My dear daughter:
You have been on my mind ever since your recent graduation from college. You are now twenty-four years old, three years older than your mother was when I married her.
It promised to be a very warm July day in 1977 when everyone arose at dawn to get ready for the wedding. Your mother awoke with the worst of bridal nightmares come true. One of her eyes was swollen and red with infection. She was so distraught! She even suggested that it was going to look as if I had given her a black eye to make her say yes! As the decades have passed, just as the photographer was able to erase that red spot from the pictures, most of the events in the pictures of that day in my mind have faded into pleasant but blurred memories. Yet after so many years, the thing that most stands out in my mind is the promise I made.
I vividly remember that moment: we stood facing each other and repeated those sacred vows that started our journey through life together. The words were a promise of commitment that we would love and cherish each other through sickness and health “until death do us part.” Those words struck fear into both of our hearts. Your mother was marrying me without her parents’ approval, and I, the rebel, was not sure I could keep those vows.
Promises about tomorrow are scary, for they are a pledge about an unknown future with a partner who will grow and transform and change. The only thing we had was the power of that pledge to commit to each other for an unknown future in front of our God and witnesses. So in our young naivety, we did.
It seems that the world in which you are reaching adulthood is even more frightening than ours was. Today the promise of fidelity in marriage seems very conditional. With so many children of divided homes going to two or more houses for holidays and vacations, you must wonder about the institution of marriage, and I really can’t blame you. Many of your friends are trying the dire alternative of living together without the promise. I want to share with you from our experience of nearly three decades that there is an incomprehensible power in that promise. Within those vows, made so long ago, was a wonderful, God-given gift. That pledge of fidelity carried in its very bosom a self-fulfilling prophecy—the power to remain true to your word of honor.
God has enabled us to keep our promise and reap all the joy and comfort that it holds. We have weathered sickness, death, depression, crisis, anger, hurt, compromise, and doubt. The collision of different backgrounds, culture, financial perspectives, and philosophies of child-rearing will all bring storms to your life, but I can tell you from our experience that through it all, we have built confidence, trust, pleasure, surprise, hope, intimacy, and growing faith in God.
What I want you to understand is that there is power in a promise, and there is a wonderful sense of love that grows over time. It is a deep, abiding love that comes with knowing that this person, to whom you made that vow, knows you better than any other person on earth and loves and cherishes you just as you are.
Your mother has been the light of my life for all these years. We have learned to live and love and build our faith together, to face the world as one flesh. An additional pleasure is the shared memories that have become our personal hall of fame for our marriage. We will leave a legacy to you and your children of one example of a marriage that is fulfilled and works according to heaven’s plan.
We are so proud of you, my daughter. I know you will make good choices in life. I want you to know that we are praying for your future husband, whoever he is. God is preparing his heart and guiding him to you and you to him, even as I write. You both will be prepared, as we were, to hold true to the promise of love between you and for each other. I pray that God will give you a picture of the power in the promise you will make.
Ken Crawford is a former president of the Alaska Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Now retired, he lives in College Place, Washington.