All day today I’ve been thinking about a twenty-four year old guy and a twenty-one year old girl standing at an altar pledging their lives to one another twenty-four years ago. I’ve thought over and over again how thankful I am that God doesn’t let us see into the future, that they had no idea what pain would befall them twenty four years later. In a way I wish I could send them a letter today, a letter of encouragement and hope. They had prayed and believed their love for the Lord and one another could enable them to walk through marriage and life together, but I could tell them God would carry them together on eagle’s wings.
I would have to be honest with them and tell them that first year was going to be particularly challenging. That twenty-one year old girl has some pretty serious selfishness that God is going to have to whittle away at. I could tell them the hard times will be harder for a girl who craves words and a guy who struggles to find them. I would warn them that taking on building a house, moving in with your parents/ in-laws and finishing your last year of nursing school might be a bit much to combine with the first year of marriage. It wouldn’t matter, though, that twenty-one year old girl is pretty stubborn, so she’d probably just add more to the list to try to prove me wrong. In fact, the twenty-four year old guy will try to tell her the same thing, but she will somehow convince him to go along.
I could tell them the happy news that before their first anniversary they will have a surprise pregnancy. If I told them that, I would also have to tell them that it will end in a miscarriage. Something amazing will happen in those moments though. In the midst of building a house, going to school, preparing for nursing boards and looking for a job, that girl will forget how special that guy is. When her heart is broken over the loss of that tiny baby, the awesome gift of who that guy is will suddenly come back in to focus for her through his tender loving care. She will grieve the future of a baby she never got to know, but she will be reminded of the treasure God has given her in her husband.
I could warn that poor guy that as soon as they move in that big empty house that girl is going to cry almost daily with longing for a baby. He will remind her that they had agreed to wait a few years, but not only is she stubborn, she is hurt and he won’t be able to say “no” for long at all. I could encourage them that it’s worth it for her to quit her job to stay home with the little baby girl that will come just a little over two years after they stood at the altar. Some will think it is foolish to only use the girl’s nursing license for a year, but I would tell her she will never have a moment of regret as far as that is concerned.
I could tell them that every two years God will bless them with another beautiful baby girl until their family will be complete in just eight and half years. I would tell them I can’t imagine any greater blessing for them than to raise those amazing girls. I would warn them parenting will have its tough moments, though. One of those little girls will have the girl’s strong will and fiery temperament, much to the dismay of the girl. I would encourage them that they will need to choose their parenting battles wisely and when they pick one to make sure they win. In the end, though, I could encourage them that the feisty, strong willed little girl will turn into an amazing young woman who fiercely loves the Lord and others.
I could tell them that even though God will give them four little girls, who look much alike, their home will be richly diverse. I could write them a book about each child, how awesomely unique and different each will be and what joy each will bring to that guy and girl. I would love to tell them how much they will love their life with four teenage girls. So many bemoan the teen years, but this guy and girl are going to have so much fun in a house full of teenagers. I would tell them to be certain they tell their teenagers that, but I already know they will.
I’m really glad I don’t have to make the decision on whether or not to tell that guy and girl what will happen on June 8, 2017. If I did, though, I would tell them that God gave them an amazing gift in Sarah Lauren Harmening, just as he did in Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie. I would tell them it is going to hurt more than they can possibly imagine, but that God will knit their hearts even more tightly together through it. I would tell them they will think they are not going to make it through those dark days, but to cling to Jesus because I know He will carry them through. I would tell them that the road before them heading into the 25th year is starting off very dark, and that I suspect their hearts will be broken for a long while yet.
If I could tell that guy and that girl what to expect 24 years from now, I would tell them they will love each other more deeply after 24 years than they could ever dream possible as they stand at that altar. I’m certain that laid back, quiet twenty-four year old guy standing at the altar has no idea what he is getting himself into with that strong willed twenty-one year old girl, but I am so thankful he trusted God’s leading enough to take her as his wife. They will create a lifetime of memories together, the vast majority beautiful and precious to them, and a few dark and unimaginably painful. Through it all, though, they will be richly blessed as they continue to cling to one another and Jesus.