When I first started preaching I preached a sermon entitled, “Ten Surefire Ways to Raise Godly Kids.” Now I have kids that are getting older, I changed it to, “A Few Things You Might Want to Try With Your Kids. They Might Work and They Might Not.”
This humorous thought is the dilemma faced by young pastors. The need to preach with authority on things about which you have no experience can, at times, seem daunting even when being faithful to the text.
Sonya and I have now been married for more than 28 years, so I no longer feel as I did at the age of 25. Nearly three decades brings a rear-view mirror filled with mountains climbed, valleys trekked and streams forded. We are currently doing pre-marriage counseling together for the first time. We have been married longer than either of these two betrothed young adults have been alive. Yes, I feel old.
Below are a few thoughts about remaining married for multiple decades. These have been gleaned from our marriage and those around us who have made it to 40 years, 50 years and more. There is an old joke about the husband celebrating his 75th wedding anniversary, when asked how they managed to stay married so long, replied, “Well, whatever she said to do, I did it.” I hope your relationship is a little more partnership than either party being a doormat for the other.
I would love to hit 75 years together on February 4, 2059 (a date which my mind slows to apprehend), but will enjoy and relish as many as God gives us. In the meantime, this is how we plan to continue.
1. Recognition of marriage as a reflection of Christ and the church. I don’t know if it is possible to fully benefit from the marriage relationship without grasping the primary relationship that marriage models, i.e., that of Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. Issues are more easily resolved–or never become issues at all–when husband and wife relate according to that biblical example.
2. Being mutually submitted to each other. It’s really very simple: a husband and wife who truly love one another must and will on occasion submit their preference to that of his or her spouse. It is not a matter of who is boss; it is a matter of love. I think husbands are tasked with “leading the family,” but using this as a club is ignorant and unbiblical. Why some men claim to have a Proverbs 31 wife then not lean on her wisdom is beyond me.3. Never ending, never bending love. Years ago someone sang of love, “We’ve got to learn to get past all emotion to the meaning of the word.” Love is an act of the will. I do love or I do not. Feelings have nothing to do with love; they are only associated with the emotions love sometimes engenders. Love means a husband and wife maintain the effort to put the other first as long as they both shall live.
4. Constant forgiveness. If Sonya were not so forgiving she would have divorced me years ago. (If she let me live long enough to make it through the legal proceedings.) Whether reality or not I think I have received more forgiveness over the years than I have given. Forgiveness–the decision not to hold your spouse guilty for an infraction–is the oil that keeps marriage from grinding down in bitterness, anger and despair.
5. Keeping kids in their place. Children should never been the center of a marriage. The relationship between husband and wife should be the center at all times. Children gain comfort and direction from a stable marriage.
6. Focusing on the physical. There is a reason the Bible has so much to say about sex in marriage. It is essential! The pleasures of the physical relationship should not be forgotten after a few years. This opens the door to unnecessary temptation. A loving and passionate physical relationship is a protection against sexual sin.
7. Continue the pursuit. Ward Cleaver, from the 1950’s comedy Leave it to Beaver, once responded to his wife’s complaint about his lack of romance, “Well, dear, what’s the use in chasing the bus after you’ve already caught it?” Sadly, this is the attitude of many men, but pursuit should not stop with the “I do’s.” Instead that is when it should continue in earnest.
8. Talk. And guys, it is not, “What do you want to talk about?” It is, “Tell me about your day.” Early in our marriage this was a mystery to me. Now it is one of the things I value most. We talk in the mornings before I leave for work, usually talk at least once during the day, exchange text messages all the time, and usually talk for a while at night. Turn of the TV and turn on the conversation.
Of course this is not an exhaustive list. What are some things that continue to strengthen your marriage?