[EDITOR’S NOTE: This month’s column is written by Judy Curtis.]
While attending a wedding a few years ago, I was chatting with one of my youngest single friends who would be turning twenty-six on her next birthday. During our chat, she commented, “The bride…god, she’s just SO young.”
“How old is she?” I asked.
“She is twenty-three,” replied my friend.
I paused and, without any thoughtful consideration at the moment, blurted out, “Wow, I had been married and had given birth to my third and last child at the age of twenty-three. year.
I might as well have announced that I had committed some sort of heinous crime. Times are different and people organize their lives differently. However, in my defense, having met my future husband at the tender age of twelve, getting married at nineteen (and a half!) and having three children very early on doesn’t seem so strange… does it? ?
In short, this is my story. The first time I saw LeRoy, I strongly suspected that one day we would be together. I even told my mother that I had met the boy I was going to marry. Sure, it was probably a teenage fad, but God uses everything and wastes nothing. It’s good news.
I didn’t have a personal relationship with the Lord at the time, but He knew me and everything that was going to happen in due time and He let me go ahead and prophesy. So here we are. On June 24 of this year, we will celebrate fifty-seven years of marriage.
If that seems like a long time, that’s because it’s made up of one day at a time…one kiss at a time, one fight at a time, one BIG fight at a time, one excuse, one adventure, one family crisis , a happy celebration, an answer to prayer, one testimony after another of God’s faithfulness to us.
Exactly eighteen months to the day after taking our wedding vows, in the very early hours of December 25, 1966, LeRoy and I knelt around our coffee table in Norfolk, Virginia, where we both received Jesus. -Christ in our hearts and received the Holy Spirit. Our lives would become very different from anything we had anticipated.
It was nice growing up in simpler times. While I’m sure there were strains on committed relationships, they were far less obvious than they are now. Society in general supported traditional values. Generally, people seemed to find ways to work things out for the good of the family and the community. Life was good, the resources seemed adequate, and the choices were fewer and much less complicated.
I feel blessed to be born when I was, and into a working class community. This is, of course, a contributing factor to fifty-seven years of marriage. Some have asked us: “What is your secret? I always wish I had a quick and ready answer or quip, but I don’t.
Recently I have been reading and listening to podcasts on certain themes that run through the entirety of scripture, marriage being one of them. You cannot leave Genesis 2 without encountering a man, the only one of God’s creations made in the image of God, reunited with his wife and becoming one flesh.
I say gathered because, according to the Scripture, all the creatures of God, he made them male and female. This is not the case with Adam. He created a man. On the side of this man, he formed a woman. It seemed to flow from the very heart of God in his creation.
Every generation now records men and women marrying and becoming one flesh again, but with dramas, crises and all that goes with it. From the beginning, or at least from Genesis 3 on, the fallen nature of mankind has sometimes made “becoming one flesh” a bumpy ride. Read the stories… it’s all there.
In the New Testament book of Ephesians, Paul refers to Genesis 2:24. “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Paul calls this a profound mystery, and he compares it to Christ and to the Church, his bride.
I sincerely believe that marriage is the only thing we have in this life that is a living, breathing symbol of Christ and his inexhaustible love for the Church. There is more truth here than I can imagine, and more than I could ever begin to consider in a written letter.
Fifty-seven years old. What’s left to learn? Let me just tell you… what I don’t know about growing old together is a lot! It’s still a journey, and if we don’t let the Holy Spirit help us…some might not be pretty. We haven’t finished learning that what God says is true, even if we don’t always feel it.
We’ve had a lot of changes in our lives, starting with LeRoy graduating from UNC, his commission in the US Navy, and his marriage to me…all in 10 days. Boom! I was a Navy wife. He was often gone, but not at Christmas 1966, when our lives took a different direction.
We had no idea what that meant. We just knew it was real. There were moves related to military service, and during that time a distinct impression that full-time ministry was in our future. When our military obligation was fulfilled, we took our three babies, all the courage God gave us, and went for three years to Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, where LeRoy would earn a master’s degree in theology. .
After graduating, there were a few years of service in the Western Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church. But it wasn’t ours. Moving forward led to service opportunities in Christian education… founding day schools and engaging in smaller, non-denominational house churches where relationships were established that we still value at this time. day.
Eventually, the empty nest became a reality. God has opened up another incredible opportunity to engage in missionary work in East Africa and then Costa Rica, developing a curriculum and providing training for rural pastors to read and understand the Bible as it is. applies to their culture.
These years have also given us grandchildren, and now we find ourselves in another phase. It can be difficult to navigate new health issues, losing patience, technological confusion, questions about the future, but it’s part of the journey.
The reason, and maybe even the secret? Two issues are resolved. Jesus is Lord and will never leave or forsake us. And second, our covenant relationship is more important than either of us as individuals. The union has a purpose that goes beyond our own individual edification.
We wait, pray, listen, … anticipate how the Lord wants to use us. Two and a half years ago we physically moved to Carrollton, GA. Our daughter, her husband and family are here, as well as our autistic and very talented grandson, Ben. Hard to believe he turned 29 last month! We love being back in their lives. LeRoy and Ben together are quite the characters.
The drive to the airport is a bit further, but we still have a lot of walking on our spiritual tires and the heart to serve God by training church leaders in a scriptural worldview, wherever that may be.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the heart of ending well is to know Jesus Christ and him crucified, and to be connected to his body, his bride, the Church… his expression of God on the earth.
I have experienced so much love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, long-suffering, kindness, blessings of all kinds from Christ. I hope this is all true as we grow old together… let’s end well.
If I had an answer to “What’s the secret?” — There is something very captivating about knowing Jesus personally, looking at him and, as an heir with him, sharing the very nature of God. He is the beginning, the end and the center of all that is life.
What comfort and what truth that will set us free to be a blessing to one another in this new territory of “aging,” and to those whom the Lord places in our path.
We sincerely appreciate you. Thank you for your love, prayers and support. -Judy Curtis
[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]