It was a sweet evening celebrating love, a love that has lasted. Fifty years is a long time to cherish. We are still on forty-one years, and I attest it is the best of life's joys. However, as was pointed out in our friends' celebration, no life is exempt from its bittersweet moments, times of hardship that are fire in the forge where iron is pounded and bent.
For a pastor and wife, that means sometimes sheep in wool's clothing who turn on the shepherd in cruel and demeaning ways leaving lambs wounded. Stories were told of dire poverty, living in the church when no parsonage was provided, having baths with buckets poured over the children standing on the toilet since there was no tub or shower, terribly bare cupboards. One time, the daughter related, the children only had grits served three times a day while the parents pretended to enjoy eating bowls of water with spoons so they could sit down to a family dinner together of want. A child is hardened to the kingdom because of these hurts. Their parents' love is expressed in glowing terms while the ones who should have cared for them, provided for the parsonage family, is expressed in bitterness.
"And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42
"For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a strange, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me'...'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matthew 25:35-46.
God sees. God knows. God remembers. God will judged. It is He who will carry those wounded lambs on His shoulders and seek to save those who are lost. Woe to those who cause these little ones to stumble.
The One who blessed this dear couple in their fifty years of marriage, is not done caring for them and theirs. The story is still being written. Our part is prayer.