On my wedding day, 25 years ago today, two hundred candles lit the sanctuary, family crests hung from the walls, and my bridesmaids walked down the aisle in a rainbow of Elizabethan gowns. As a prelude to the ceremony, two of my actor friends from the local theater performed the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.

With more than 700 in attendance, it was an affair many still recall to me.

Nineteen years later, after Russ and I separated, celebrating my silver wedding anniversary was a reality only God could imagine.

Marriage is Hard

Standing at the altar, hearts bursting with dreams and plans, a young couple naively faces the future. But it takes more than a joint checking account and gold wedding bands to bind two people together. It takes joy and suffering.

People say parenting is hard. And it surely is. (I have three teens to prove it.) But your children grow up and leave the nest. Your spouse, on the other hand, is meant to be with you till death, which means they get to know you more intimately than your children ever could.

And I’m not simply talking about sexual intimacy. I’m talking about the deep stuff, the things our spouse sees in us, and accepts, and loves us through even when we are afraid to admit it to ourselves. They embrace and share our burden of shame and pain.

Marriage is Humbling

In wedded bliss, you see in your beloved’s eyes nothing but happiness, hope, passion, kindness, goodness, and gentleness. And you hope they see the same in your gaze.

But over the years, you discover how selfish you are, how impatient, how prideful, how greedy, how short-tempered, how unloving, how childish, how controlling, and how vain.

Marriage is terribly humbling. We so desperately want to be the person we promised to be and yet we disappoint again and again.

Marriage puts our character on the anvil of time. Our impurities are revealed then burned up and beaten out until we are sharp and strong. Only then do we understand the hard and humbling aspects of marriage are forging something infinitely greater than two separate people.

Marriage is Heroic

In today’s disposable society where “intimate” relationships are as cheap as a few drinks, honoring the for-better-or-worse commitment made to one other person is just flat-damned heroic. Sticking it out through heartbreak, separation, trauma, pride, illness, financial loss, joblessness, disappointment, and pain takes a mountain of courage. And a desperate faith in God.

I think marriage is a pledge, a promise given in faith, partly to our partner, but mostly to God Himself. We promise to trust Him. We promise to believe that He will see us through if we just hold on. We commit to Him that He will work all things for good (Romans 8:28).

We promise to Him and our spouse to stay faithful and forgive, to apologize and applaud, to confess and to comfort, to help and to hug, to kiss and to cradle, to sigh and to sing, to plead and to please, to praise and to pray for. And if we stick around long enough, we’ll see that His plans far surpass what even Shakespeare could have dreamed up.

I look at those who have been married 35, 50, and even 75 years, who persevere(d) when everyone else around them threw in the towel, and I ask myself, what else can you call these couples but heroes? That’s what they are to me.

As for Russ and I, we can’t wait to see where the next 25 years brings us.