July 1999 – When I travel I do a lot of scanning on the radio. Just like channel flipping – or surfing I suppose it’s called in 1999 – men do this. I scan until I find a talk show I’m interested in or a song I like. Then I listen awhile and scan some more. One evening recently I was cutting across Alabama coming home from a trip to Atlanta and my scan came across an advertisement promoting an online match-making service. “Find the man or woman that fits the qualities you’re looking for on the Internet,” said the soothing voice. My thought: “Some people are really desperate.” I don’t know what to think about these kinds of services. Seems kind of cold and sterile to me. But then, I’ve never had to look, hope and pray for the right woman either. I’ve already married her. In fact, if you will excuse the self-indulgence, Alison and I will celebrate our 15th anniversary on July 28.
It was another hot and humid Mississippi Saturday afternoon in 1984. We were married at the Good News Church in Tupelo by Pastor Billy Funderburk. This was just before the video craze hit America, so all we have are photographs. I like still pictures better anyway. They give you a chance to look, reflect and remember without having to constantly rewind.
The week before the wedding Mom bought me some new pants and jacket to wear as we exited the church under heavy rice fire. One of the photos we have in our wedding book is of me in the driver’s seat closing the door to my orange 1977 Buick LeSabre as we’re about to leave the parking lot to honeymoon. My arm is propped up on the steering wheel and – featured prominently on the jacket sleeve – is a big ol’ price tag. Kind of like Minnie Pearl. And I’m just smiling real big for the camera. I was cool. We laugh every time we pull that photo out.
Mama has another picture in her photo album, this one from my ninth grade year, 1977. I was asked by my friend Kelly Morris if I would be her escort in the homecoming court and I gladly did so. In the picture of Kelly and me is another couple just behind us. Guess who? It was my good friend Robert Davidson and a girl named Alison Hardin. Alison and I had mutual friends but we didn’t even really know each other. I don’t think we even talked during our ninth grade year, even though I was on the basketball team and she was a cheerleader. A year later three of my buddies and I were going to a concert and asked Kelly to go along with us and invite a friend. So she invited Alison Hardin. Alison didn’t really want to go but she did to please her mom who was worried because her daughter was experiencing some teenage doldrums. That night – for some reason – we started talking. I asked her out for the next weekend and she said yes. We went to see The Champ starring John Voight and little Ricky Schroeder. Really sad ending to that movie when the champ dies, but I held back my tears. That was hard, I’ll be honest. But, I was cool. Alison and I never dated anyone else again, and now here we are 21 years later with a house payment and three children of our own living in the same area in which we grew up.
Marriage is a gift from God. He ordained it. His perfect will for marriage is that one man marry one woman and they stay together for a lifetime. Sadly, only about 50% of American couples follow this plan. But we should celebrate when couples do stay together “for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and health ’til death do us part.” For Alison and me, we have some great examples which, quite frankly, I think is a key. Alison and I only have one living grandparent each. But between all four sets of grandparents – close to 250 years of marriage – there was not one divorce. In fact, Dad’s parents were married 67 years before Mama Wildmon died. And both sets of parents have both been together for over 35 years. Quite a family legacy we have.
One of the leading contributors to the social and moral problems our country is experiencing is the break up of the home. That’s no secret. Maybe we are not doing enough as parents and as churches to model real commitment in front of our children and teenagers. Maybe too many ministers marry people they hardly know or have spent little time within premarital counseling. Maybe we have become so intoxicated with the wine of self-gratification that it’s hard to care about anything but ourselves, our wants, our desires, however temporal and short-sighted they may be. I don’t know all the causes for divorce, but I do know couples who marry today often take the casual attitude, “If it doesn’t work we’ll just get a divorce.”
Well, I didn’t write this column to depress you. I wrote it to say we all need to honor and celebrate marriage. We need to help couples stay together and encourage them to work out problems which threaten their home.
And I wrote this to say “Happy Anniversary!” to my bride of 15 years. Now if we can do 15 years three more times we will be within seven years of Mama and Papa Wildmon’s family record. That would be really cool.