Reflection: Sweet 16


I like the number 16.

It is a culturally significant number. Sweet sixteen parties mark a coming of age. In most states, a sixteen-year-old can drive a car and get a job. In some states, a 16 year old can be emancipated from their parents, and live on their own. Plenty can happen at 16.

At 16, I felt reasonably sure I would survive high school. I had finished two years of P.E., which meant I could now play the sports I wanted, when, and with whom I wanted. No more dodgeball. No more two hand touch that randomly turned into tackle football. No more line up to get picked last. Now I got to pick my own teams and play by my own rules.

At 16, I had just wrapped up my first post-paper route job, a candy counter gig at the Latchis Theater, In Brattleboro, VT. I was headed into 11th grade with money in my pocket, though not enough, and plans for my future, though I had no clue what the next few years would bring.

At 16 I got my license. I was not a good driver, but I was legal.

And that, to me, is a solid metaphor for marriage

Today my marriage turns 16.

I have gotten through enough tough parts that I feel reasonably sure I will survive, and I have picked my own team. We seek to live by our understanding of God’s rules, but beyond that we have the power to make our own. We have our own family traditions, and our own house policies. And we seek to honor each other always. We pick each other first.

I have money in my pocket, but not enough. I have plans for my future, without knowing what the future holds.

And I am not always sure I’m a good husband, but I’m legal.

The biggest difference between 1990 and 2023 is that now I have someone to play with, save with, plan with, and drive with.

And that makes all the difference.

My wife is my best friend, and the toughest critic who lives outside my head. She is one of the few people who can see right through me and believes in me anyway. We make a good team, because we are complete opposites with common goals. We are fire and ice. We are two crazy kids who love Jesus. And the more we grow, the more we see how much crazy and immaturity we brought to the table

In one of those “God has a sense of humor” moments, I now have the privilege of marrying people.

And in premarital class, I share a handful of core commitments.

  1. Marriage is a commitment to love someone you won’t always like. Love prioritizes the other, at the expense of self. Can I put your first, even when I’m mad?
  2. Marriage is a commitment to prioritize your mate over every other person in your life and protect the space between you. Your parents, children, friends, work and church all have their sacred space in your life but allowing them in your marriage is the quickest way to destroy it. Marriage is two becoming one flesh, with God at the center, but it is one of the few relationships we have that presents the illusion of being optional. We think we can walk away when it gets tough. And there are all kinds of ways we can, but at a terrible cost.
  3. Marriage is a commitment to grow together for a lifetime. We will not be the same people ten, twenty, thirty, or fifty years from now. Our experiences will change us. There will be unexpected gains and losses. Unexpected joys and concerns. But if we commit to the adventure, no matter where it takes us, we can embrace, and celebrate the changes in each other, rather than seeing them as signs we no longer fit toghether
  4. Marriage is a commitment to stay together, no matter what. If you believe you can leave, you probably will.

I often say that I teach out of my vast inexperience. There is plenty I do not know. There is plenty I have not experienced.

We haven't gotten it all right, but we're still here, and we're still commtitted to each other.

So today, I’m just grateful for Sweet 16.

And I welcome the 16s to come.

(Photo Credit: Heiner)


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