Posing for their golden wedding anniversary picture they knew they could never claim to have lived in perpetual wedded bliss. Still through thick and thin they had clocked 50 years except for one year that no one ever spoke about.
Meeting and marrying during the onset of the Great Depression, they labored to make a living as they welcomed babies, worked the farm and accrued a house of furniture rejects. No one wanted the old wood pieces except the little woman who stripped, sanded and refinished junk into valued antiques. He managed the farm until finances forced him to work in the factory.
And, perhaps there the problem began. No one says much about what happened, just that it did happen. This man from a strict religious family stepped out of the bounds of marriage with an unencumbered woman. She offered a life very different from his house full of children, stack of bills to pay and chores to be done. He fell and he fell hard.
His little wife of more than a decade felt her heart fall just as hard. She had promised to stick through sickness and health, through rich times and poor, but nowhere had she agreed to another woman. Quietly, with as much dignity as she could muster, she saw her marriage dissolve in the courtroom. They went their separate ways, their paths crossed for family events.
One week, the father of five heard that evangelist and author John R. Rice planned a local revival. Rice came, set up a tent and advertised a community wide revival. Dad took the older children to hear the famous preacher.
In his classic dark suit and tie, Rice preached a simple gospel, “Christ died for your sins. He wants you to choose the narrow way of righteousness that leads to Heaven.”
The wayward father of five felt God touch his heart, burning away the sin of adultery and pointing him in a different direction.
“Come and pray,” Rice urged at the end of the sermon. The struggle with pride and sin ended and the single father stood and walked the saw dust trail to the front, confessed his sin and that day made a decision to change. He had been wrong. He would make things right. He said good-bye to his mistress and said hello again to the mother of his children.
Once again he asked and she again said, “Yes.” They chose to remarry on the same date when they first took their vows. They picked up where they had left off, except this time he sincerely prayed, “Deliver me from evil,” and sought the way of escape when temptations came. He prayed it and he lived it. When temptation came, he changed what he was doing to avoid the temptation.
It wasn’t easy. Like every other couple, their marriage was built on hopefuln promises and tested through the daily routines of two humans. She still had five children to supervise, feed and train. He still had chores to tend and eight hours of work every day.
Years passed as they daily renewed their vows to be faithful through sickness and in health, in rich times and poverty. The children grew, went away to jobs, the military, college and marriage.
The 50th anniversary year drew near. The children planned a party, ordered the cake and decorated a hall. Everyone counted the years from the first time mom and dad took their vows. No one subtracted the months of separation and divorce. That time no longer mattered. With God’s guidance, forgiveness had healed the wounds and left behind a smiling family.