Some may think of today as Halloween. It is, of course. For me, there is a much more important event to celebrate. It is my wife’s birthday! I have been blessed to be able to celebrate every birthday since she turned 18. Today, she achieved a major milestone. She is sixty years young.
Last week I decided I would write a reflection from a biblical perspective on the various seasons of life over the 42 years I have known her. I am grateful that I got to watch her grow in faith and maturity from a single young college student to a faithful girlfriend and fiancée, beautiful young wife, dedicated mother of three, loving preschool teacher, and a wise godly Nana to our four grandchildren. As I write this article, I want to give glory to God for His precious gift, properly celebrate my wife’s birthday, and encourage others to cherish the gift of their own spouses.
I invite you to join this journey of reflection and celebration with me.
Single young college student
Let me start with 1 Thes. 3:9: “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?”
Paul is expressing gratitude and joy for the members of the church in Thessalonica. I, too thank God daily for my dear wife! When I recall our providential first meeting on the Colorado State University Marching Band practice field, I know that God arranged it. She caught my eye on that September afternoon in 1977 and she still catches it now. There was joy in my life because of God’s presence (Ps. 16:11), and that joy was multiplied because she was there sharing it with me. I truly enjoyed being just friends.
Faithful girlfriend and fiancée
Next, we read in James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
When we meet someone that God puts in our path to change our lives forever, this is clearly a “good and perfect gift”. Receiving a precious gift from the hand of our heavenly Father should cause us to praise Him first and then second, to cherish that gift. That is what I have been doing ever since I came to realize how much a gift that this lady has been to me from day one of our friendship. I was glad to see our friendship grow in love and commitment. Every year, I appreciate her even more.
Beautiful young wife
Another verse that shaped my marriage is Prov. 5:18, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
I have much to rejoice about. During the three years that we dated before our wedding, I knew that she was the one I would spend the rest of my life with. We had formed a close friendship, a deep love, and a strong commitment. It was easy to take it to the next level to become ONE for life. Over the nearly 39 years we have been married, I have tried to make time with my wife a priority. She is always in my thoughts. I look forward to every moment we can be together. This is one way to cherish God’s gift to me and to the world.
Dedicated mother of three
As I think about the longest chapter of my wife’s life where she focused on our immediate family, Prov. 31:25-29 seems to apply: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’”
This describes my wife well, especially during the 24 years she was a full-time mother raising our three children. On top of that, she was an Army wife. I don’t know how she managed it all with my long hours, months of absences (including two one-year tours while I was in Korea), and moving every three years (including overseas) over a 20-year career, but she did, and she did it so splendidly. She was an amazing mother, who kissed away scraped knees, snuggled our little ones, read to them, looked for teachable moments in the car, fed and clothed everyone well, and was always there for us when we needed her.
Loving preschool teacher
This next Scripture seems to characterize another big phase of her life. In Mark 10:13-16, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
For 18 years, which ended about six months ago, my wife was a loving teacher of preschoolers. She was physically designed to blend in with this environment, with her big eyes, warm smile, and short stature. She was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually gifted, equipped, and called by God into this profession as well. Her ability to love kids in practical ways through songs, humor, art, instruction, and play time came supernaturally to her. She directly changed hundreds of children’s’ lives and ministered to their parents and siblings.
Wise godly Nana
Regarding the righteous man or woman, Ps. 92:13-15 states boldly, “Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
This passage was shared with us by some dear elderly sisters in the Lord that we knew in the church we got married in. Now we are them. My wife has aged gracefully, and puts her years of experience in loving on children to good use with our four grandchildren. We were there on day one for each of them. She has taken advantage of her freedom on several occasions to travel for a short visit, i.e., to help take care of three precious grandkids when our daughter moved last summer and when our son’s son was sick last month.
The days ahead
As she eases into her 60s and beyond, I see her continuing to be a blessing to so many of us. She is eager to mentor young military wives and mothers, sharing her wisdom with them. She is preparing for the next stage of life, whatever it brings, with her faith and hope well-grounded in her Lord and Savior. I am eager to continue this journey with her until death parts us. Happy birthday, my love!
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.