At a young pastors conference not long ago, I started my message by saying, "I've been married for 41 years." These were all relatively new guys to the ministry with young churches and new marriages. They were impressed with my statement and interrupted my opening sentence with loud applause. In the middle of their clapping I finished my opening line by saying, "to seven different women." You should see preachers try to take back applause. They were rubbing their hands together, wiping their palms with tissue, and passing around small bottles of Purell. I then told them It was my opening joke, but I think some of them never trusted me for the rest of the presentation.
The truth is, as of today, September 1, 2015, I have been married for 42 years. Yes, to the same woman, Betty. We met in High School. It was the best thing I ever accomplished in school. When I first met Betty, I said, "Lord, if I can just pick and choose, that brunette right there will do just fine!" And she did. The time has come and gone so quickly. It seems as though the first time I saw her was just a few weeks ago. What a great adventure we have had. People ask me how I managed to have such a great marriage. I just respond with, "I married Betty."
42 years ago today, we eloped. That's right, we ran away and got married. We were of different denominations church wise and to avoid what we thought would be a problem with a wedding, we just went off on our own and got married. We were like the church goin' Romeo and Juliet, except nobody died. Justice of the Peace Joe Brown did the wedding in his living room in Dallas, we ate lunch at Kip's Big Boy hamburger stand and began our life together. It was the best wedding I have ever attended and the best burger I have ever eaten, all because Betty was there.
I'm asked all the time, what would you do differently about marriage if you could go back. Honestly, I'd just marry her sooner. Some things you just know are right.
We were looking at our wedding pictures not long ago. She is just as beautiful to me today as she was then. I, on the other hand, not so much! In every picture of us lately, Betty looks like she's talking to Santa about Christmas. I asked her the other day if she would love me when I'm old and pitiful. She responded, "Honey, I do."
I can not explain our relationship, other than to say that we are simply devoted to each other. She is my best friend. The bible speaks of the two becoming one. I truly understand that verse. I realize it in our relationship. I have heard that after many years together, the little old man begins to look like the little old woman, and the little old woman begins to look like the little old man. For Betty's sake, I pray that is not the case! But our hearts become so entwined with each other, that it is hard to tell where one stops and the other begins.
Betty's fight with cancer hasn't brought us closer. We were already close. It has caused us though, to treasure our time together even more and to cherish each moment that God has given us. 42 years. Wow! I was about 6 years old when we got married. It was the best decision I made that year!
It is said that women marry men hoping to change them and men marry women, hoping they won't change. I have been changed for the better by her love. I try not to even think of where I would be without this relationship that God has so richly blessed me with. In the exciting and the non-exciting, I love her. Right now, while I write this blog, she is swatting a wasp on the window and asking me if I remembered what purchase I made at Lowe's for $21.41, and I just love her. The way she swings that fly swatter is just a joy to me!
Betty, happy anniversary! After all these years, you're still my girl. It's been the best journey. Thank you for loving the man that I can't help but be! We start working on 43 tomorrow. I would elope with you all over again and I would eat another Big Boy hamburger with you in a heart beat! I'm ready for whatever as long as you are there. I love you!