November 11, 2009
By Michael Usey
He saw her before he met her: Wendy, 16, in a slit skirt, and red FMP Candy pumps, in the main hall at Page High School where they were both students. Ed, 17 at the time, met her soon afterwards. Both Wendy and Ed had friends that worked in the teen disco in Carolina Circle Mall, and both friends were picking up their paychecks that Friday, Sept 28, 1979, during the school lunch hour, and Wendy and Ed with their friends separately. Ed saw the hottie he’d been eyeing, and saw his chance. The girls were complaining about a notoriously difficult English teacher at Page in whose class they had just sat, and whom Ed had the year before. So Ed chatted Wendy up, and thus began 10 years of love, lust, dating, engagement, college, fire academy, starting careers, and of course dogs.
That first Christmas Wendy would not let Ed give her any jewelry because that would have meant they were more serious than he felt they were. The first semester they were together, Ed made the honor roll for the first time at Page, because whenever he came over to study with Wendy, it meant they were going to study, by golly. By the following Christmas they were serious enough for him to give her a lovely emerald ring, which she wore for years. They survived Wendy wrecking Ed’s silver mustang in Country Park while Ed was fishing.
He proposed to her in the Page Parking lot years later. He had a ring in the glove compartment of that same Mustang, and she said yes. He did not want her to wear it yet, because he hadn’t had a chance to tell his mother. So during the dinner that followed at his house, Wendy kept going to the bathroom to admire her ring—the very ring we bless again tonight. Ed’s mother asked “Ed, Is Wendy feeling alright? She keeps going to the bathroom.” (Oddly enough, neither one now wears a ring: Ed because of his job, where a ring could get caught on equipment with disastrous results; Wendy because of a subsequent skin reaction to many metals.)
They were married right here in this church and this room 20 years ago today, and they stand before God and some of their friends and family to rededicate themselves to this partnership, and to ask God’s blessing on the second part of their marriage. They are wise to do this, because they know that each day in marriage is a commitment, every morning a time again to say yes to walking through this life with your chosen partner at your side. It is not a small thing to stay together, when many forces in life seek to pry a couple apart.
One of the many things I love about these two is their willingness to change and to grow. It’s rare to thing to discover even one person willing to grow and change in midlife—a rarer thing still to find a couple still so open to personal growth and God’s input into their lives. They came back to CP because they felt God’s tug on their sleeves, that something was missing and not quite right. Now it is difficult to remember what our church tribe was like without them here, so embedded and loved they have become. Both of them are willing to be changed by God’s wild spirit, which is impart what people find so attractive about them.
Both Ed and Wendy care deeply about others, so they serve the world side-by-side. In my own marriage, Ann and I early on envisioned a marriage not gazing into each other’s eyes primarily, but hand-in-hand facing outward, in a marriage of ministry. I don’t know if this is the type of marriage that Wendy & Ed intended but it is the type that theirs has evolved into, and we are all blessed to be in its wake. People in these types of marriages stay fresh and alive by helping other people, then come back together to renew and rejuvenate. Couples in these outward-focused marriages don’t usually suffer from lack of meaning, but without care they can burnout, grow fatigued, or become cynical. This is where it is crucial that fill each other’s cup by taking time away and enjoying being around each other—another aspect of their marriage that these two do well, I think—taking the boat out in Oriental or the dogs for a late afternoon walk, or a sunset motorcycle ride.
One of my heroes is Studs Turkel: he studied by interview what people did when they worked and when they were off. Turkel found that some people in jobs not consider academic turn out to be incredibly thoughtful, always pondering things. Ed, for example, likes to play up his “I’m just a local Greensboro boy turned firefighter” personae. I think it’s his way of being humble—using his roots to connect with anyone and everyone, but in doing so he plays down how intelligent, bright, and curious he is. He thinks about complex issue in ways that have helped him in his management and personnel issues; he offers insightful guidance for how best his firefighters should approach each other and communicate. Wendy is in the same mold: I find that she can hold the details of several issues in her mind, and think through potential conflicts while I am still getting the constellation of issues at hand. She listens carefully, and is always thinking one step ahead, asking herself, what can I do to help this situation.
Their marriage has not always been easy. Ed had some bizarre circumstantial set backs in his career along the way. Random events cost them steps on what they hoped would be a straightforward career of growth. What I find remarkable about them both is how they have tried hard to see such setbacks and disappointments as possible learning experiences that might deepen their souls, rather than grow despondent or bitter. Ed says it wasn’t easy or pretty, but their refusal to give up is evident in how they have built a new path with God’s help.
Last week Ginger Burkhead said about Becky Clemmer, words that are so very true about Wendy: like Becky, Wendy avoids the spotlight, shrinks back from any attempt to praise her publicly, but wants nothing more than to quietly serve. This of course is the mark of a true Christian: one who is not obsessed with herself, but rather is fascinated with what God is doing in and through her.
To Wendy and Ed’s family and friends I say what I know is obvious: we are blessed to know them, to serve with them, to laugh, love and live out loud with them. And to you two: All of us are here, Ed and Wendy, because we can’t wait for what God is going to do next with your one wild and precious life together. I have a deep feeling it will never be dull.