This past week, my wife, Sue, and I have been celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary with a second honeymoon cruise in the Greek islands. Being alone together, we've been able to look back over our marriage and reminisce about the good times and challenges. In retrospect, we realize that we made some important decisions and established some early habits that enabled us to keep going the distance as a married couple.
The groundwork for a resilient marriage began well before our wedding day. Sue and I were fortunate to attend a church with a strong premarital counseling course that focused on practical issues that grounded us when romance alone might have kept us star-crossed lovers. We were encouraged to discuss our personal values and the influence of our cultural and family backgrounds as well as our visions for the future and the destiny we felt called to. This also included discussions about attitudes to finances, child rearing and how realistic our expectations were in regard to marriage.
Probably the single most important understanding we gained during that time was that marriage, as God intended it, is a covenant, an irrevocable commitment between husband and wife for life. Sue and I prayerfully made the decision that we would embrace our wedding vows as a covenant and that divorce would never be an option.
Early in our marriage, we established maintenance habits that we stuck with even in challenging times when we were tempted to pull back. Some of the most important were having a date night each week, praying and reading Scripture together daily, regular sexual intimacy and commitment to transparency by participating in a monthly marriage accountability group with other pastors. This practice kept us honest, and when we hit a particularly rough spot, we were able to recognize that we needed help and then seek marital counseling from a Christian professional.
Over the years, we have learned that two can never become one, only three can. That is, a man and a woman can never truly become one, unless they each willingly and wholeheartedly submit to a third-party, to Jesus Christ. Sue and I have found that as we each freely put ourselves under obedience to the Lord, we will lovingly lay down our lives for one another in mutual submission.
Personally, I begin each day by asking the Holy Spirit to fill me afresh, for I know that only His love working in me can transform me into the servant-leader He calls me to be. Instead of monitoring Sue’s behaviors, I focus on my heart and my actions, readily asking for and extending forgiveness when we have misunderstandings. These are the attitudes and practices that keep our marriage fresh and vital and allow us to keep going the distance.
I realize that many of you reading this are not currently married, but as Christians, we are all the Bride of Christ. In Ephesians 5:21-33, the relationship of a man and woman in marriage is compared to our union with Christ. When we said “yes” to Christ, we entered into a covenantal relationship with Him, an irrevocable commitment.
We maintain our commitment by daily spending time with the Lord in prayer and meditation on Scripture, desiring deepening intimacy with Him. When we lose focus and drift from Him, we keep short accounts by reconnecting as soon as we discover the breach. And we enjoy the Lord by inviting Him into every area and activity of our lives. These are all important keys to help us keep going the distance in our relationship with Him.
We invite you to our 9:30 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. service this Sunday. Pastor Karl Malouff will be giving the message. His sermon is entitled “Choose Life.”