“Beyond the vows” is a series about what marriage relationships actually look like once the wedding is over and life happens. Learn more about the series and how you can share your own story here!

My husband and I began dating in high school. In fact, it was on my 15th birthday that he asked me to be his girlfriend. The next day, on his 17th birthday, he kissed me for the first time.

While I could have told you then that he was the man God had for me to marry, nobody would have believed me. But I just knew. I knew that we fit together. In just a short amount of time, I couldn’t imagine a future without him in it.

As we grew, we faced a fair amount of challenges. He went to college while I still had two years left of high school. While he was still in the same city as me, we were still limited in the time we could spend together. He had the freedom of a college student. I had the restraints of a high school student, especially one with strict parents. Much of our early relationship grew through long phone calls. We got to really know each other.

Of course, as any two young people who are in love, we liked to cuddle and kiss. We liked to hold hands. But we also had convictions of waiting until marriage for more intimate physical connections. I learned early on, though, how good it felt to be embraced by my husband. He was a safe place for me to land.

So when we got married five years after our relationship began, I had no hesitation about vowing to have and hold my husband. In fact, it was all I wanted to do! I loved being close to him and looked forward to the added closeness of a marriage relationship as well. I didn’t give “to have and to hold” much thought.

Now we are nearly 20 years into our marriage. Next weekend is our birthdays and it will be 25 years since he asked me to be his girlfriend. We have learned so very much in those years.

I still love snuggling with him and having him in my life. I still can’t imagine a future without him in it. But I have all sorts of memories of having and holding him now. He’s held me when I cried in frustration in my early 20s when my bladder condition came back with a vengeance and shifted my plans. We’ve held each other when he came home having been downsized from his job. We’ve sought comfort in each other’s arms as we’ve said final good-byes to so many loved ones. His arms have been the ones around me helping me after numerous surgeries.

We have also hugged in celebration. In January of 2009, we hugged each other in stunned silence after getting a positive pregnancy test only two months into trying. My husband is the one who held me and helped me when that baby girl was born nine months later and again just over three years later when her brother was born. I’ve felt my heart swell as I watched him hold our babies when they were new and now that they are older.

To have and to hold means so much more than snuggling together on the couch watching a favorite television show. To have and to hold means so much more than sharing a marital bed. Those things are awesome and a great part of marriage!

But to have and to hold really, truly means to be there always for one another. To have and to hold means that when either of us needs a safe place to fall, the other one will be there. To have and to hold means that when the world is falling apart, we can fall on each other. To have and to hold means that when we are on top of the world, we celebrate together.

To have and to hold means that I don’t have to go through this journey of life on my own. I have someone who has vowed to have me all the time, even when I’m unlovable or gross. I have someone who has vowed to hold me through good times and bad. And I will have and hold him just the same.

To have and to hold means that when I am struggling to hold on, I have someone who will help keep me tethered. To have and to hold means that when he is betrayed by someone else, that he will always have me. We are truly in this life together as a team.

I know our journey isn’t complete. We will have other times of great joy and great sorrow ahead. And we will have and hold each other through all of them.

About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She's also a Christian, a wife and a mom of two school-aged children. She started Families with Grace in 2019 to encourage Christian moms as they create homes filled with grace, love and faith.

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