It’s been 40 years and three days and Susan and I are still happily married. Some of you might be asking, “What is the key to your success”, or “How did you manage to do it?” I’d like to say that we were smart and just knew all about how to live our lives in harmony, but that would be a lie. I could play the “pastor” card and say, “Of course if you were married to a good pastor like me, then obviously the marriage will last”, but that would be quite arrogant on my part and would not speak to the fact that there are many good pastors who have bad marriages and there are many bad pastors who have good marriages.
I know that in our marriage there were things that we did and things that we did not do, but those in themselves would not have been sufficient to have kept us together. Early in our relationship we embraced some common values that we endeavoured to walk out. Some of these are:
- We tried not get caught up in the roles of a husband and wife. When we got married we were both in full time university, for both of us our class loads, assignments, schedules and commitments were overwhelming. Instead of expecting that there be specific places or roles from which we individually functioned, we realized that there needed to be a true division of labour, which meant that we both needed to help each other. We did not set out parameters whereby one was to cook the meals, clean the house, do the dishes, etc., instead whoever had spare time automatically needed to help the other. By working together both would survive; to expect special rights for oneself would always be at the expense of both of us.
- We realized that sacrificing for each other would be essential. Being poor university students meant there was no extra cash for personal splurging. Our first apartment was costing us $125.00 a month and that was stretching our budget to the maximum. Though we didn’t have much money we were in love. Unfortunately love didn’t supply money, but it did mean that we willingly sacrificed for each other and for the good of the marriage. There were many niceties that we lived without, there were personal desires which we sacrificed. If one of us were to splurge and enjoy life, that might mean that the rent or the grocery money might not be present when needed. Then both would suffer.
- Of course our Christian faith was very important, but our faith was not just a nice thought, it was what we tried to live out daily. This meant that in personal ways, we regularly allowed the Holy Spirit to challenge our hearts and help bring change from the inside. Outward pressure only lasts for a short period of time, but God changing from the inside is long lasting. Our constant love for Jesus kept us soft and tender towards each other. I would often tell Susan that she should “pray that I love Jesus more, because the more I loved Him, the more I had a love and concern for her.”
- Gratitude is essential in a relationship. There will never be a shortage of opportunities to be irritated. In looking at elderly people we saw that many were constantly complaining and whining, never content. We did not want to be like that, so we have chosen to see good in situations and to be grateful for the little and also the large.
All real relationships will have struggles and rewards. However, good relationship have more rewards than struggles.
Ask our Lord Jesus for help in keeping your relationships strong and pure. Take a moment to value the relationships that you have. Think about the blessings that you have received from your relationships, and then take some time to think about what you can do to support and encourage the lives of those that are close to you.