Someone once said: Falling in love at first sight is rather like falling down a hole — sudden, intense — often with an unsatisfactory outcome.
Not for me! The first time I laid eyes on Karla as she walked into the lecture hall for Chemisty at Luther College I immediately thought that I might well end up marrying her.
Despite the fact that there were 150 other students in this class, she caught my eye in a big way.
A couple of weeks later I found out her name, promptly forgot it, learned it once again, committed it to memory, and married her two years later.
You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace (Song of Solomon 4:9).
On December 27th Karla and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage… two decades, 7,300 days.
During this time we have matriculated together and probably far too often pontificated together.
We have slept together and wept together, talked in depth and walked great lengths.
We have journeyed together through the grist mill of an almost comically difficult ministry experience early on, and found solace in Zantac (for a time), committed love, prayer, and reliance upon a good and sovereign God.
If you have ever quit a job with nothing else even in sight, with a nine-month pregnant wife, you might be able to relate.
We have shared together in the births of five healthy children and felt and still feel the loss of one conceived whose life ended before birth.
During these twenty years we have buried four grandparents and dealt with the harsh realities of my mother being diagnosed (in 1992) with early onset Alzheimer’s when she was only fifteen years older than my present age.
Who could have imagined the multi-layered difficulties this one prolonged frowning providence alone would cause in our broader family?
But, through every experience, every joy and every trial, we have stood together as one flesh, stubbornly holding to the sacred vows we professed before God and many witnesses long ago.
Like every married couple we have experienced …for better or worse. We too have experienced …sickness and health.
Any man who has stood helplessly by as his wife endured complications in pregnancy or witnesses his wife in the throes of a grand mal seizure, or the like, understands just how precarious is our earthly existence.
Proverbs 18:22 declares: He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.
Any man can find a wife. But to find an actual human being who can put up with every single one of my peculiarities is an extraordinary thing! And, she still loves me!
How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! (Song of Solomon 4: 10)
I was recently reminded of the importance of couples verbalizing their (positive) sentiments toward one another.
As a man I empathize with all men at this seemingly unnatural task, but suspect that its alternative may leave many regrets.
Thomas Carlyle was a 19th century Scottish satirist and historian who is credited by many as writing the saddest sentence in English literature.
In 1826 he married a woman named Jane Welsh and thus began an unhappy 40 years of marriage.
Thomas often neglected his wife. They never had children and after Carlyle’s death in 1881 his biographer made public his belief that their marriage had never even been consummated.
Just chew on that possibility for awhile if you think your marriage has issues!
Nevertheless, when Jane died in 1866 Thomas wrote a highly self critical literary work titled Reminiscences of Jane Welsh Carlyle.
In this work he takes responsibility for his own shortcomings while at the same time demonstrating a genuine love for his deceased wife.
The sad words he wrote were as follows: Oh, that I had you yet for five minutes by my side that I might tell you all.
Thomas Carlyle really did love his wife, but apparently their heartfelt communications were almost non-existent.
Where is the wisdom in waiting until a person is dead before speaking the words that should be spoken now while the sun still rises and sets?
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).
A cynic once observed: All marriages are happy. It’s the living together afterward that causes all the trouble.
If you ever feel the pressure to maintain the perception of perfection in your marriage then you may find a helpful and even humorous perspective in the book by William Petersen titled Husbands and Wives.
This biographical book looks into the marital lives of twenty well known Christian leaders from the past five centuries.
One of the most poignant (but helpful) examples comes from the marital lives of John and Molly Wesley.
Wesley was one of the great leaders of the evangelical revivals in England during the 18th century, and the founder of Methodism.
At his prime Wesley often preached four or five times a day. At times, crowds of up to 30,000 people came to hear him. But his marriage stunk. He was away from home 75% of the time.
Four years after he was married he wrote to his brother Charles, Love is rot.
While Wesley normally made meticulous entries into his daily journals, he neglected even to mention his wedding day. That’s always a bad sign.
His wife Molly was a hothead who apparently possessed an acid tongue.
One of Methodism’s traveling preachers records the following eyewitness account: Once when I was in the north of Ireland, I went into a room and found Mrs. Wesley foaming with fury. Her husband was on the floor, where she had been trailing him by the hair of his head. She herself was still holding in her hand venerable locks which she had plucked up by the roots. (Husbands and Wives, p.158)
Even with an adrenaline rush I don’t think Karla could pull me around the room by my hair!
They separated for good when he was 73 and she 67. The final words John wrote to Molly were these: If you were to live a thousand years, you could not undo the mischief you have done.
Those are fairly strong words don’t you think? I am very thankful to have an understanding wife and serve an understanding church.
I have often told the church I serve that my marriage and family are of greater importance to me than the local church. They affirm this as well.
There is a huge difference between loving God and loving the ministry. Many a man in ministry has been married to the wrong bride (the church) and the marriage has paid dearly.
The Bible I read says that a man can have only one wife at a time. I chose Karla. She chose me.
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord (Song of Solomon 8:6).
These words of Solomon contain some powerful insights.
When you place love and death side by side you are looking at two of the most powerful human experiences.
Love is every bit as strong as death.
But what does …jealousy is fierce as the grave mean? Here jealousy is a good thing. It is a positive emotion that is also as fierce as death.
This kind of jealousy is a zeal to protect that which is sacred.
In Exodus 20:5, God Himself is revealed as a jealous God. You shall not bow down to them (carved images or likeness) or serve them for I the Lord your God am a jealous God….
God has an unswerving, inexhaustible zeal to preserve the glory of His own holy name. He does not accept a halfway commitment, or share His glory with another. God is jealous.
A godly husband should also possess a holy zeal, jealousy, regarding his wife. Just as God is passionate to preserve the dignity of His own name, so also a Christian husband should be passionate to preserve the sanctity of his wife and their marriage together.
Any threats to this sacred establishment need to be spoken and dealt with in an unflinching manner.
The kind of love of which Solomon speaks is indeed intense and bright like flashes of fire.
No manner of trial or tribulation can ever quench this precious kind of love.
And while the love between a man and wife may not always feel like flashes of fire, the happiest marriages are fueled by the very flame of the Lord.
Lord, thank you for twenty very good years! And please keep it burning for another twenty, and then another until death do us part.
Mike Evans is pastor of Crossroad Evangelical Free Church in Earlham, Iowa. He and his wife Karla homeschool their five children. This article first appeared in The NICHE Newsletter.