Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A tribute to my wife of 26 years

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Our wedding reception, (with an Aggie groom's cake!)

Today is my 26th wedding anniversary, which is another way of saying that today marks the 26th year of my wife's incredible patience and longsuffering. Tertullian called marriage the "seminary of the human race" and Luther regarded it as a school for character. Donna would proabably say that is more like being in school with a character. Through the voice of John Plowman, Spurgeon expressed my own sentiments about marriage to Donna:
My experience with my first wife, who will I hope live to be my last, is much as follows: matrimony came from Paradise and leads to it. I never was half so happy before I was a married man as I am now. When you are married your bliss begins. I have no doubt that where there is much love there will be much to love, and where love is scant faults will be plentiful. If there is only one good wife in England, I am the man who put the ring on her finger and long may she wear it.
As every pastor's wife knows, a minister's marriage brings its own peculiar trials and blessings. To serve a church--especially for decades--necessarily requires a tenacious kind of love for that local body. Where that happens it is not so much a reflection on the heart of the pastor as it is the grace of God who alone can cultivate such affection for bride of Christ. While this is a good thing it brings with it inevitable challenges. Sometimes a pastor's wife can feel that she is competing with another lover. And sometimes a pastor can appeal to his love for the church to excuse the neglect of his own bride.

It takes a special woman to help her husband navigate those currents without doing injustice to either loves. To borrow from John Plowman, if there is only one such woman in all of America, I put the ring on her finger May 10, 1980...and long may she wear it.

I have been a pastor longer than I have been a husband. But in terms of priorities, I have tried to keep my relationships in this order. First and foremost, I am a Christian and must be faithfully devoted to the Lord Jesus. If I fail at this then I cannot be the kind of husband that Donna needs. Next I am her husband and must be committed to love her as Christ loves the church. Failure here will inhibit my ability to parent my children as I should. Next, I am a father and must give myself to bringing up my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If I neglect this, then my work as a pastor will suffer and I may well disqualify myself from that office. After this, I am a pastor and must seek to shepherd the flock of God for which He shed His precious blood. Only after this do I engage in various other ministries.

When I get these priorities out of line then I inevitably hinder my ability to fulfill my responsibilities as I ought in any of them. If I am more devoted to my church than I am to my children and wife, then I will fail them all. And if I am more devoted to Donna than I am to Christ, I will unavoidably fail her as a husband. She knows this and believes it. And she has been faithful in calling me back to reorient my thinking on more than one occasion through the years. In this way, before she is my wife, Donna is my sister in Christ, and by taking her calling seriously, she has immensely helped to stay the course.

One of my favorite quotes of Spurgeon comes from a wedding he performed for a young minister and his bride. He speaks with the wisdom of experience about the great challenges and opportunities that face a pastor's wife. After the vows had been exchanged, he made this comment:
If I was a young woman, and was thinking of being married, I would not marry a minister, because the position of minister's wife is a very difficult one for anyone to fill. Churches do not give a married minister two salaries, one for the husband and the other for the wife; but, in many cases, they look for the services of the wife, whether they pay for them or not. The minister's wife is expected also to know everything about the church, and in another sense she is to know nothing of it and she is equally blamed by some people whether she knows everything or nothing. Her duties consist in being always at home to attend to her husband and her family, and being always out, visiting other people, and doing all sorts of things for the whole church. Well, of course, that is impossible; she cannot be at everybody's beck and call, and she cannot expect to please everybody. Her husband cannot do that, and I think he is a great fool if he tried to do it; and I am certain that, as the husband cannot please everybody, neither can the wife. There will be sure to be somebody or other who will be displeased, especially if that somebody had herself half hoped to be the minister's wife. Difficulties arise continually in the best regulated churches; and, as I said before, the position of the minister's wife is always a very trying one. Still, I think that, if I was a Christian young woman, I would marry a Christian minister if I could, because there is an opportunity of doing so much good in helping him in his service for Christ. It is a great help to the cause of God to keep the minister himself in good order for his work. It is his wife's duty to see that he is not uncomfortable at home; for, if everything there is happy, and free from care, he can give all his thoughts to his preparation for the pulpit; and the godly woman who thus helps her husband to preach better, is herself a preacher though she never speaks in public, and she becomes to the highest degree useful to the church of Christ committed to her husband's charge.
For 26 years Donna has overcome the challenges and enhanced the blessings of a being married to a pastor. She is a great gift to me and I praise our gracious God for the privilege of calling her my wife.

22 comments:

Bart said...

Happy Anniversary, Tom and Donna. May God bless your marriage and your ministry together.

Bart

Paul Stith said...

