This week my parents are celebrating their 33rd anniversary.
But this year, they aren’t able to celebrate together. My mom is back in CO helping my sister get ready for her wedding, and my dad is holding down the fort in their SE Asia home. And, due to all the restrictions with international travel, they’re not actually sure when they’ll see each other next. So it goes without saying, this is a unique and difficult season that they are walking through right now. Yet, it’s just another way they have demonstrated sacrificial love and service during their marriage that I have had the privilege of witnessing for 28 of those 33 years.
I’m dedicating this blog post to sharing five lessons I’ve learned from my parents’ marriage. These lessons have been an incredible gift to me (especially in my own marriage), as I know they have been to many others as well. And now, I want to share these lesson-gifts with you, too.
1. Obedience to God is Always Worth It
My parents have demonstrated both individually and as a couple that obedience to God is a beautiful and joyful thing. There are so many examples of this, I hardly know where to start: loving unconditionally, serving faithfully, forgiving wholeheartedly, showing hospitality, embracing biblical family, moving half-way across the world… and the list goes on. They have shown that no matter what God asks of us, even if the cost is great, the reward of obedience is greater still. And I know much of that is yet to be realized when we reach eternity, but I have seen so much fruit come from their willingness to obey God and trust Him with the outcome.
I’ll share one example that I think about almost daily. When they were first planning to move to Mongolia, lots of people voiced concerns about the fact that there was very little access to good medical care available there. “What if your children get hurt or sick?” This was certainly something they wrestled over. But when it came down to it this was (in essence) the answer they gave. “If God has called us to this place, this will be the best place for our children to be, too. He can be trusted with their lives.” We learned from a young age that God is trustworthy. And we also learned that for a parent to love Him above all else – even their kids – is the very best thing they can do for their children.
They’ve done an amazing job of allowing obedience to God, both theirs and other’s, to be defined by Scripture. I’ve been asked if I feel pressure to have as many kids as they had or to go overseas because that’s what my parents have done, and the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ They know and have always encouraged us that as long as we are loving God with all our hearts, loving others, and serious about practicing those other principles that are commanded in Scripture, the ways those can be lived out will be varied from person to person. We have their blessing to joyfully obey God wherever He puts us and in whatever He’s asking of us.
2. Love is Fueled by Commitment
Just as in any marriage, my parents have faced challenges and had to overcome relational hurdles with one another. They’ve walked through many kinds of storms that have the potential to break apart a marriage. But both of them have demonstrated that they are staunchly committed to one another by God’s grace, and that that commitment has cultivated greater and greater love for one another. When commitment is the foundation of love, there is safety to work through conflict, to be vulnerable, and to be sanctified without fear of rejection.
My parents have shown me that when two people are committed to loving one another out of obedience to the Lord, their love grows more precious with time. Because both of them have been more concerned that they personally are doing the right thing before God, they have been blessed and strengthened to become a picture of what He can do with two people who simply desire to obey Him.
3. God-defined Roles are Good
We live in a world where biblical husband/wife roles are frowned upon and even rejected altogether. This mindset is, sadly, finding its way into the church in some places, too. However, when someone has witnessed a beautiful example of a husband and wife embracing those God-given roles (as I have), it’s not so easy to reject the idea that there is something better than what the world has to offer.
My dad has led my mom and our family with strength, humility, love, and integrity. My mom has embraced her role as my dad’s helper with joy, wisdom, grace, and vision. God has used them in incredible ways to serve and encourage others in His name because of their willingness to function as a biblical husband/wife team. There is no domineering. There is love and respect on both sides. There is a willingness to change and listen. Because their goal is to love God individually and together, it keeps their “mission” as a couple clear and strong: to bring glory to God.
Their example has shown me that God’s way is always the best way, even when the world is screaming otherwise.
4. Service Brings Joy
My parents have been the epitome of a couple that pours themselves out to love and serve others. In a world that says “think of yourself first,” my parents have instead embraced God’s command to “count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). There is so much blessing that has come from this it’s impossible to recount it all.
I’ll share one story in this vein that still profoundly affects my life every day. About 1.5 years after Judah’s family moved to Mongolia, one of his brothers was in a very serious horse accident and had to be evacuated from the country. We didn’t know their family very well at the time, but my parents offered to care for the three other kids while his parents went with his injured brother. Judah and his two younger siblings lived with us for about a month before going to join their parents and brother, which was plenty of time for our hearts to be deeply knit together with their family (years before anything happened between Judah and I).
That is just one of the many examples of ready and willing service my parents have had toward many, many people. They’ve shown me that serving others in Jesus’s name brings joy and blessing. They’ve demonstrated that any inconvenience service might bring is far outweighed by the privilege of being the hands and feet of Christ to others.
5. Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
My parents have modeled and taught us that keeping our eyes on Jesus is the most important thing we can do in this life. They’ve reminded us by their lips and lives that this earth is not our ultimate home, and that Christ is our ultimate prize. They place priority on seeking God, and began encouraging us to do the same from a very young age. They helped us learn how to make decisions through the lens of God’s Word rather than the world. By their example, I learned that when God is at the center of life and worldview, our purpose becomes so much clearer. And, that when the path ahead is not perfectly outlined, there is rest in Christ – that even when we don’t understand what God is doing, He is perfectly trustworthy and will never lead us astray.
My dad is pretty outspoken about that fact that he doesn’t like the phrase, “Some people are so heavenly-minded that they’re no earthly good.” He would give us examples of how the people who have most impacted this world for good are the ones who’ve had their gaze fixed most firmly on heaven – on Christ. And his and my mom’s lives are a beautiful demonstration of that, too.
There are thousands of other things I’ve learned from my parents, but I hope this gives you a glimpse into the essence of their lives.
Dad and Mom, I am so grateful for you. Thank you for committing your marriage (and all of your lives) to glorifying Jesus Christ. Happy Anniversary; I love you dearly.