You made man.
You did not leave him alone.
You made the perfect counterpart,
...You made woman!
Every time a man or a woman is conceived, you place your image, eternity, into their hearts.
Together, in covenant relationship with You as the focus, this man and woman can make that eternal image more complete.
You appointed this marital union to give us a clearer picture:
...a picture of Your Son and His Bride;
...a picture of the Ecclesia;
...a picture of The Relationship.
You are a Romancer.
You pursue Your Bride.
You serve Your Bride.
You wash Her feet.
You call to Her, “Come to Me! My Beloved!”
You place a crown upon Her Head.
You whisper in Her ear, “I love you”
“I will always love you”
“I will never leave you
...or forsake you”
You give Your life for Her.
You save Your Bride from the clutches of death.
Every time You appoint a union in marriage, it is good,
...leaving father and mother, clinging to their beloved, facing this fallen world together,
...submitting to each other.
You had just the right bride for me.
You made Tanja,
...she was born into a great, loving family on July 11, 1968
...just a little over two months before I was born, and she was born a little over 2 months premature. Did You conceive us at the same time? ...that would be cool.
Our parents were all believers so we had a great head start.
They taught us Your Word and showed us Your world-wide family.
They showed us that marriage is a life-long commitment, just as You say.
Neither of us grew up worrying about whether or not our parents would stay together - what a great gift from You in this day and age.
Both of us knew, growing up, that the one we would one day marry would know You, first and foremost.
Purity was a gift from You as well.
Tanja saved herself for me,
...and I for her.
This bride You gave to me has always been so close to you.
You literally spoke to her and said, “This is the man you will marry!”
You really LOVE marriage, God!
You are a perfect matchmaker.
When I, finally maturing in my faith, prayed for You to show me who You wanted me to pursue for marriage, You reminded me of a beautiful woman I had met in high school.
I found her!
I found her caring for children at a hospital,
I found her respecting her parents,
I found her volunteering countless hours at her church.
I found her working hard to support herself.
I found her studying hard at a state university.
I found her enjoying time with dear friendships and being a dear friend.
I remember seeing her walk into a basketball game with friends - so beautiful. I was sitting next to my friend Lovemore Sikali from Africa. “You see that girl?”, I pointed, “I’m going to ask her out.” I remember his huge bright smile and he said, “Ooooh, Shack, she looks beautiful.” I called her the next week.
She said Yes.
My father had never said much to me about girls but, while I was dating Tanja, he said “If you’re smart, you are going to stick with this one.” He was right.
One year, one month, one week, and one day after I found her, she said “I Do”
My father said, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” - another gift from You.
Mr. & Mrs. Kenneth Shackelford are one before you.
We had so much to learn as we grew together in Your sight.
You are so patient.
You have shown us that marriage is a daily commitment.
Marriage is both work and play.
Marriage is beautifully heart wrenching at times,
...it is fearfully intimate.
...it is both wonderfully complex (such as learning how to communicate)
...and lovingly simple (such as remembering to serve each other)
Marriage is a tempest and a gentle breeze.
You have shown us that marriage is a journey into the deepest places of ourselves.
It is a mirror showing us where we are and how far we are from where we need to be.
Who would have imagined traveling so far in just 25 years! ...both literally and figuratively.
We have travelled through easy times and hard times.
We have experienced confession, deliverance and forgiveness.
We have triumphed in victory over strongholds of darkness.
We have witnessed the redemption of cultures and peoples.
We have endured a tragic slide towards paganism in our own culture.
We have experienced the miraculous birth and incredible growth of our children.
We have experienced times of Your powerful presence and blessings pouring over us
...and dry and weary times where we’ve wondered where You were.
We have suffered sickness and pain
...and have been blessed with death-defying healings.
The key word in all of this is WE.
WE have been together.
WE have worked together.
WE have slept together.
WE have laughed together.
WE have cried together.
WE have laughed until we cried together.
WE have borne beautiful children together.
WE have adopted a beautiful child together.
WE have taught them, disciplined them, trained them, fed them and prayed, oh, so many prayers for them
The first words my bride hears every morning is “I LOVE YOU” and I hear it in return.
This is as it should be - we are merely speaking the words God is speaking to all of us, every moment of every day.
We begin each morning in prayer and end each day in prayer.
...for we know we are not alone.
Two are certainly greater than one,
The reward for their work is far more than what they could do individually.
When I fall, she is there to lift me up and I her.
When we lie together, we are warmed.
When individually we might fall, together we stand against the strong man and against the strongholds of this dark world.
A three-fold cord - husband, wife, God - is not quickly broken.
10,000 Reasons to praise your name? Every year of our 25 years of marriage has produced that and more.
I cannot imagine life without the Godly and gracious wife You have given me, nor would I want to.