Tom,

For your encouragement, there are two such women; I married the other one! Kathy has been a great source of encouragement, blessing, and help to me and many others through her love for Christ. By God's grace, may the rings on our fingers remain a true and faithful reflection of relationships that display genuine sanctification in our lives.

God bless you and Donna on your anniversary.

Paul & Kathy Stith

Jeff Jones said...

Congratulations and happy anniversary, Dr. Ascol. And thank you for your thoughts.

Byroniac said...

Happy Anniversary brother Tom and may God bless the two of you.

David & Rose Ann said...

What a magnificent departure from the current topics! Happy Anniversary.

ScriptureSearcher2 said...

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO THE ASCOLS!!

The bashful boy (Proverb 17:22) got a beautiful girl for his wife and BOTH are to be congratulated.

The only problem with the picture is that TEXAS AGGIE CAKE!

The boy from Beaumont once had hair!

art rogers said...

Tom & Donna,

Congrats, and Gig 'Em.

Beautiful words. I sent the link to my wife as I could not do any better myself.

Tom, you married over your head it appears. I know that feeling.

And nice hair!

Sam Hughey said...

Congratulations Tom and Donna. Hmmm, you don't look like the picture. Did something happen?

Sam Hughey

Kim said...

I reading something by Elisabeth Elliot last night and one of the statements she made was, one of the characteristics of enduring love is esteeming the other person more highly than yourself. You exemplify that characteristic; as, I am sure, does your wife.

Happy Anniversary!! May God continue to bless you in the years to come.

Kim

Matthew said...

A lovely tribute, Dr. Ascol - blessings on you and your wife.

Happy anniversary and may you see many more!

Joshua said...

You guys must still be eating on that cake... looks like it was huge!! Happy Anniversary... What a wonderful testimony to the glory of marriage and a great model for my young family.

God bless - Josh

jmattingly said...

This type of post is a great encouragement to me & my wife as we embark on a "ministry marriage" soon.

Thanks for your encouraging testimony, Tom.

So was the cake your wife's idea?

Jeremiah

Tom said...

Thanks for all the congratulations and kind wishes. Paul, you and I definitely outmarried ourselves (and praise God that we did!). Yes, I formerly had more hair, but through the years I have found that hair tends to be overrated.

Jmatt, I can't remember whose idea the cake was. But I do remember whose idea the recessional was. That one was mine. It was the "Aggie War Hymn." Donna's aunt showed great grace in playing it on the organ (note to the youngsters: think of a really big elctric keyboard with lots of extra keys and a bunch of wooden pedals on the floor), even though she was a died-in-the-wool Baylorite.

Stuart said...

The doctrines of grace: So simple...even an aggie can figure them out!

There now is truly no excuse for anyone not to understand biblical soteriology.

Byroniac said...

Trigger happy self. Am I the only one who's clicked on the wedding picture and gotten a Not Found error? If so, I probably won't be for long. :)

Aaron L. Turner said...

Happy Anniversary to both of you!

Holly and I will be celebrating 26 years in August.

This is great and wonderful time of life!

Thanks to both of you for your godly example

Becca said...

Happy Day-after-anniversary mom and dad!!! Thanks so much for your wonderful testimony through the years. (well the 20 of them I've been around at least!) :-)
Love you both soooo much!!!
Becca

Bob Bridges said...

Congratulations Tom and Donna... been a lot of water under the bridge since the days at Spring Valley, eh? I understand that you will be teaching a class in Owensboro KY for a week in January. That's in my neck of the woods. Maybe we can have dinner one night?

Bob

Tom said...

Thanks, Becca. It has been good to have you along for the ride...at least part of it.

Bob, great to hear from you! Donna and I moved to SVBC 4 months after we got married. I would love to see you while in Owensboro. Email me and let's try to set it up.

Ray said...

Happy Anniversary, Dad and Mom!! (a day late) :-) Thanks for setting such a wonderful example over the years of what a truly God-glorifying marriage looks like!! I love you both TONS and I am so blessed to be your kid :-)
-Ray

Sallymag said...

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!! (a day late, yes, I know) :-)

It has been a blessing to watch your marriage as I grew up (and continue to watch now that I'm officially an adult) and to see how your love for each other grows out of your greater love for Christ. Y'all have set me a wonderful example, and I'm so thankful to be your kid!! :-)

Love you lots!!!!
~Sarah

dj said...

Words simply cannot express how blessed I am to be your wife and to share this great adventure with you. I am humbled by your kind words and thank God for the testimony of grace that you portray to me every day. I know that you love me well because you love Christ FIRST and BEST. I pray that we have many, many more years serving the Lord together, as He wills. My plan is to always "stand by my man!" ;-)
Thank you, dear husband. Press on!
ILY-dj