Katie and I didn’t come to Nepal to celebrate our anniversary, but we will celebrate it while we’re here nonetheless.
If we had been seeking a place to go, Nepal would not have been a bad choice. Once you get past the price of the plane ticket and the 18-hour flight, hotels, and restaurants are less than half what we might pay in the US for similar quality. This is mostly because the price of labor is so cheap. A service worker won’t receive in a day what a service worker in the US would earn in an hour.
But our 48th anniversary is Wednesday, June 8, and we’re going to the mountains on Saturday.
“Wait,” you say. “Isn’t all of Nepal mountains?”
No, the southern border with India is a subtropical flood plain, and Kathmandu itself is in a valley. But yes, there are plenty of mountains. And Saturday we will go to the County Villa, (pictured) where, if it’s clear, we will have a great view of the Himalayas.
After 48 years, we will have a good view of our marriage as well. And here are some ideas that have helped sustain it.
Office. We’ve come to see marriage as an office, a station of responsibility to our children and our community. It’s an idea we picked up from Bonhoeffer. Husband and wife are not just names but titles, and can be dignified by the way we carry them. These are not the only titles we hold, of course, but marriage is one building block of a stable society, and we take this seriously.
Covenant. I’ve written about this often. We made a covenant with each other almost 50 years ago at Signal Point Park in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. This was no mere promise or contract, no mere intention or agreement; like covenants since ancient times, it involved an oath with witnesses, the sacrifice of other loyalties, the celebration of a community.
There was ceremony and ritual, not because we love a party, but because we love each other—and vowed to do so “until death does us part.” Such covenant keeping is a shadow of God’s greater and surer love for His people, and this reality helps us keep covenant even on days we don’t particularly like each other. Thankfully, after 48 years, there are not many of those days.
Pilgrimage. Shortly after we married, we read Adventures in Faith by M.R. DeHaan. This thoughtful study of the life of Abraham become a central metaphor for our life together. As pilgrims, we have tried to see our things and circumstances as temporary, set against a larger narrative and purpose. We are looking for a city which has foundations and whose builder and maker is God. Neither Horton, Michigan nor Kathmandu, Nepal is our true home.
Sanctuary. Over time, our marriage has become a sanctuary, often for others. We’ve worked to make our home a safe place for hurting people. Or lonely ones. But as the years progress we’ve also managed to make it a safe place for each other, a refuge from pressure and stress. Sometimes this looks like tea together in the morning. But it’s really about being accepted and cared for. Such love is not an emotion, but a commitment. And commitment creates a safe place.
Taken together, these ideas frame a marriage that is much better than the one we imagined when we first embarked, a fence around holy ground. It has not been perfect, but it has been blessed, enriched and sustained by the mercy of God.
We don’t know how many more years we will have together.
But we will be grateful for each one.