Kathy and I are fast approaching our 35th wedding anniversary. Recently I pulled out our wedding albums to reminisce on one of the happiest days of my life. The photographs showed two young people filled with excitement and anticipation surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers and supporters. Many years have come and gone since that eventful day. I would like to share with you some basic principles that have guided us throughout the years keeping our marriage a blessing.
From the time we went out on our first date to reaching the altar took about five years. I remember getting advice every three months or so from Sam Laing, one of the ministers at Crossroads Church of Christ. I’d go in hoping this would be the time I’d get the ok to ask Kathy to go steady but instead would leave with a list of things in my character to work on. To this day I am grateful for his advice that allowed me to “unpack” unhealthy behavior and to grow in my character as a man. I finally got the “green” light (pun intended) to ask her to be my wife and was thrilled when she said, “yes!” Genesis 29:20 “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.”
In my role as shepherd, I teach both young and old men how a gentleman is to treat a lady, i.e. with dignity and respect and honor. I often ask the single guys, “are you becoming the person the person you are looking for is looking for?” Then they sit perplexed for a while and ask, “What does that mean?” I explain that so many guys are in search for “the right one” instead of preparing themselves spiritually so that when God brings “the right one,” into their life, they will be ready and they will be right for that person.
To this day I emphasize with brothers and sisters the importance of falling in love with Jesus, spending time with him. When reading the Bible I try to put myself there listening and watching Jesus. It helps me to watch movies featuring Jesus and his disciples to try to understand better what they experienced with him that I may, “know him.” John 15:9-14 “As the father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”
Close to my heart have been the wedding vows made so many years ago: I, Ted, take you, Kathy, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, forsaking all others, to love and to cherish, until death do us part.” The vow I made to Kathy, in the presence of God and many witness, is not to be taken lightly as so many these days are inclined to. As I turned 65 last month and now possess my red, white, and blue Medicare care, the vow “in sickness and in health,” becomes significant as the aches and pains increase with each additional year.
Many can relate to the “for richer, for poorer,” as our fortunes shift from year to year. We have known plenty and we have known little, but always we have trusted God to provide. Then “forsaking all others,” in this day and age of pornography, perversion, and indulgent gratification of desires, has taken on a significant relevance in marriages. I remember in a marriage devotional saying to the group, “None of you here wakes up in the morning wondering, ‘how can I make my husband miserable today?’” To my disbelief one of the women said, “I do!” When wedding vows are broken there can be little joy in the relationship. In our life together “divorce” has always been a four letter word that is never uttered nor an option. There has never been, nor will there ever be a “back door” to exit the relationship through. Matthew 19:6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what god has joined together, let no one separate.”
Books have played a great part personally in our marriage: Five Love Languages, Five Languages of Apology, Boundaries, 20 Surprisingly Simple Rules and Tools for a Great Marriage, Financial Peace, and many others along the way. In Gary Chapman’s book, Five Love Languages, he lists the languages as: words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, physical touch, and quality time together. It wasn’t until 10 years into our marriage that I read the book, but I wish I had read it prior to getting married as it has been helpful in strengthening and maturing our relationship.
I remember the first time I held Kathy’s hand as well as the first time I kissed her. I was walking on cloud nine! My feelings were indescribable! But a relationship based on feelings alone is doomed. The book instructs how to build a foundation over the years based on meeting the other person’s love languages so that when the feeling subside and the infatuation has passed, there will be a mature foundation based on love and not feelings. I would add building the foundation with Jesus as the capstone. Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
Authors Chapman and Thomas list in the book of the same name the Five Languages of Apology: “I’m sorry,” “I was wrong,” “what can I do to make it right?” “I will try never to do that again,” and “will you please forgive me?” As the book expresses, for some people a mere acknowledgement that they have been hurt by you and you are sorry for that is more than sufficient to achieve forgiveness. For other injured parties it takes not only that but also a confession by the offender that they were wrong. For some to be able to forgive requires all five! Of course there are some life situations where no apology is forthcoming and forgiveness still must be extended for as scripture says: Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.
In 20 Surprisingly Simple Rules and Tools for a Great Marriage by Steve Stephens, each of the 20 short chapters gives specific advice on how to have a great marriage. An example is “celebrate your differences.” How many times has a couple been attracted to each other because one is very gregarious preferring to be out and about socializing while the other is more reserved and shy, preferring to be at home. Each is attracted initially to the other because of the difference. The outgoing party thinks, “She settles me down and is an oasis and a place to be still.” The other thinks, “He draws me out of myself and it’s thrilling to be out with him.” Over the years (sometimes mere months) one starts hearing the complaints: “you never stay home with me,” or “you never want to go out anymore-what’s wrong with you?” What once was celebrated has now become an irritant. Kathy and I have learned to celebrate our differences and enjoy them. Our marriage is stronger because of this. Proverbs 5:18 “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
One of my favorite sayings is: “95% of the time Kathy is right. The other 5% doesn’t matter!” Ha! Ha! Although the Lord made me the leader, my wife is one of the wisest persons I know and I’d be a fool not to listen to her. I’ve seen so many couples who in an effort to be “right” destroy their marriage. Perhaps a more familiar saying is, “happy wife, happy life.” Many, correctly so, emphasize the importance of communication between spouses as a key to a successful marriage. I agree and that’s why in a conversation I listen 85% of the time to people before speaking. As Stephen Covey in his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People states, “seek to understand before being understood.” It is amazing how much information and insight can be gleaned by asking simple questions and then sitting back and listening to the person’s heart. If Jesus, who knew what was in a man’s heart took the time to ask probing questions and then discipled the heart, then we should follow in his steps and ask. Proverbs 20:5 “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”
It is believed the number one reason for divorce is over finances! In Dave Ramsey’s iconic book, Financial Peace and his later book, Total Money Makeover, basic, easy to follow steps for getting out of financial debt are taught. Kathy and I have followed these for years and it has enabled us to be generous in giving and helping out others. Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another…”
From year to year and from situation to situation the Bible has guided us. As promised, life is full of trauma, drama, and moments of joy. We’ve made it a practice to celebrate the moments of joy because we know just around the corner is more drama! Throughout it all our anchor has been God and his word. Matthew 7:25-27 “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Marriage is between one man and one woman and was instituted by God starting with Adam and Eve Deuteronomy 30:19-20 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land…” I urge you with all my heart to heed the advice given and you will have Unity in Marriage!