always love you as your husband, but Jesus will always love you infinitely more as your Savior. Forgive me for being selfish in wanting you to love me the way you ought to love Jesus. He deserves all of our affection and commitment. Let’s remember to love him together. Happy anniversary to all the married couples in this world. Your marriage is a special one, but I only wish for you that you would have a greater wedding to look to for your greatest joy. Because his love is better.