50 Years is a Long Time – Reflections on My Parent’s 50th Anniversary

Last night was a special night for our family.  We celebrated the 50th anniversary of Andy & Karen Hubbard, my parents, who have left us a legacy of faith and a wonderful example of marriage and proper priorities.  It was a great evening for us as we shared a meal with family and many of their lifelong friends, including my mother’s Maid-of-Honor.  It was a special evening for them and for all of us who had the honor of attending.

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As I sat there last night I realized I had been given a blessing that most people do not have, to grow up in a home where my parents loved each other and loved Jesus well.  At Genesis Church where I pastor very few people have been entrusted with this sort of legacy.  Most of our people come from homes where there was no faith background, or a nominal faith at best.  But our desire is to change the story, to raise up people who will follow the example I have in my parents.  So I am writing this blog as an encouragement to us all to set our sights on having a 50th anniversary party someday.  On the way home my wife, Heidi had us thinking about what sort of celebration we would have.  She told me she preferred a cruise to Alaska, although I get seasick, so not sure about that.  Still, this is our goal.  And while we know that God may disrupt our plans for His glory, our desire is to leave a similar legacy to our kids and eventually grandchildren.

So how can this happen.  Well, the thoughts my parents shared last night with their friends was timeless.  My mom was a bit funny as she told all of us that she was not always in love with my dad but she always loved my dad.  That distinction is so important.  In fifty years there were times where they were not emotionally connected, didn’t necessarily feel close, and feelings waned and warmed.  I especially remember the pierced ear incident when I was about 12 years old.  My dad didn’t want my mom to get her ears pierced, “If God intended you to have holes in your head he would have put them there,” were his words.  My mom wanted the fashion of the day and was tired of having hear ears ache so she could look good for her man, with the old style clip on earrings.  So she went and got her ears pierced.  Well, for a few weeks they were probably not in love, but they still loved each other, the decision to continue to pursue each other and stay committed.  My mom shared three things that were key for them to make it to 50 years, and for all of us who are in a marriage relationship.  First, she reminded us of the importance of Christ in their relationship.  I remember how my parents made Jesus their priority.  We read Scripture as a family often, and being in church was a non-negotiable.  To miss church you had better have a 101+ temperature or be puking.  But their walk with Jesus also showed up in their hospitality to outsiders, their willingness to share their faith with everyone they met, and in how they treated each other.  Second my mom mentioned commitment.  This is their decision to love even if they did not feel in love.  Over the years I have had conversations with lots of people who were in process of ending their marriage, and the one thing I have heard several times was one person saying that he or she was “not in love” with the other any more.  Well, if love is simply an emotional response, then these things drift.  And a person who follows their heart in the drift will eventually “fall out of love.”  But Gospel-love pursues the other person and chooses to love even when the feeling of love wanes.  And in the end the feeling of love will follow the act of choosing to love, to being committed.  The third thing my mom mentioned was their love for kids and grandkids.  Without a lot of detail, I can tell you that it has been an incredible blessing for my children to have two sets of grandparents who intentionally invested in their lives.

Dad’s approach was a little different.  I think he took a little offense to my mom saying she didn’t always love dad, which was cute.  He replied, of course, that he always loved mom (of course, his definition here is that being annoyed = love).  But he also talked of three times he had fallen in love with her.  The first was when he first saw her singing in church, and then subsequently won the right to ask her out in a card game with his best friend who also had interest in my mom (that’s a little weird to admit).  His second “fall” came as he watched how my mom loved her kids, and the third season was watching her with the grandchildren.  This is the beauty of 50 years, seasons of life change, and in God’s grace he causes those who love Him and subsequently love each other to find greater beauty as they age.  When I was a young man I often heard my dad say that he loved my mom way more than he did when they got married.  Of course, I was just getting ready to marry my smokin’ hot wife Heidi and I didn’t think it was possible.  But now after 26 years in our own journey I understand fully what he meant.

So, there it is, 50 years.  A legacy for their kids, grandchildren, and friends.  A life of loving Jesus and choosing to love each other.  I am thankful for their model, and I desire to repeat it.  But more than this, I know it is an act of God’s saving and sustaining grace in the life of my parents and in mine and Heidi’s as well.  You may not have had this sort of legacy passed to you, but you can start the chain.  if your family has a history of broken relationships and failed marriages, be the first to pass on a legacy of godly commitment and love.  My dad often quoted a phrase from Psalm 103:17-18 as something he had in view, as it mentions that the promises of God are for you, and your children, and your children’s children.  Three generations affected by the pursuit of Christ and each other.  This was truly my parent’s goal, and God has been faithful to them in their journey.

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.

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