Today marks the 40th anniversary of my parents’ marriage. God has given me, my family and so many others so much through this great feat of promise-keeping faithfulness. The following letter opened a 100 page book to mom and dad from all their kids. The book is sprinkled with photos, lists of memories, letters from family and old friends, and a sermon dedicated to mom and dad from both drew and me. You can view the album here. Thanks to everyone who contributed, and congratulations, mom and dad!
Years: Some of these are great. Some of these are hard. They’re filled with people and places worth remembering. You’ve had 40 of them together now. This book is a compilation of photos, memories, and words in your honor on this day.
It’s said that a picture can tell a thousand words. We like pictures, but we still like words more. God revealed himself in a book of words, not pictures. So we want to share a few of our own with you.
First, some words about growing up in your home. We thank God for parents committed to some unpopular but basic ideals. You were committed to making sure your children had a mother home with them all the time. That was a good decision for many reasons, and the world is safer for it! We remember waking up in Crystal Lake to dad’s leather soled shoes on the wood floor downstairs before leaving to catch the train. We remember being greeted by mom’s voice and one of many names that only a mom can get away with – “sunshine” and “punkin eater” come to mind. We remember playing in the ravine by our home in the woods, building forts, sledding in the snow, and getting all scraped up like kids should. We remember swim lessons and soccer practice and drum lessons and Taekwon-Do tournaments. We remember asking to be excused from the dinner table and kissing you both goodnight before we went to bed. We also remember being disciplined when we rebelled (Trent, especially; Tyler, not so much). We remember raking leaves on to giant tarps, and mowing dandelions, grass, and frogs in the back yard in the Spring.
We remember growing up with Tyler – his happy squeals, his smiles, his seizures. We remember mom crying when you two made the decision to place him at Little Angels. He is your much-loved “baby.” We remember weekly trips to Little Angels. Later, we remember getting calls from mom on her way to Chicago whenever Tyler got sick. Nothing stood in her way. And we remember dad making two twelve hour round trips in a thirty-six hour period when death threatened Tyler’s life a few years ago. What we don’t remember is Tyler before he was brain damaged. Honestly, neither of us can relate with the pain you two have known, and neither of us wish to know what that must be like. We are both parents now of children about Tyler’s age when the trouble came. Your hearts break for him, albeit in different ways, and you suffer because your son has suffered. You are bound to one another. Tyler, of course, is the toughest person among us, surprising even doctors with his resilience and commitment to live. And sometimes surprising us by speaking words like “fighting” and “water!”
Thankfully, we know that God is good and powerful and wise. He said so in Jesus Christ. He is not surprised by anything, though His purposes are greatly mysterious and understood for what they are only from the distance of eternity. And we know that God entered into our pain, sending his Son to suffer with us and, ultimately, to suffer in our place on the cross. He takes on our suffering and gives us his joy. One day, Tyler will know the joy of his Maker, and we who are found safe in Christ will know that joy with him.
We also remember dad coming home with news that we were moving to California, and in California with news that Woolworth was through, and a year later, that we were moving to St. Louis. Actually, we don’t remember those moments, but we know they happened. We remember dad flicking off the apartments where he stayed for six months alone before the family followed him to Pleasanton. In a funny way, that was a gesture of love for us. “We’re moving” is tough news to tell kids, but we consider our many moves a part of God’s gracious plan to bring us to Himself. We know it makes for a sense of uprootedness, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now, some words about marriage. It is hard to appreciate the humanness of your parents when you’re not married. Marriage has a way of pulling back the curtain on our own selfishness. Our sin is reflected back to us in its effects on our relationship. Neither of you are invincible or perfect. We always knew that. But now we can relate. We’ve seen you fight. We’ve seen you confront one another in bad patterns and bad decisions. We’ve seen you patiently bear with one another. We’ve seen you forgive one another. There’s a reason why a 40th anniversary is a rare occasion: Sinners are trouble. Marriage is hard work. But it is good work, and we’re thankful you’ve believed that and proven that together.
But while marriage reveals our problems, Ephesians 5:22-33 shows us how God designed marriage to be a picture of His solution: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior… Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish… ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” We’ve seen you two sacrifice for one another at a number of levels and in a number of ways over the years. Our most prominent memory is when dad was on the edge of death for a month back in 2001. Mom never left his side, and, as Aunt Fran says, “Your mom saved your dad’s life.” Dad would have done the same. We thank God for using the bond of marriage to protect our dad.
In marriage, we see something of God’s own faithfulness. He keeps His promises like we do but more certainly. He loves like we do, but in Christ he died for even His enemies. Wherever we fall short, we have a reminder of our need for Him. And wherever we succeed, we have a reminder of the one who does so perfectly. Thanks for giving us a picture of promise-keeping permanence and so teaching us about God’s love for us in Christ.
Finally, some words about being parents. Having children also helps us appreciate you. It occurs to us now that you changed our diapers. Thanks for that. And while we don’t remember being jerks at two, we surely must have been. We do remember being jerks later. Between three kids, you knew sleepless nights for years, no doubt. We probably almost killed ourselves hundreds of times. So, thanks for saving our lives that many times. Thanks for the food and the bed. Thanks for working hard to pay for things, and for seeing us through college. Most importantly, thanks for your great love for your children. The discipline and provision and affection taught us much about God.
In the space of the last two years you have become grandparents to four children: Carson and Madalyn, through Trent and Kristi, and two children from Drew and Christina, Connor having just arrived from Ethiopia, and the other one waiting in the womb.
Because family is the most meaningful thing a marriage creates, we’ve focused on family in this book. The memories and story is told from our perspective, so there are, no doubt, all kinds of important people and memories left out. The photos and words in this book tell something of this edition of the Hunter family, from your childhood until today.
There are only a few things that last forty years these days. This marriage is one of them. By God’s grace, ours will last that long, too.
On this 30th day of January, 2011, your children and grandchildren are thanking God for your marriage.
We love you,
Tyler, Trent, and Drew