By Rae Barnes
It was just last week that my in-laws celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Shortly after the actual date, all of Chris’s siblings, their spouses and the two of us joined his parents for a nice dinner at a wonderful restaurant. I nearly welled up with tears looking at all of them, realizing just how very blessed I am to not only have this family be my family now, but to live near them and have them as part of my regular life.
I grew up in a visibly broken household. My parents divorced when I was 8, and to this day, they still can’t be in the same room without everyone feeling uncomfortable. This part of my life could be an entire article in and of itself, but it is not today’s post. I mention this only because it is my point of reference. I grew up afraid of marriage, certain it would be terribly difficult and probably oppressive. I was determined to not even consider a marriage proposal until later in life. God had different plans. Chris and I married when I was just 23.
I now see my life leading up to my wedding day as this beautifully crafted story of grace and mercy. God’s refining fire in me was painful and fierce, but He has blessed me and strengthened me through it. I personally had to know grief and separation in order to understand the gift that marriage can be. I had to feel the pain of divorce as a child in order to fully appreciate the joy that comes from unity in Christ. And while I’m still juggling division in my biological family, God has given me a peace and a hope through my husband’s family.
Of course, a family is full of sinners. No family is perfect. I’m not going to lie or sugarcoat that. But I am so thankful that God has graciously let me be a part of the Barnes family. I am not just on the sidelines watching a family function 40 years after two kids said, “I do.” I am an active participant in this family. I have been welcomed into it with open arms just as Christ welcomes us into His family without hesitation.
On our wedding bands, this verse is inscribed… 1 John 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.” It did not feel like I had a loving God at many times during my youth, but I would not be able to love Chris and his family (nor would they be able to love me!) had God not loved me first by pulling me up out of the mire of my brokenness and showing me a blessed new way to live.