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Thirty four years ago today I married my wife.   I was 23 at the time, she was 21.  We had been dating for about 3 years, and engaged for just under a year.  We weren’t “young” to get married at the time,  in fact, most of our friends were either already married or getting married right around the same time.  It was what you did in those days–you fell in love, thought about it, then got married.  Not really complicated.

For nearly three and a half decades we’ve been partners.  We bore (okay, she bore) 3 daughters and together we raised them into adulthood.  They have an abundance of their mother’s good looks, thank God.  They have a little of their dad’s smarts but sometimes I worry they didn’t get enough.  I was a good dad for for their first 10 years, a terrible dad for the next 10 years when they were teenagers, and now that all three are well into adulthood, I am a good dad again. Their mom?  She was a good mom for over 30 years.  Didn’t flinch.

I chose the career path of a pastor and as a result dragged her (and the girls) into a whirlwind of life.  Our home was never totally private.  Our marriage was never totally unexamined.  Her days were never totally free as my life spilled onto hers regularly.  I won’t lie to you–it’s not easy being married to a pastor.  His role brings a lot of “baggage” into the relationship.  It can be overwhelming when you put it all on top of the regular stuff that life gives you.

I retired this past year after 35 years of official clergy work.  I don’t think I’ll stop caring about people, and I figure I’ll still stay involved with people.  But I won’t take on the responsibilities of congregational care from here on in.  It’s a heavy job and it weighs on you.  My wife comments that I  seem freer in the last little while.  She’s right.  It’s a lot easier to walk when you only have your own weight to carry.

Why did we stay married?  Why didn’t we blow apart?  Heaven knows a ton of other couples in our generation have.  A fair number in our own network have.  It’s not uncommon.  I don’t want to judge them.  Here’s our take.  We married–“for richer for poorer, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part”.  They were vows to each other before God with a ton of people there as witnesses.  So, we worked through the poor times, the sick times, worst times…in order to get to or in some instances get back to, the rich times, the better times, the healthy times.  But don’t let anybody fool you, it’s a lot of work.

For me, marriage was a sacred thing that I couldn’t trivialize into just another relationship.   I guess you could call me old school.

December 29, 1979

Jamey McDonald/Barbara Funk

Grant Memorial Baptist Church

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

(cold, clear, wind free day.  only -10 F. relatively a balmy winter day in the ‘Peg).