Every pastor is faced by the dilemma of whether to marry certain couples. And I’m not referring to the scarier twosomes that come in, where the immediate answer is “Sorry; not in this lifetime.” Some of the decisions get complicated real quick.
I had honestly forgotten about this one until it popped up in my journal from 20 years ago. A friend recently filled me in on the rest of the story.
A highly respected pastor friend called me from another state. A couple from his church wanted to be wed in my city, some 200 miles away. Would I be able to do the ceremony? A simple enough request. That happens a lot. New Orleans, where I lived from 1990 until October of 2016, seems to be a wedding destination for a lot of people. One time the bride’s family was from New England and the groom’s folks lived in Texas. So, New Orleans was a convenient spot for everyone to meet in the middle.
So, nothing complicated about this request, I assumed. The wedding would be at a hotel and my congregation would not be involved at all.
I cleared the date on my calendar, called the groom and we set up a time for the bride and groom to visit in my office.
A day or two later, in chatting with someone from that pastor’s city I happened to mention in passing that I would be doing this wedding. She said, “Oh no. You are? You don’t know?”
Did you hear about the senior couple who got married and spent their honeymoon getting out of the car?
It’s funny only if it doesn’t apply to you.
Since it appears we’re now doing a brief series on the subject of seniors remarrying, we thought there should be a place to record things that made us laugh, the silliness that has kept the fun in our relationship.
Oh, one more thing before we go on. Keep in mind that lovers often laugh at things no one else would, that they have secret, little inside jokes based on something said early in the relationship, and so not everyone will find what follows as humorous as we did. And that’s perfectly fine. We’re not going into the stand-up comic business.
Bertha and I had not been seeing each other more than one week, but already knew the Lord was in this. In one of our nightly (8 pm) phone calls, she said, “What would be a deal-breaker for you in this?” One would think this would bring a serious response from me. But my mind doesn’t work that way.
“Two are better than one…” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
It was for good reason the Lord said “It is not good for man to be alone.” He who made humans knew them. “He knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Genesis 2:18 and Psalm 103:14)
The Heavenly Father knows we need someone in harness with us.
Ever try to row a boat with one oar? By stroking only on one side of the boat?
Without the counterbalance of the other oar, we tend to get off course, to go in circles, if you will.
Most of us need marriage. We are better people as a result of being joined in wedlock to someone different from us, someone who loves us, but who sees life from another angle and brings their own perspective into every issue.
Consider this a word in favor of marriage and remarriage.
Bertha and I were married to our spouses–Gary and Margaret–for some 52 years each. The Lord took Gary to Heaven in May 2014 and He took Margaret in January 2015. While we had never met each other’s families, Gary and I had been friends since seminary in the 1960s. Bertha and I met for the first time on February 15, 2016. We were married on January 11, 2017 after eleven months of visits (we lived 200 miles apart), phone calls, texts, letters, and all the usual stuff.
As I sit at the laptop typing this, our marriage is two weeks old. I recommend it!
A child expresses dismay that her grandmother is thinking of marrying again. She may say this, or perhaps it goes unsaid: “How can anyone take grandpa’s place?” Her older siblings are surprised to think of grandmother going to bed with another man. “And at her age!”
An adult son expresses dismay that his father is thinking of marrying again. He may voice this, or perhaps it goes unsaid: “He’ll end up marrying some young thing who will walk off with our inheritance!” His sister adds, “Mom has a dog for companionship. What does she need with a man? I thought she was beyond that.”
In an article on this website, I told how Bertha Fagan and I met last February 15 and quickly came to see, in the words of Psalm 118:23 that “this is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our sight.”
Making plans for marriage–at some point; we’re still undecided as to when–is certainly exciting and more than a little scary. A relative said, “I admire your courage.” I thought to myself, “Courage is the right word. It takes courage to uproot your lives, sell your homes, downsize your possessions, and merge your existence with another person for the last years of your life.”
It takes faith.
There are so many issues, questions to be settled, matters to be determined before we take that step.
Now, everyone who has been married in a church has made a public, solemn promise to stick to his (or her) partner til death…. As Chesterton pointed out, those who are in love have a natural inclination to bind themselves by promises…. And of course, the promise, made when I am in love and because I am in love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits me to being true even if I cease to be in love. –C. S. Lewis, “Christian Marriage” in his book Mere Christianity.
In the wedding vow, we promise to be true to our beloved “so long as we both shall live.”
But what we do not promise and probably could not keep even if we did is to always be “in love” with the other.
Say what? How’s that?
C. S. Lewis says, “A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions; no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way. He might as well promise never to have a headache or always to feel hungry.”
But shouldn’t we always be in love? Isn’t that the goal?
“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23 NASB).
It’s time to “spill the beans,” say my friends.
Bertha Fagan is her name. She is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, and lives nearby in the community of Pearl where she teaches English at the Rankin Center of Hinds Community College.
Bertha is the widow of Dr. Gary Fagan, a seminary classmate of mine. But even though Gary and I knew each other for fifty years, and at one time we all belonged to First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, we did not know one another’s families. Gary went to Heaven in May of 2014.
My wife Margaret died the following January.
Bertha and I met for the first time on February 15 of this year (2016). Within days, we both knew the Lord had done something special here.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” (Proverbs 27:6)
Perhaps the most dangerous place on the church campus is the pastor’s counseling office.
When the minister is shut up in a tight space with a vulnerable female who confides in him the most personal things of her life, often the two people do something completely natural and end up bonding emotionally.
The bonding process is simple: she opens up to him, he sympathizes with her, she reaches out to him, and there it goes.
Many a ministry and a great many marriages have been destroyed in the counseling room.
Can we talk about this?
The newlywed couple can easily be overwhelmed with their new circumstances. They are adjusting to each other–the delightful as well as the mysterious, the obvious as well as the surprising. They are finding out how to plan their days and nights now that dating and courting have suddenly been removed from their agenda. And, they are finding out about mortgages and rents, taxes, and neighbors in ways they only imagined earlier.
It’s called life. It happens to all of us.
It would be natural for the newly married couple to postpone some things. And true enough, some things can be put on the back burner. Let them delay going into debt for “big ticket items.” Debt can be a killer for young families. Let them delay having children until they have solidified some matters in their own new relationship and established their home.
However, some mighty important matters should be dealt with head-on and faced immediately.
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper who is like him” (Genesis 2:18).
The old t-shirt said, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”
It’s cute, but quite wrong. Dead wrong, as a matter of fact.
We all need other people in our lives. God made the genders male and female so that we complement each other. Because we are different, we bring different things into the marriage. Some of those “things” are gifts and endowments and strengths and some are what we call “baggage.” Such “baggage” may include character flaws, prejudices, areas in which we are immature, fears, guilt, and needs.
No one enters a marriage empty-handed.