This week Ali & I are in the beautiful romantic city of Prague for a few days to celebrate 20 years of marriage!
On December 7th 1991 we both said “I do” – Ali looked stunning, and looking at our wedding photo’s I seem to have forgotten to get a haircut!
In the ceremony we’d chosen to sing a song with the lyrics “We have a destiny we know we shall fulfil… we have a destiny… and I know it’s not an empty wish – for I know, we were born for such a time as this…”. The wedding was in the tiny town of Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape of then Apartheid South Africa. We’d both grown up there, and looking back we cannot remember at the time even having an inkling of what was to come, that 2 years later we would move to London with our 2 backpacks and a vision to plant a church in the greatest city in the world. We’d never been to London before we arrived, and knew no-one… but somehow we had a destiny… and its been an amazing journey together.
I tell all this today mainly to honour the incredible wife / helper / lover / friend / warrior / co-labourer / Ali has been for/with me all these years. Much of what was birthed has come out of sacrifice rather than overflow for us, and the unmeasured cost often ends up right in the senior pastors home. It takes a very uniquely called & gifted woman to do what Ali has. Where many would have quit, Ali has stayed the course when I was weak, and hung on with me when I was the stronger. (And when we were both down, somehow God sent someone along to lift us both). We’ve had the joy of birthing two amazing daughters, and a bunch of churches in Europe, and we can both say today like Caleb that “We are as strong today as the day we were sent out”. There is still so much to do, and in this current season we’d love to see so much more happening and growing and expanding, but for today I simply want to say a huge THANK YOU ALI, and I can honestly say that I love you and am in love with you now more than I’ve ever been (except when I first dated you for a month at the age of 13! – Unfortunately no photo’s available…)
Finally a few thoughts on the marriage journey, which is often similar to what our day getting here here to Prague from London was like…
- It started off doing a crazy thing: Leaving home at 4am to get to the airport (At the beginning we often do crazy things… and then get boring somewhere along the way… variety is certainly a spice of life, and marriage, so get out of those ruts…)
- Even though it was crazy early, I made Ali a takeaway coffee and she made me a snack (In marriage we start out serving each other joyfully, but the challenge is to keep that serving spirit, rather than at some point expecting to be served, more than being a servant)
- Then it was onto the no-frill-airline Easy-Jet to Prague (I’m thinking: Shouldn’t we be flying business-class by now?! Surely we deserve it! At least Ali deserves it… but we couldn’t afford it… Marriage often starts with no “frills”, but a lot of “thrills”. Sadly, for many, when they can afford the “frills”, there are no more “thrills”… Whether you can afford the frills or not, just remember that the thrills are more important…)
- Then we get to the hotel… a very good hotel, but we’d booked the cheapest room type. We’re just happy to be in! (Wanting what we don’t have in marriage is a killer – there’s even a commandment for it: Do not covet another mans wife…or house…or money.. or ministry…or job… or… In the New Testament Paul says: I have learned to be content…for Godliness with contentment has great gain. We need that in marriage: Appreciate what we DO have in each other and in life!)
- We had arrived early so couldn’t go up to the room yet, so when we came to pick up our keys at check-in time, WE WERE GIVEN A ROOM UPGRADE!!!! then we get to the room, and THERE IS CHAMPAGNE ON ICE WAITING FOR US!!! (In marriage, and in life, there IS a time for everything. The first characteristic of love in 1 Cor 13 is PATIENCE, and those who wait at the wedding instead of walking out will always in Gods time taste the best wine. Ali & I have certainly wanted to quit on marriage along the way, but O I love the wine (champagne) Jesus serves when we press through with patience! – which is “long-lasting faith” rather than a simple resignation to time ticking away…)
- And finally, our day ended with an incredibly stunning evening in Prague – surely one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Christmas Markets and lights and music and good food and full moon … Whatever the journey, in Christ it will end in stunning beauty… because ultimately, like the Apostle Paul says: Through marriage I tell you a mystery, and it’s really about Christ and His bride, the church….) Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.