More unmarried Christians in their 20s are skittish about making a lifetime commitment, and some who are married wish they were not. It’s vital for both groups to see how older Christians learned to work and pray through uncertainties and difficulties, and in the process gained decades of joy.
WORLD asked students in mid-career journalism and seminary courses to profile couples married for at least 35 years. We asked them to ask hard questions and make sure their subjects are willing to talk about bad times as well as good. These profiles are going up weekly at WORLDmag.com. Here’s one, the seventh in the series. —Susan Olasky
Lawrence and Mary Lehr married in 1976. Six months later he was asking, “What have I done?” At one point, Mary remembers pain and loneliness so intense she thought, “This is why people get divorced.”
They met in 1974 in Guerneville, Calif. Lawrence lived with a handful of ex-hippies who walked the streets passing out tracts, telling of their newfound faith in Jesus. Mary arrived in town with her toddler Isaac on her hip, ready to listen. A fed-up flower child, she embraced the gospel message after years of trying to find God through drug highs and empty wandering—from San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district to meditation ranches across South America.
Lawrence proposed to Mary after three dates. She said no. For two years, Lawrence pursued her. She fell for him after a vivid dream where she saw them kneeling before Jesus, who held their hands together as her son Isaac peered down from a tree. After she sketched this picture for their October wedding invitations, Lawrence panicked and called it off.
But God’s beckoning soon overshadowed their fears and insecurity: On March 20, 1976, they said their vows before a fledgling community of believers in Santa Rosa and celebrated with rousing volleyball games and a potluck dinner.
Mary conceived on their honeymoon. By their third year of marriage, they had three sons, including Isaac. “We had no plan. As hippies, we had lived like spoiled brats. We were immature,” she said. As Mary kept having babies—attempts at natural family planning resulted in eight kids—Lawrence devoted himself to finishing college and starting an insurance company. Often, he worked long days and came home emotionally checked out. Both were admittedly stubborn: They saw little eye to eye.
Mary told Lawrence she no longer loved him, but felt God prodding her to persevere in the marriage. For Lawrence, Mary’s depression and his deteriorating relationships with their teenage sons came as wake-up calls.
They went through counseling, a turning point in their marriage. “I finally stopped blaming Mary for our problems,” Lawrence said.
Newfound grace for each other enabled them to face other challenges—among them Isaac’s death from cancer at age 35. He left behind a wife and four children. Today, photo collages splash the walls of the Lehrs’ home, celebrating the blessing of nine children and seven grandchildren. Lawrence still runs a successful insurance company with his son Ben.
After 37 years together, the Lehrs point to the results of persevering through trials: They have a deeper love for each other and the opportunity to help struggling couples. Lawrence says, “We see each other with all of our shortcomings and brokenness, but we see God’s grace, rather than our failures. It is God’s blessing on us.”
In the movie Runaway Bride, Julia Roberts bolts from more than one altar without saying “I do.” According to Bridal Brokerage (bridalbrokerage.com), real-life couples cancel at least 250,000 weddings each year, sacrificing thousands of dollars in deposits. Now Bridal Brokerage thinks it can make money off that matrimonial disappointment. It offers to “purchase cancelled weddings and resell them to new couples.” This “new market for weddings” benefits sellers, who get back some of their upfront costs; vendors, who maintain business; and buyers, who get discounted weddings without all the planning.
Newly engaged or about-to-be engaged couples will find helpful All Things Are Ready, a Christian wedding planning notebook by Amy Hayes (Doorposts, 2012). It includes checklists and sections on budgeting, setting a date, and wedding style—things common to any wedding planning guide—but also questions and advice to encourage Christian couples to think about the greater meaning of the celebration. It’s full of wisdom: In a chapter on registering for gifts, Hayes includes this reminder: “Remember that your temptation will be towards self-absorption during this time of life. The antidote is to be thankful in all things.” —Susan Olasky
Students have always figured out ways to quiz themselves. But now the internet makes it a snap to create custom flashcards—or use cards that someone else has created. Quizlet, Studystack, Flashcardmachine, and Flashcardexchange are websites that allow students to create and share study helps. Quizlet is the most sophisticated, where students can read or listen to word lists, test themselves, and play games. Quizlet also has an iPhone app so students can study while out and about. —S.O.
The University of Iowa library is counting on ordinary people to help digitize historical artifacts: Volunteers can transcribe items ranging from handwritten cookbooks to the diaries of a woman named Iowa (1879-1936). The project (diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu) began in 2011 with Civil War diaries and letters, then expanded into photographs and other handwritten documents that can’t be scanned. By transcribing and tagging items, volunteers make searchable more of the library’s extensive collection, and learn history while they are at it. —S.O.