Not many of you know that I married my husband at the age of 16. While most of my friends were shopping for prom dresses, I was looking for a wedding dress, writing my vows, and searching for the perfect wedding band for my husband-to-be. You may be wondering what brought me to be a 16 year old bride. 6 years and 2 kids later, I’m opening up and talking about.
I grew up in a small town of less than 2,000 people. There is one grocery store, a handful of restaurants, a dozen churches and zero stop lights. There was no room for expansion, uniqueness, or flavor. It felt like a box. A trap. Leaving a growing, curious mind to suffocate in the dullness of agriculture and… well, that’s it. This town was in the buckle of the bible belt. Quaint, traditional churches on every street. The town was too small for me. I understand why my Mom and stepdad brought us there to live. We couldn’t have been more protected from the world if they had put us each in our own individual plastic bubbles.
I met Andrew when I was probably 10. Honestly, I didn’t care for him much. He picked on me a lot. When I was 14, my friend Destiny invited me over to her place for the evening to hang out. She had invited her crush over and Andrew tagged along. Somewhere along in the night, Andrew had found a pair of really thick glasses and had put them on magnifying his brown eyes. He had his right leg hiked up on a coffee table, his hands on his hips and was talking in a very nasally voice. We were all laughing hysterically at him. That’s the moment I knew he was the one for me. And so began the rest of our journey together. An up and down, topsy turvy journey.
Unfortunately, the religion that draped that little town kept hypocrisy in pretty tight. When Andrew moved from San Francisco when he was 12, he was one of about 5 non-white students in our school. He was treated like an outcast the moment his feet hit public school property. So, he acted up to fit the bill. This began a series of events (he even landed himself in a 6 month-long boot camp ran by the military for “unruly” teenagers) that led Andrew to have a bad reputation. I can’t say I didn’t like that about him. It was pretty hot, actually. So, it goes without saying that my mother did not want me to hang out with Andrew.
We ended up hiding our relationship. And, like any girl trying to impress a bad boy, I told my mom I was spending the night at a friends house and stayed out all night with him instead. Little did we know, my mom figured it out and took her concern to the police. She notified each of my friends that I was “missing” and she was looking for me and so were the cops. The next morning when I went home to try and sneak in my room, every door on our house was locked. This was unusual for us as we lived in such a small, safe town. So, I reluctantly rang the door bell. I could hear the angry steps of my mother walking to the door. She opened the door, crossed her arms, cocked her hip to the side and with her eye twitching, looked deep into my guilty, shivering soul and asked where I had been all night. Of course I tried to play it off, but she already knew. She told me I was never allowed to see Andrew again and called him to tell him the same.
I was a rebel, you know. When I was a teen, I believed that rules were meant to broken. And so I broke them. Each and every single one. I still saw him. Then finally we got caught again. This time, I was put on probation and signed a paper at the court house stating that I would not see Andrew. But, like I said I was a rebel and we kept seeing each other. For months it went on this way. Thankfully the two juvenile probation officers I had really liked me. So, they talked my mom into letting Andrew and I see each other and after 6 months, I was off probation and allowed to see my hunk of love.
In August of 2003, he left for Navy boot camp. I wrote him almost every single day. I still have every letter he wrote me while he was away. When he came home for Thanksgiving that year, he joined my family and I for Thanksgiving dinner. When everyone was busy, he took me in to my Grandma’s room and sat me on the bed, pulled out a ring and said, “You want to marry me, right?”. I said yes (duh). Even though the ring had sticky fingerprints all over it from apparently debating the proposal his whole trip, I loved it.
Our original plans were to wait until I turned 18 and had graduated high school. Then one day, out of frustration of being stuck in that small town, I told my Mom that I wanted to get married in June of 2004 and she said okay. I wouldn’t doubt if she was eager to wash her hands of me, I was tough. Maybe she thought that if I had a taste of the real world, I would come running back when it didn’t work out. When the time came, she signed the papers for the marriage license and I was on my way to becoming Mrs. Andrew Mac.
On June 19, 2004 I left that tiny town for Pensacola, Florida. I will honestly say, getting married at 16 was easy. Being married was the tough part. I think every marriage has obstacles, but ours had several different things about it that set us up for failure. We had little to no money, no faith, he was military and we were young. Pensacola was fun at the time. Looking back on it, I didn’t know how we did what we did and got away with it. All we did was party. The little money we did have went to bills, barbeques and beer.
In January 2006, we moved to Yokosuka, Japan two weeks after I turned 18. That’s when I found out what it’s really like to be a Navy wife. He was gone on the ship a lot. Shortly after we moved there, we had a surprise pregnancy. This was really hard for Andrew to deal with. He’s an only child and had never really dealt with babies before. So, we grew up quicker than we had anticipated. In the end it turned out to be perfect timing. Having Aliana saved us from who we were becoming.
After our three year tour was up in Japan, we moved here to the Emerald Coast. And here we are today; 6 years of marriage behind us and 2 beautiful daughters.
So, how did we do it? How did we stay together and not become another American divorce statistic? The short answer: Jesus.
For the first 5 years of our marriage, we were without faith. We were both Agnostic, not really believing in one thing or another. Looking back, we had a pretty dreary marriage. Kind of just existing with each other. Our lives were focused on our daughter, Aliana. Then, through a series of events (we’ll save that story for another post), we found Shoreline Church. That’s where we realized several different things about ourselves and our marriage.
In Romans 7:2 it says, “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.” It doesn’t say, “a married woman is bound to her husband until the marriage gets difficult”. Nor does it say, “a woman is bound to her husband until she finds someone else who doesn’t act on his impulses, who puts his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, keeps the toilet seat down and cleans up after himself after he makes himself a snack.” On June 19, 2004 I promised to be his wife until death do us part. And I meant it. I thank God and give Him all the glory for the patience, forgiveness and understanding He has given me.
We have faith in Jesus Christ and the changes that He has made in our hearts and lives since we have starting following Him has been amazing. God gave me Andrew. Yes, it has been hard. But, I am blessed. I am honored to be his wife. He’s my hero, my best friend, was and always will be my partner in crime.
I used to hide the fact that I was married at 16. I usually would dread answering how old I was, which would in turn give away the age I was when we got married. I don’t like to be judged. But, now more than ever, I realize it’s a part of my story. It’s a part of who I am.
Thank you Jesus for my husband, our daughters, my life, and for my story and giving me the courage to share it.