Tomorrow I celebrate 41 years of being married to John Bray! I am totally amazed at how fast those 41 years have gone – like a blink of the eye! I thought I would write down just a few of the reasons I love this guy so much. Here are the ones I’m willing to share. The are in no particular order.
**In the words of the old Bobby Vinton song, “I love how you love me”. John has loved me like no one else (other than Jesus, of course). I know it sounds a little self-centered to say that one of the qualities I love most about HIM is how he has loved ME, but it’s always one of the first things that pops into my mind. I am so overwhelmingly blessed by the love of this man for these many years. He has loved me unconditionally, regardless of my faults and shortcomings and indiocyncricies. He has poured out that love for me in thousands of ways throughout my adult lifetime. He serves me, praises me, encourages me, prays for me, believes in me…and on and on I could go. That unconditional love has shaped my life in a powerful way and I will be forever grateful for it.
**I love his love for the church of Jesus Christ. He has steadfastly and unconditionally loved the church, regardless of its fauts, shortcomings and idiocyncricies. (Sound familiar?) For the first 10 years of being at Heritage, he tried to run from his call to serve the church, but the Lord wouldn’t let him go, and finally he came to realize that he was created to pour himself into the body of Christ, especially here at Heritage. And because of answering that call, our lives have been richly blessed and filled as we’ve seen countless lives come to know the life-changing power of God through His Holy Spirit. I will be forever grateful for this sacrifical committment he made and kept over a lifetime.
**I love his love for his kids and grandkids. Oh, how he loves Heather and Kari. Oh, how he loves little Stella and Leo. He cherishes every moment he gets to spend with them. Watching him read and play and laugh with them fills my heart with love for him. I will be forever grateful for his sacrificial love for those whom I love the most.
**I love his ability to STILL make me laugh, after all these years. When we were first married, we would look into the future and wonder what we would look like decades later. I remember telling him, “Just keep me laughing for the rest of our lives.” And he has surely done just that. It’s true that sometimes I may roll my eyes at him in exasperation for his rather stupid comments, jokes and thoughts, but all in all, I still think he’s one of the funniest people I know. I still love it when he says or does something totally unexpected that makes me burst out in laughter. What a blessing to live with someone like that! I will be forever grateful for his crazy sense of humor.
**I love his kindness. I grew up in a volatile family, with lots of yelling, screaming and swearing. That left some scars on my life, causing me to HATE raised voices, angry words, and demeaning comments. Then I met John and found this person who was self-controlled in his words and attitudes and actions. He was SO KIND! For our first years of marriage I kept waiting for the shoe to drop – for him to throw out his own angry and critical words. But he never did. That provided such a safety net for this slightly damaged psyche. I will be forever grateful for such kindness.
**I love his committment to allow me to be his PARTNER in ministry. It doesn’t happen so much in today’s generation of young leaders, but in my generation it wasn’t quite as common to see wives raised to the level of leadership that John has always done with me. I wasn’t to be relegated to a part of the church or a part of ministry that was “normal” for pastors’ wives, but rather he always wanted me working/serving where I was most gifted. If that meant preaching, then he wanted me to preach. If that meant leading, then he wanted me to lead. If that meant going off on a Monday to spend four hours in time alone with God, then he took care of the kids. I will be forever grateful for a husband who wanted my own usefulness in the kingdom as much as his own.
As I read over these words, I realize it comes across as sounding like a fairy-tale where things were easy and care-free. But we all know that fairy-tales don’t really exist, and neither has our own marriage been a fairy tale. We’ve had to repent and apologize to one another at times. We’ve had to discipline our tongues and attitudes in order to guard one another’s self-images. We’ve had to protect our own minds from letting them wander to “other pastures”. We’ve had to grow green grass in our own “pasture” so that it would be easier to want to remain where we are. We’ve had to pray for one another. We’ve had to sacrifically love when it would have been easier to rant and rail on the other’s shortcomings. Yes, it’s not always been easy.
But oh, it’s been worth it. So worth it. I’m infinitely blessed by this love relationship.
Happy Anniversary, John. I hope we have many, many more.