In a few days my wife Linda and I will celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary. Just before that I will have my 68th birthday, so that indicates we were very young in getting started in marriage. A few weeks back we attended our fiftieth high school graduation gathering. One thing that was amazing with the group was that there were several couples there who had married their high school sweethearts and were still married to each other. Most of them had waited a little longer than we did to get married but at least three couples of us were all in the same grade, and married to the girl we dated in high school. The class had fifty graduates so it wasn’t a large group from which to have that record. There were others in the group who had married someone in a different grade and have been married to the same one all this time. I think what is amazing in some ways about it all is that we tend to be surprised when seeing many different ones of the same age and time who have made a marriage work for the long haul.
What is it that holds a marriage together even when there are problems that arise? Usually it requires two people that are committed to each other and the marriage to the degree that they are willing to work through the challenges that come into any marriage. There are many things that relate to such a commitment and that are a tremendous help in building that lasting marriage. It certainly helps a tremendous amount when you share a deep faith in God and worship and serve Him together. Our faith ought to be something that pulls us together rather than rips us apart. I’ve seen good marriages where one went to one church and the other to another. I’ve seen many good marriages in which one was a committed follower of Christ and the other one wasn’t at all. I’ve certainly seen those marriages in which both of them worshipped together in the same church every week but the marriage still fell apart. So being together in worship doesn’t come as a guarantee for a good marriage. But it certainly helps. Not long ago I was visiting with a friend who said he and his wife were worshiping each week together and part of the same Bible Class each week when she got involved with another man in the class and both marriages fell apart. Even with all that said, it makes a huge difference in giving strength to our marriage if God is at the center of that marriage.
Many years ago I remember a picture on the kitchen wall when I was growing up. I suspect mother had placed it there. It showed a family in prayer together with the caption, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Most of the time I believe that is accurate. There are several more such statements that could be made that would also be true. Most of the time you could say “The family that plays together, stays together.” I believe the couple that studies the Bible together stays together. Also, the couple that grows together tends to stay together. Over the years I’ve heard the statement many times when a couple were struggling in their marriage, “They have changed since we got married.” I always want to say, “Well, of course they have. What in the world did you expect?” We all change in the relationship and in our own habits and desires. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if everyone stayed the same down through the years? Our dreams, goals and plans change and if we can change together and grow together it is a happy adventure. But if we determine to stay where we were before it usually means the marriage is in trouble.
But what if the change in marriage is radical? Sometimes it is a bigger change than we could ever imagine. A friend of mine had a great marriage and he and his wife were growing together, when he received the message his wife had been in a horrible automobile accident and was in Intensive Care at the hospital. He stayed by her side for weeks as she fought for her life. When she was finally able to leave the hospital she was paralyzed from her waist down. Their life changed drastically that day. But their love has been strong all the way through it. He is there by her side and he seems to hurt when she does and laugh when she can laugh. I’ve never heard him complain about it being too hard or too much on him. His heart instead is constantly on his wife and his compassion for her in this situation. It isn’t circumstances that determine how good a marriage is. It is the maturity and commitment that will not let go no matter what happens.
In a great marriage both partners learn to laugh at themselves and with each other but not at the expense of each other. It shouldn’t take long in the relationship to learn what kind of things may be said or done that are painful to the other person. If our love is mature at all we avoid doing or saying anything that has a sting to it. Paul said, “Love is never rude.” What a powerful statement! The word “Never” makes it a great challenge. We want to add words like, “Intentionally” or “As a rule” but the Holy Spirit led Paul to leave all the extenuating circumstances off and just say, “Love is never rude.” Instead love is kind and considerate. It builds the other person rather than tearing them down. It hurts along with them and laughs along with them.
Fifty years sounds like a long time but the surprising thing is that it doesn’t seem long at all. It honestly seems like just a little time ago when we were first married living in a small apartment and both working each day at a garment factory. When we went on to Freed-Hardeman college together it was more of the small apartments and driving out to preach the gospel each Sunday. Years have come and gone and life has changed in tons of ways to the degree we now have three daughters and two son-in-laws, nine grandchildren, four of them are married now so they bring four more and then there are those that have been brought into the family by love and one great grandchild. Life changes but “Love never fails.” Whatever it takes to stay committed to your marriage, it is worth the price. Every marriage that last is filled with forgiveness that is willing to let things go and never bring them up again. I wish for everyone a strong, loving and faithful marriage that last a lifetime.