As the sun was descending, sixteen of us encircled my parents for the celebration of their golden wedding anniversary. Dressed in shades of blue like the ocean waves curling behind us, we dug our toes into the soft sand and all stood witness to their sacred renewal of vows.
My youngest daughter and niece sang a rendition of “We’ve Only Just Begun,” which was originally sung at my parents’ wedding by a cousin. The words were surprisingly fitting as we looked back across the decades and marveled at how they “started walking and learned to run” through life, growing along the way.
As the story goes, this cross-cultural couple met at a Halloween party. My dad, who is from a Filipino-Chinese-Polynesian family, sized up my mom. She stands a respectable five feet tall and was dressed as the Jolly Green Giant.
Then he popped the question: “Can you cook?”
Lucky for him, this dark-haired Italian wonder dressed in green was a fantastic cook. And she’s still cooking up healthy feasts for him five decades later. (And he is still the clean-up king and diligently does the dishes.)
My sister read from 1 Corinthians 13, the same passage read at my parent’s wedding. I revisited these verses in the message I shared at their vow renewal ceremony. The apostle Paul originally penned these words in a letter to the church in Corinth, which was made up of a mixture of worshipers from all walks of life. Some were converted Jews. Others were Gentiles originally from far-away cities. They were a motley crew of folks from different generations, social classes, political persuasions, and diverse cultural roots. Division came naturally to this bunch.
The oft-quoted passage was not originally poignant prose for wedding ceremonies. It was written to compel all kinds of people to come together. Paul learned from Jesus’ teachings about how He wanted His followers to be known by their love for each other. Paul describes love as the greatest of Christian virtues that starts with being patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4, 13). These are “fruit of the Spirit” also listed in Galatians 5:22.
The way we access patience and kindness is through the Holy Spirit. We can’t muster these up on our own accord. We need the Spirit to infuse us with them. As the passage points out, this kind of love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or demanding or rude or irritable or resentful.
The word for love that Paul uses is agape, a Greek word that points to a love that puts others before ourselves. Agape is contrasted with eros or erotic love and philia, which was more of a brotherly love. Agape requires sacrifice. Jesus is our model for agape love because He laid down His life for us.
According to Paul, love bears all things. I know today’s strong bond between my parents was forged over years of stormy waters they navigated. They weathered a cross-country move that took them far away from family. My dad endured multiple job layoffs through the years, which were accompanied by bouts of anger and depression. My parents serpentined their way through complicated family dynamics on both sides. They also faced the death of close family members, including their teenage nephew, all of their parents, and my mom’s siblings, as well as their son-in-law (my husband).
Through the trials, I watched my parents cling to each other and their faith, like wave-tossed sailors, determined not to be thrown overboard.
In so many ways, my parents’ marriage has demonstrated the power of the love Paul describes.
“Love believes all things.” Belief was the central knot of their marriage. I remember my parents reading the Bible to each other and to us. There were years when Dad just folded his arms and listened, while Mom read and taught. In later years, he picked up the Word himself and eagerly studied it. At their vow renewal, he shared: “The legacy we hope to leave all of you is to have faith in Jesus Christ and to persevere in all that you do.”
“Love hopes all things.” My parents’ relationship has been characterized by hope. As children of immigrants, they hoped for a better future for themselves and for their children. They hoped for the best in each other and encouraged each other to grow. They put their hope and confidence in God and waited for Him to unfold His promises — even when it took a long time for the tides to change.
“Love endures all things.” Endurance is the ability to persist, pursue, and sustain something over a long period of time. Not many things last for 50 years anymore, especially marriages. My parent’s relationship hasn’t been perfect. In fact, I can point to several times when their love was strained or sagging, yet it endured. Today they are a couple who still hold hands during movies, dance to their favorite songs, and kiss when alone in elevators. They continue to have their battles, especially when Dad wants to be ten minutes early, and Mom tends to run ten minutes late. Yet, with God’s help and their commitment to love, they somehow always find a way to make up and forgive.
Our family has been marked by divorce and death, but my parents’ marriage rises above life’s waves as a redemption story written by God.
What has redemption looked like in your family?
Let’s bear witness to God’s love together.
Dorina helps women discover God’s glory in unexpected places. Subscribe to Dorina’s Glorygram here and follow her on Instagram for encouragement and glory resources.