I suppose it is quite fitting that the occasion of my tenth wedding anniversary would coincide with Thanksgiving Day. As I realized that just a week ago, I ruminated on how significant and appropriate it was on so many levels. Also, not by coincidence, I am taking a course on Civil War history. So as I contemplated the history of the Civil War and the history of the National Day of Thanksgiving, I found the parallels between my marriage and this day’s history to be striking and apropos.
Thanksgiving as a national observance started in 1863 when President Lincoln issued a declaration ordering the last Thursday in November to be a National Day of Thanksgiving. 1863 had seen significant Union war progress and was viewed as a strategic turning point for the Federal effort in the traumatizing American Civil War. After the disasters of two routing defeats at Manassas Junction, a humiliating retreat from the Virginia Peninsula, and further leadership failures at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the Federal cause in the early Spring of 1863 seemed doomed. But the dramatic turns of events of July 1863 in the decisive victory at Gettysburg and the capture of Vicksburg gave hope to the Union cause. Within this historic backdrop, Lincoln issued his declaration, giving thanks to God for His love and mercies bestowed upon the nation.
Similarly, in my life, I have had countless failures in my marriage. At so many times in the past ten years, nothing but God’s kind providence and gracious love to me has kept my marriage together. In the past three years, He has seen fit to demonstrate that my wife’s and my bonds of commitment to each other are unbreakable… bendable, and subject to remaining sin, but unbreakable. In this context, I view our past ten years from the perspective of November 1863, and indeed give thanks for God’s mercy upon us.
Of course, the year 1864 offers other parallels in my metaphor. 1864 has been remembered as the year that saw Lincoln’s reelection, essentially sealing the fate of the Confederacy from a standpoint of political willpower. It saw the triumph of Sherman in Atlanta. But 1864 was also the year in which the Union suffered their most casualties due to the dogged, stubborn, persistent attacks by Grant’s Army in the eastern theater of action. It saw the confused, fiery, terrifying combat in the Wilderness. It saw the whole-sale slaughter of Spotsylvania Courthouse. It saw the Fredericksburg-like disaster at Cold Harbor. It saw the depressing trench-warfare siege of Petersburg. Yet, despite these trials, Thanksgiving Day was celebrated by these Union soldiers on the last day of November 1864. The civilians of the North, grateful for the tremendous cost and sacrifice poured out by their boys in blue, generously provided the entrenched units at Petersburg with a trueThanksgiving feast… incidentally exposing many to northeast staples like roast turkey and cranberries for the first time. Thanksgiving was given to God for His aid and succor throughout that difficult year.
As I celebrate my ten years of marriage on this first Day of National Thanksgiving that coincides with said wedding anniversary, I consider the metaphor of the future years of 1864 in my wife’s and my life together. We will doubtless encounter our own Wilderness… beset by enemies and terrors unseen. We will certainly feel lost and hopeless in the tangle of those thickets and may entertain tempting thoughts that God has abandoned us. We will doubtless encounter terror and fear, facing difficult, heavy entrenchments at our own “Bloody Angles”, having to dutifully fulfill Biblical orders to take the position despite how much it costs us. We will doubtless face complete defeats when we, in our own arrogance and self-confidence, charge towards objectives without the assistance of God and be severely defeated in our own Cold Harbors. We will most assuredly encounter objectives too difficult to take on our own and be forced to besiege our own Petersburgs, dependent upon the assistance of Almighty God for victory… which may not come for months or years. And lastly, we will doubtless encounter the grace and mercies of the benevolence of our brothers and sisters in Christ who will provide the mentorship, counsel, and provisions that will strengthen our marriage and our resolve to see the struggle to our own Appomattox.
My Schatz (German for “treasure”), I love you more than ever before in these previous ten years. Most of them have been difficult, and most secular counselors would have counted us as loss on more than one occasion. Yet your love and commitment to me has only gown and strengthened our love. Your ability to forgive has been a mirror of God’s unconditional love in forgiving me. I find strength to face my own besetting sins in that I know I don’t have to do anything to earn your love… but I do it because I love you. Love is an action… and not an emotion. I pray for you and our children daily and I thank God every day… not just today… for His giving you to me, and me to you.