An Excellent Wife Who Can Find?

September 29, 2017

Friday September 29 marks 40 years since our first date.  Beth and I were students at Davidson. I had been in Kenya from January to August; Beth had been in Europe spring term, then worked in Shenandoah National Park during the summer. That year she lived in Mt Mourne, off campus. After cross country practice that Thursday, I drove out to her house; we mixed and kneaded bread, leaving it to rise while we went for a walk in the woods nearby (now Lowes corporate headquarters).  Returning, we baked the bread, made a salad, ate the first of thousands of wonderful meals together, and then looked at slides from Kenya and discussed what that trip meant.

When most of my friends asked me about Kenya, they wanted a five minute response. I was frustrated with that – the time in East Africa had affected me profoundly, and I was sorting through how I had changed. Beth, on the other hand, wanted a several hour response. She asked questions. She listened. She talked about how Europe and Shenandoah had affected her.

Five weeks previously my girlfriend of over two years had broken up with me. I had rather enjoyed dating just for fun in the intervening weeks, and was in no way looking for another serious, long-term relationship. But as I drove home that night I knew: Either Beth and I were not going to keep seeing each other, or this would be a serious relationship. And I couldn’t imagine not seeing her.

I just about destroyed the relationship right at the beginning. A few days after our first date, while walking down Main St, I ran into a girl I had dated a few times. We started going the same direction – and she took my hand. I was uncomfortable, but I had not yet said anything to her about Beth, and that didn’t seem the time or place to talk. So we were holding hands, and Beth drove by. I didn’t see her. She did see me – us – but wondered, was that really Coty? Beth decided to forget about it.

Two years and three months after that first date, we were married. That’s how I found an excellent wife.

At the time, I did not even know how to describe an excellent wife biblically. My conception of marriage was quite a mishmash of popular culture, marriages I had seen, and not-well-thought-out ideas about partnership and equality. But in God’s grace, He put the two of us together, made the two of us one on December 29, 1979, and has since washed us with the water of the Word, strengthened us by His Spirit, and nourished us through each other.

“Charm Is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). So let me turn to praise:

Beth, your outer beauty is fleeting only in the sense that everything in this world is passing away. In forty years, there has rarely been a time when I did not think you were the most beautiful woman in the room. Thank you for the attention you pay to your health, to your physical condition – and thank you for the many runs, hikes, and rides we have done together.

But your inner beauty is beyond compare. Even in Davidson days, an older man said of you, “She is so gentle – and yet so strong!” Those words characterize you time and again. You have displayed your strength in six births, after traffic accidents, in emergency room visits, when I have let you down, and when others have hurt us. And you have shown your gentleness to our children and grandchildren, to weeping friends, and to a hurting husband.

Naturally God graced you with these traits. Supernaturally He expanded and extended them, in calling you to Himself, in gracing You with His Spirit, in implanting in you a deep love for Him. He enabled you to be as He is in the world (1 John 4:17), to show not only your natural gentleness and strength, but to point to His gentleness, His strength, His forgiveness, His love, His goodness. And you display Who He is daily, hourly – whether through teaching a refugee woman to sew, helping your parents build a walkway, or laughing with your children about our foibles.

Thank you for helping me to see our unity, and for being my ally in the fight to maintain and deepen it. “They are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, man must not separate” (Mark 10:8-9). As you know, in Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy says of Levin and Kitty (in the middle of a fight!), “He could not now tell where she ended and he began.”  Just so with us. Our lives are intertwined, molded together – not in an unhealthy codependency, but, strengthened by our Lord, complete in Him, together we miraculously picture the unity of Christ and His Church. What a privilege to do that together with you.

Beth, you are far more precious than rubies. I love you with all my heart. Should God grant us another forty years together, I will be blessed above all men.

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