To love unconditionally
This past Saturday I had the privilege and pleasure of attending a 25th wedding anniversary celebration which included a renewing of the couple's vows.
The weather was perfect and the scenery was beautiful and relaxing.
The veteran bride and groom beamed just as I imagine they did the first time around.
There was no doubt in my mind that these two were just as in love, if not more so, than they were 25 years ago.
As the couple's family and friends arrived I realized that this was the culmination of not only two and a half decades of marriage, but of relationships as well.
Some were there on the day they first said "I do;" then of course there were their four children, along with others whom they have met along the way, who all came together to celebrate this milestone and who also could fully understand and appreciate the significance of the day.
On the surface the guests were essentially high-fiving the couple for putting up with each other and sticking it out through thick and thin for a quarter of a century.
That, in and of itself, is quite an accomplishment.
Especially when you consider the number of divorces we see each year, not to mention the folks who lived together as man and wife without ever making it official and then call it quits after a year or so, only to repeat the process again and again.
During the renewal ceremony the words they spoke to each other touched us all.
It was easy to see that they truly honored the vows and commitment that they made to one another.
We listened as they spoke of love and devotion that has grown over time and that burns fiercely in each of their hearts.
In hearing them recounting their lives together and their promises to each other for the future, one thing really stood out about them both that I think is the secret to a long-lasting marriage: They each put the other and their family before themselves.
It sounds simple and easy (as it should be) but for most of us, it is a struggle and for some, an impossibility.
We can be such selfish and self-centered creatures looking to fulfill our own interests and needs first and foremost before even considering those of others.
We make frequent and often unrealistic demands and expectations of one another and are unforgiving when those demands and expectations aren't met.
We seek perfection in others, but ignore and deny the flaws in ourselves.
We think that we are owed something and have perfected the art of keeping score.
Imagine instead if each spouse put those demands and expectations onto themselves, to unconditionally love and serve the other as well as the family as a whole.
How much stronger would our marriages and our families be?
The example set by these two love birds was evident to all who attended that day.
Perhaps the most endearing thing I noticed was how anxious and eager the groom was to kiss his bride, even though they had not yet come to that point in the ceremony.
He has kissed her for 25 years and still gets excited to do so.
That is the kind of marriage I want to have.
Whoever said that living "happily ever after" doesn't exist lied.