30 Years of Married Grace

Thirty years ago today I placed a wedding ring on the finger of Donna Jean Young and made her my bride. Today I am more stunned than I was then that I am her husband. She is the greatest earthly gift that God could ever give me. “Many daughters have done excellently, but she surpasses them all.” Martin Luther called marriage a school for character, and so it has been for me. I cannot fully calculate the lessons learned or the blessings I have experienced by being married to Donna. But I am very conscious of the praise and gratitude that belongs to our Lord for giving her to me.

Because of the providential convergence of some wonderful events at this time, we are are postponing the official celebration of our anniversary for a couple of months. That’s the kind of flexibility that comes more easily after thirty years than after only a few. Below are thirty reasons that I have “tweeted” over the last thirty days that express why I love Donna. Of course, there are millions more and none of them can be adequately stated in less than 140 characters! But these are reminders to me of what God gave me when He blessed me to become her husband. Like most of my friends, I married far, far above my pay grade. The following reasons, with brief explanations, make that evident.

1-She patiently endured my insecurities and idiosyncracies when we were dating.
I was a pretty confused young man when we met. No one would have thought it strange if she had simply written me off (and some would have commended her wisdom!)

2-She listened with an open Bible as I explained the doctrinal reformation God worked in me during our engagement.
During the year of our engagement I went through a theological revolution as God showed me the doctrines of grace in Scripture. At points she thought I was losing my mind and we seriously considered calling off the wedding because of my changing doctrinal convictions. In His mercy, the Lord rescued our impending marriage by leading her to see and understand these truths, as well.

3-She did not care that we took a cheap honeymoon that included staying with relatives along the way.
We were both students. We had no debt but I had used all of my savings commuting from seminary back to the small church I was serving in College Station. So we packed a lot of sandwiches and spent part of our trip in the homes of my aunt and my brother. And we had a blast!

4-She happily turned our tiny first apartment (we could not open the refrigerator and oven at the same time) into a warm, inviting home.
There was no place to hide. It helped us learn to get along and resolve conflicts sooner rather than later.

5-She persevered through her senior year of nursing school despite being newly married to a part-time pastor who was also a full-time student.
Her grades took a small drop as her priorities changed, but she handled all of the demands on her with grace.

6-She joyfully worked evenings as a pediatric nurse after graduation, more than tripling the income I was receiving as a pastor.
Donna has always loved kids and was an excellent nurse in a Children’s Hospital. We were blown away by her salary and couldn’t imagine how we could ever spend all of it.

7-She was happy for us to give more money to our church than I was being paid as a pastor.
When we decided to give away more than I was earning, she never flinched or complained.

8-She humbly waited for me to start leading as I slowly sorted out the egalitarian teaching I received from seminary professors.
I was completely clueless about the responsibility of husbands to lead in marriage. Consequently, I was easily convinced by seminary professors who strongly espoused egalitarianism. It took nearly 3 years for me to be convinced exegetically otherwise.

9-She helped me see the wisdom and value of quitting her job to stay home with our first child when I was hesitant.
Again, I was clueless and just assumed that she should go back to work after six weeks off to get childcare set up for our baby. Her tears convinced me to think again and, again, God changed my mind through His Word. She quit working for a paycheck one month before delivery and has been working full time without a paycheck ever since.

10-She encouraged me to turn in an application to pursue a PhD in theology 15 minutes before the deadline.
I had two professors who had suggested it, but by this time I was pretty jaded in my attitude toward seminary life. Donna’s encouragement tipped the scale.

11-She would not let me quit PhD studies despite many good reasons to do so.
Several friends can say the same about their wives. Donna’s final argument with me went something like this, “Fine. You can quit. But you must write a dissertation anyway even if you throw it away upon completion. You owe that to the kids and me.” It was unassailable.

12-She has cheerfully embraced her primary callings to be my wife & our children’s mom.
Medical doctors actually rebuked her for giving up a career as a nurse because there was a critical a shortage of them. She fully agreed when I responded to one such complaint with, “there is an even greater shortage of mothers.”

13-She has stood by me unashamedly during the hardest seasons of my ministry.
At times when I haven’t been sure if anyone else in the world supported me I always knew she was with me.

14-She willingly packed up our 2 little girls and moved across the country to the tip of the USA.
Or to what my children now affectionately call “the toenail of the USA.”

15-She has forgiven me repeatedly for my failures as a husband.
One way that our marriage has helped sanctify her is by providing so many opportunities for her to learn to forgive.

16-She does not think it a slight to be called “the pastor’s wife.”
Though her identity is not at all exclusively bound up in my role, she joyfully embraces helping me fulfill my calling to pastor.

17-She trained our kids to do hard things and is willingly sending them to hard places to make Christ known.
They can tell lots of stories of her gracious firmness in shepherding them along right paths and though she loves them fiercely, she is helping launch them graciously.

18-She never pressured our children to do anything just because they are the pastor’s kids.
Those words have never come out of her mouth in order to motivate our children.

19-She sacrificially homeschooled all of our children, despite many obstacles and opportunities to do things differently.
She was convinced about homeschooling before I was, and long before it was cool. She sacrificed many, many things in the effort.

20-She does not resent that she is second place in my affections behind Christ but counts that an honor.
Donna knows that I love her best when I love her second.

21-She has refused to succumb to bitterness or cynicism when faced with mistreatment and disappointment.
The disappointments have been many and the mistreatments, though not as frequent, have at times been excruciatingly painful. Yet, God’s grace has been made manifest in her during such times.

22-She has consistently grown in the grace & knowledge of Christ across all our married life.
She is one of
the best practical theologians I know and helps me to keep growing spiritually.

23-She has remained my best friend, strongest ally and closest confidant for over 30 years.
We genuinely love to be together. I can’t imagine having a better companion.

24-She has demonstrated what it means to be a faithful wife in sickness as well as in health.
I have, unfortunately, given her many opportunities to care for me in sickness. Words cannot adequately express how she has loved me during such times.

25-She has been willing to test and develop her spiritual gifts even when doing so has led her way beyond her comfort zones.
Some of her most valuable contributions to our local body of Christ are the result of her doing hard things.

26-She is the godliest woman I know & the greatest earthly gift I have received.
I live with her daily. Her love for Christ is deep and real.

27-She makes me look forward to the next 30 years together with confidence that the best is yet to come.
I fully believe that the last leg of our race will be our best.

28-I cannot imagine what life would be like without her; she completes me in so many ways.
She is, without a doubt, a helper that is suitable for me.

29-I would not be who I am, nor could I do what I do without her.
I shudder to think where I’d be had God not brought her into my life!

30-She is for me, a most excellent wife & the love of my life! Happy 30th Anniversary, Donna! ILYM.
We typically sign our notes with “ILY” (I love you). ILYM is “I love you more.” She thinks she loves me more, but, for all of her wonderful qualities, she is simply wrong on that one! ūüėČ

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist Convention, Traditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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