“My mommy is twenty-nine,” she volunteered out of the blue, while the woman behind the desk smiled at us sheepishly.
“And holding?” I queried, as we both laughed. To myself I murmured, “Twenty-nine is nothing”, knowing that my grip on thirty-nine and even forty-nine had somehow loosened as the years quickly slipped away. Clearly our youth is something we try to hold on to, often causing us to spend more money than we ought to perhaps on hair dye, facial cream and gym memberships in an attempt to keep up an appearance of youth, despite the truth of our advancing years.
But the conversation came back to my mind just a day or so later when my husband commented in amazement (and also seemingly out of the blue) that our wedding anniversary in the year after this will mark thirty years spent together as husband and wife. That means that this year’s date will likewise be our “twenty-nine and holding” anniversary year.
It’s funny how the same phrase can mean entirely different things in the two scenarios. When it comes to our age, it indicates that we’d like to stop the roll of the years, the flip of the calendar pages, and the too rapid passing of days and weeks. We boldly declare that twenty-nine is it – we refuse to describe our age with a number larger than this!
But our twenty-nine-and-holding declaration has an entirely different meaning when it comes to a wedding anniversary. In that situation it speaks of our refusal to let go of a treasure discovered and attained through years of togetherness, no matter what pressures threaten to loosen the grip. For surely our marriages today are bombarded with attacks from all sides, and only a diligence and devotion sustained by supernatural forces can keep a couple committed to the love they once professed and the union that was formed in a wedding ceremony years ago.
Walking out of church behind Jim and me one day not too long ago, a friend teased us about the fact that even after being married for so long we were still holding hands. We smiled and laughed, but we didn’t loosen the grip we had on each other. That simple act of touch means as much to us spiritually as it does physically. It’s an unspoken reminder of our need stay connected, whatever the time or place.
It’s not always easy, of course, as a couple of silly examples will attest. When Jim and I ride in the car together I make sure that if I’m eating a sandwich, drinking my coffee, or even texting on my cell phone, I do so with my right hand, keeping my left open and available should my husband have the urge to reach over and grab it. My text messages are often more garbled than usual as a result, and we won’t even get into the issue of speed. But I realized I’d taken this to extremes and burst out laughing at myself the other day when I brought an orange with me in the car and realized my complete inability to peel it with my right hand alone! Yet I do need to be extreme in my efforts to be available to my husband in our marriage, whatever the occasion, whether it be to talk, to listen, or even just to spend time together in silent companionship.
Another time as we exited the car I performed a juggling act of circus-level expertise to carry my purse, my book bag and my violin case all on one side of my body so that I had a hand free on the other to squeeze his as we headed in to church. And likewise it takes a willingness to shuffle our lives, the events of our days, and sometimes even our emotions around as necessary to keep marital harmony a reality.
Many marriages have to endure times of separations, due perhaps to illness, job situations, military deployments and the like. When physical contact is not a possibility, couples must creatively find other ways to link themselves together, holding hands in their hearts until they can do so in the flesh once more.
Perhaps it is significant that my hand-holding examples above all occurred while heading to or leaving our church. And suddenly I realized that my relationship with God is also in its twenty-ninth-and-holding year! Then it dawned on me that it’s only because this relationship is still going strong that my marriage has been able to endure as well. The health of our connection to God affects all the other relationships in our lives and therefore deserves the attention, time and devotion that we sometimes fail to invest in it. Our marriages surely need us to make the effort to reach out to each other, to draw out the details of our days, and pull each other close in conversation and physical contact. But even more do they need us to reach out to God together. He is eternally available and ready to assist in every way possible, smoothing the rough edges in our relationships, softening hearts that sometimes turn hard and inflexible and returning us to the love and purpose that brought us together in the first place. His are the hands that we should reach for and never let go.
As far as age is concerned, for Jim and me both, twenty-nine is long gone. But when it comes to our marriage and our love for God, we’re pushing thirty and going strong.
"Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold my by my right hand."
(Psalm 74:23 NKJV)