I don’t know how much of it was legitimate wondering and how much was adolescent neurosis, but there was a time when I wondered if I would experience the blessing and privilege of being happy in life.
There were real barriers, I thought, between me and happiness. I was skinny. I was a nerd (but not a geek; there’s a difference). I wore thick glasses. I was socially awkward. I was an introvert. I was insecure.
My strongest points were that I was a good student and a nice guy. So there you go.
To me, happiness meant having a good and strong family of which to be a part. An only child, I did not mind being alone. But I did not want to spend my life alone.
I had a good and strong family with my parents but when my mother died toward the end of my sixteenth year the walls of that fortress began to be breached. A year and a half following that event the good Lord sent Debra Kay Johnson my way. Full of grace, she loved me as I was. On June 10, 1978, she married me. A year later, my father died.
It would be presumptuous of me to claim that the Lord sent Debra to me so that I would not have to bear my burdens alone. But the fact is that she was there so I did not have to bear my burdens alone. And for that I give thanks to God.
Along the way we were blessed with Joshua on February 21, 1984 and with Sara on March 30, 1987. They have been and continue to be our greatest joy.
There have been other funerals along the way, most significantly those of both of Debra’s parents in 1996 and of her two oldest siblings. It was not lost on me that my children had no grandparents to be seated at their weddings.
But still—our children have had weddings!
Sara Ruffin and Benjamin Gunter were married at RoseMott Vineyards at Gin Creek Plantation in Hartsfield, Georgia on October 25, 2014. They will do well.
I am happy.
There was a time when I feared I might never be happy. But today I am. That is my testimony and I gladly offer it.
I have everything I ever dreamed of and feared that I would never have. Debra and I have been married for thirty-six years and we have, by the grace of God and with a good bit of effort, a good and strong marriage. Both of our children are grown, are educated, are employed, and are married to excellent partners.
I am not naïve. There are more losses to come and when they do come I will still know the joy of the Lord even if my happiness has to go away for a while. But I’m not thinking about that today. Today I am celebrating the blessing of family and testifying to the truth that by the grace of God I am a happy man.
I am happy because of my family; I am happy because of Debra, Joshua, Sara, Michelle, and Benjamin.
Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.