Everyone who knows me personally, and who has met my wife Anita, knows that without her I would never be able to live the life I have been called by God to live for his kingdom. The best decision I ever made, besides the decision to follow Christ for these past 54 years, was to marry Anita 39 years ago this day. Yes, we were married on the day after Christmas. We were so crazy, and in love, that we didn't want to wait until I graduated in May of 1971, which would have been very sensible. I was a senior, and on Christmas break, and Anita was a first-year middle school teacher in St. Charles, Illinois and also on break. It was, for us, the perfect time. I think we forgot about everyone else but then we were in love. I did say that, right?
The truth is I did not fall in love with Anita on first sight. Don't get me wrong. I found her a beautiful young woman and wondered who she was with intense curiosity but when I first spoke to her I formed a negative impression. She tends to speak her mind and I said something and then she spoke her mind in response. My fragile ego reacted and I said (to myself), "This woman is a bit much for my tastes." That was in February of 1970, shortly after the Wheaton College revival which had thrust me into a major new role in the Chicago area. In June I led the high school youth group of the Wheaton Bible Church off to camp in Wisconsin. Anita was a counselor, having just graduated from nearby Elmhurst College. By the end of camp week I asked her to ride home with me in my car rather than on the bus with the kids. She accepted and I met her parents. Her late father, like my late father, was a dentist. Her parents had heard of me via the reports of the Wheaton revival in Moody Monthly Magazine and instantly liked me. Things then moved quickly. I headed off to Ohio to lead summer VBS in small rural churches with high school teams from the Wheaton Bible Church. Anita headed north to Wisconsin to spend the summer at her parents place on Lake Minocqua. We wrote a bunch of letters for several weeks. (I still hold on to them and treasure them!) When she came home, earlier than planned because of her growing interest in me, we hung out the rest of the summer of 1970 and fell deeply in love by August. I was 20 and she was 21. Our parents approved and gave us their blessing for a December wedding. (What were they thinking?)
The first year of our married life was stressful. I was a senior college student and Anita was a first-year teacher of junior high kids. That was stressful. I went to classes and hung with friends and she went to work. Adjusting was not easy. We were both pretty independent and we soon found out just how different we truly were. Love, and a deep commitment to our Christ-centered vows, gave us the glue to keep working at our marriage. It took me awhile but I came to see that this woman had all the gifts and graces, and profoundly humorous personality, that I really needed to make it through my life. I am far too serious, way too melancholic and very often discouraged. Anita is buoyant and almost always cheerful. She gets along with almost everyone, unless they attack me. She is as non-pretentious as anyone I have ever known and she has been a great mother and grandmother. She helps me face hard days, lifts my spirits (often by the hour) and speaks the truth, most of the time in love. (Again, I am very sensitive and she has learned to measure criticism so I hear it more easily!)
Anita has many loves and interests that I do not share, and vice versa. I think this is a strength. Marriage is a negotiation between two equals who love and serve one another. We have learned that very powerfully and thirty-nine years after we were joined in holy matrimony we love each other now more than ever.