Karla and Mike 22 Years and Counting, a picture at Karla’s parents’ home on Christmas Day
December 27th, 2008 marks 22 years of marriage for my beloved and me. I was a senior at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and Karla a junior when we tied the knot. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Karla strolling into a chemistry lecture hall. Out of perhaps 150 students I looked at her and had the distinct thought that perhaps one day I would marry her. And I did.
At the time Karla was a pre-med, and I a biology/religion major. Karla was the only good thing to come out of that class. Inorganic chemistry ruined the quality of my life for several months. Many weeks after my chemistry encounter from afar we were introduced by a mutual friend. I promptly, and inconceivably, forgot her name. But it didn’t take long before I got it right. Love at first sight? I don’t know. What would you call it when you see a person for the first time and are pretty sure you will get married? I know. It’s weird, but this is the way it was. We were engaged on February 13, 1986, on a picture perfect winter evening. We walked out to Dunnings Springs with the snow lightly falling. Norman Rockwell couldn’t possibly get it better. Right alongside the ever flowing freshwater stream that cascades from the limestone bluffs above, I knelt down and asked Karla to marry me. “Yes” was her enthusiastic supply.
The original plan was to get married in the spring of 1987. However, on a visit back home shortly after the engagement, my mother said, “Well, why don’t you just get married around Christmas time?” We jumped all over mom’s superb idea. Karla’s parents were married 45 years ago on December 29th. They thought it was a spectacular time of year to get married so they were all for it. And so we did.
Standing before nearly 350 family and friends we recited those all familiar vows that seal a marriage…vows that two largely naive people make (the younger the more naive…no matter how mature) before God and others. “…forsaking all others and cleaving only to you…for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death parts you?” With each passing year, without really even talking about it, each partner in a committed covenantal marriage grows a little richer in understanding the mystery of marriage.
For Christians, the ultimate picture of marriage is found in the vivid pictures of Ephesians Ch. 5 where the Apostle Paul likens marriage to the relationship that Christ has with His Church. Here he tells husbands to “…love their wives as Christ loved the Church” (the end of which was death) and wives are called to”submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.” Many dismiss Paul’s words as archaic and barbaric in this modern enlightened age…both within the church and outside the church… and just look at where marriage stands in our land. People openly joke about starter wives thus making a mockery of that which is holy. If Christian men would love their wives as Jesus loved the Church, few women on this planet would reject their 100% equal in value status with the differering roles that God has ordained for each.
Karla and I don’t have it all figured out but we know where to look when things aren’t going well. By the grace of God for 22 years we have loved, listened to, leaned on, labored to understand, and lifted up one another. By the grace of God may there be another 50 or 60. But even if not, a vow is a vow. A promise is a promise. And marriage is for keeps…richer or for poorer…sickness or in health. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of these things.