The Ox Was in the Pit

Cabbages and Kings

My wife just observed another wedding anniversary. So did I. Where have all the years gone? There’s an old saying, “Time takes no vacation.”

Anniversaries, along with being celebrated, are times for remembering. The first meeting. The first date. The first kiss. Becoming parents. It’s a time for hauling out old pictures and reliving the wedding ceremony. Alas, in our case, there were no pictures. And thereby hangs a tale.

My wife looked forward to wedded bliss but faced the wedding ceremony with a degree of reluctance. It was the parade down the church aisle that she considered daunting. Was there no other way? Sure. We could elope.

But there was a better alternative. Why not get married during an evening church service? The idea pleased all concerned. Our parents approved. What’s more, the preacher, the late J.O. Schuring, approved enthusiastically. There were lesser reasons that caught my eye. How else could you have a full house without the bother of sending out invitations?

A November Sunday evening was chosen. I suggested a text to the minister: “Wives, obey your husbands.” I laughed. Ha ha. He laughed. Ha ha. Big joke.

The day arrived. Neither of us could concentrate on the morning message, for it was our wedding day. I had purchased a corsage and put it in the icebox (refrigerator) on Saturday. I brought it to my intended after the worship service.

She called in the afternoon. Would I mind if she didn’t wear the corsage? It didn’t match the dress she planned to wear. No problem. She sounded cheerful. But her message put a damper on my spirits.

I asked my father for the use of his car. (Mine had been hidden because of possible pranksters.) I said I had to buy a corsage. My father’s reaction was predictable. He was a strict Sabbatarian. Indeed, we all were in those days. The car’s gas tank was filled on Saturday. Baths were taken and shoes polished on Saturday. Potatoes were peeled on Saturday night. My father said, “You know we don’t buy on Sunday.”

I explained. I said I didn’t believe in breaking the Sabbath either. But this was different. It was an emergency! I needed to buy another corsage because the one I had bought was apparently not suitable. To clinch my argument, and in desperation, I quoted Jesus. “Dad, ‘the ox is in the pit’” (Luke 14:5). I said that if the Lord allowed people to pull oxen out of pits on the Sabbath, maybe he would allow me to buy a proper corsage on the Lord’s Day.

My father put down the Banner he was reading and considered my point of view. Then he said, “I’ll go with you.” So there we stood in the floral shop. On Sunday! The sanctuary was packed. Rev. Schuring preached on “Wives, obey your husbands”—but in such a way that husbands should also obey their wives. There were no pictures taken because you didn’t take pictures on Sunday. But all the same, it was a good knot that was tied that evening in the house of God.

As things turned out, there were no pictures of the honeymoon either. That’s because we were married during the historic November storm of 1940. The ferry we planned to take from Muskegon, Mich., to Milwaukee remained lashed to the dock. Ships floundered on Lake Michigan; some went down. So all the pictures I took were of mountainous waves and toppled trees and billboards. None of my beautiful bride.

Why do I write all this? Because we were married in a day of strict Sabbath observance. That day is largely gone. Oxen in pits are no longer a consideration.

Why, today, does the pendulum seem to have swung so far to the other side?

About the Author

Rev. Jacob D. Eppinga was pastor emeritus of LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, in Grand Rapids, Mich. He went to be with his Lord March 1, 2008. This column concludes his popular “Cabbages and Kings” series, which he wrote for 40 consecutive years. Watch for It’s All Grace, a collection of his best and more recent columns to be published in book form this fall by Faith Alive Christian Resources.
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