Most who enter into marriage make the same kind of tenacious promise; leaving will never be an option. Yet, we’ve all been touched by or acquainted with those who finally succumbed to frustrations, temptations, or difficult circumstances and chose to to walk away. They gave in and gave up.
Hopefully, we also know those who have been faced with the same heartaches but made a different choice. Their choices did not depend on the choices of their mates. No matter what, they chose to march toward learning, growing, and flourishing – even if their mate chose to walk away.
Now that our children are grown, married, and have children of their own, Ron and I have become even more conscious of the legacy of love we want to pass down to our grandchildren. If their relationships are to someday flourish, then I’m sure we will eventually explain how our life together became filled with such tenacious love. It didn’t grow deep because things always went well. It grew deep because they didn’t. Our missteps and mistakes caused us to rely on something much greater than our own feelings and emotions.
We started out, like many young Christian couples, listening to messages filled with practical advice for healthy marriages. Lots of experts first talked about trivial things like toilet seat lids being up or down, handing over the TV remote, and household chore assignments. Then, the weightier matters of money, in-laws, and children were discussed. Finally, the topic that everyone secretly came for was introduced – sex. The guys learned that women need to be affirmed, valued, and loved before they can give what’s most precious to them. The ladies learned that men need physical intimacy to help them feel wanted, appreciated, and respected.
As the years rolled along, we continued to check off many of the marriage tips we had collected. But merely having a “good” marriage didn’t seem to be good enough. We wanted more, but we didn’t know how to find it. Until …
God used difficult days to change on our hearts and our spirits. We became convicted of the spiritual legalism we thought marriage was based upon. Marriages operating in a “do this, don’t do that” contract sort of mindset will never enjoy the blessings bestowed on those who enter into a gracious covenant relationship.
Ron and I started out in love, with the hopes of happy-ever-after. Yet, it wasn’t until we both stepped into a real, honest-to-goodness relationship with Jesus that our marriage truly began to outrageously flourish. Spending time in the Word, truly worshipping in song, talking to Jesus one-on-one, and then listening to what the Spirit had to say began to change everything we thought we knew about relationships (and absolutely everything else for that matter!). Experiencing the grace of Jesus and forming a friendship with the Holy Spirit brought us into an amazing relationship not only with God, but also with each other. Though Ron has loved me well, he has taken his love a step further. He loves me like Christ loves the church. He honors me, protects me, and loves me tenderly. What woman wouldn’t respect and submit to a man who loves her like that?
Applying all of our religious rules to our Christian walk couldn’t bring us into a real and right relationship with Christ. Yet, once we got close to Jesus, He instilled in us the desire, strength, and energy to become more and more obedient. We had everything backwards for way too long. Now we understand that the closer we get to Jesus, the more we want to love and serve each other. Our newfound relationship with Jesus was the “more” we had been looking for! We’ve thrown away that list of marriage tips because now, with both of us closer to Him, they just come naturally!
So, these days, our grandchildren often see Ron and me dancing a jig in the living room, and they usually join in. We don’t get as much as an eye roll when we share a big fat kiss; they’re used to it. When group photos are made, I make it a point to stand beside Ron so that in 20 or 30 years when they are telling their kids about us, we’ll be seen in our favorite place – together.
Perhaps, the best way to change our culture’s view of marriage is not with loud, boisterous, preachy words from those of us who claim to be Christians. Better yet, our own marriages could display magnificent pictures of love, grace, mercy, and passion. Then, not only could others witness true love between husbands and wives, but they could also discover and experience the love Christ has for the church.
Lord, let us older-marrieds not grow weary in showing affection through our words and actions to our spouses. Forgive us when we take them for granted and fail to honor them as we should. Help our lives together point others to a real and more intimate relationship with You. May that relationship inspire us to leave an enduring legacy of love for those coming behind us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Marriage is the beautiful design of the Almighty, a great mystery of Christ and his church. So every married man should be gracious to his wife just as he is gracious to himself. And every wife should be tenderly devoted to her husband.” (Ephesians 5:32-33 TPT)