In the shadow of Bryant Denny Stadium

Published 9:58 pm Friday, February 13, 2009

It happened on a summer Saturday evening 65 years ago. Calvary Church is located about a stone’s throw from Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. At a student “open house” event held in the basement fellowship hall, I saw Louise Anderson for the first time, escorted by a red-headed male student. To my surprise and joy, I learned later at a September student planning meeting, again at Calvary Church, that they were only friends. It was then and there that my love relationship with Louise began: 65 years of being in love and 61 years of marriage.

At that time I was a pre-medical student and she was a business major. She had made a total commitment of her life to the Lord Jesus six months prior to our meeting each other. I had become a Christian as a 10-year-old and had been consistently and earnestly seeking God’s plan for my life for like four years or more. I had committed myself to do God’s will and follow his plan as he revealed it to me. I was convinced God’s future for me was either in the medical field or to become a pastor.

The time was World War II, so I joined the Medical Corpse of the Navy to give God and me every chance possible to prove that my direction should be in the medical field or otherwise. But, not before I placed a little engagement ring on Louise’s finger the night before I was sworn into the Navy.

After a year as a pharmacist mate, I made a once-for-all commitment of my life to God’s call to become a pastor. When I shared with Louise, in a letter, my commitment, she had one brief response: “No matter whether you become a doctor, farmer or a preacher, I feel I am called of the Lord to be your wife.”

After being discharged from the Navy, we spent 15 months as fellow students on a college campus before our wedding in December 1947. From the time we met, it has been a 65-year wonderful journey of love and a journey of faith with difficulties, under-girded by God’s provision every day of the way. I wish to relate how our Lord Jesus has made a tremendous difference in our journey of love.

We wrote each other each day we were separated by my military service. She would always close her letter with the words, “Yours through all through Christ.” She has lived that commitment to this very day.

We loved each other too much and loved the Lord too much to ever even entertain the idea of a pre-marital sexual relationship.

Being aware of the commitment I was taking upon myself, the few days before our wedding I found myself repeating one verse of Scripture over and over again: “Husbands, love your wives in the very same way Jesus Christ also loved the Church and gave himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). That one verse has been my desire, guide, challenge and commitment to this very day.

We chose three special songs to express affirmation, commitment and supplication to be sung by a classmate at our wedding: “Because,” immediately before the Service; “Seal Us, O Holy Spirit,” as we knelt at the altar for the prayer of dedication; and “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us” immediately after being pronounced husband and wife. These songs are alive in us today!

Three kinds of love necessary for the marriage journey are emphasized in the Bible. Louise and I are fortunate to have all three. First is a more shallow love, which is sweetheart love, affection, sexual attraction and the intimate marriage relationship. Second is friendship love, which can enable a husband and wife to also be best friends. Third, which is by far the most necessary of all, is the cross kind of love, the Christ kind of love. There is a great need in the marriage journey for forgiveness, acceptance, endurance, serving, peacemaking, peace seeking, self sacrifice, submission and reconciliation. It takes the Jesus kind, the cross kind, the God kind of love for these. It is the absence of this kind of love that leads to divorce when the other two kinds of love wear thin.

The worst dream or nightmare I’ve ever had was dreaming I married someone else other than Louise Anderson. At age 82, my desire and prayer is that I may give loving support for the most fulfilling life possible for my wife now, that I might make her know how special she is, and that I might personally care for her until her last breath.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my readers. May you have a true love relationship with God through Jesus Christ. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

– Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Saturday.