With our errands checked off, we headed toward home when Ron broke the silence by asking, “Did you hear that Wal-Mart is closing 250 stores?”
“Really? I hadn’t heard that!” I responded in amazement.
“Yeah,” he replied, “they’ve had to lay off 10 cashiers because of it.”
Corny-joke eye roll. Drum taps with a cymbal crash.
Ron’s timing and dry wit still makes me laugh just like it did back in 1978 when we first met. After years of practice, he delivers jokes flawlessly and catches me off-guard every time. That’s just one of the little things I love about him.
However, we’ve had our share (and then some) of frustrations, temptations, and hard times that cause many to “fall out of love”, but we made a promise to one another 43 years ago that no matter what happened we would stay together. Leaving would NEVER be an option. I used to believe that it was merely our pride and stubbornness that sometimes allowed us to keep such a serious promise. Now, I realize that it was something much better. (But, I’ll get to that in a minute.)
Everyone who enters into marriage making that same kind of tenacious promise always has a choice. They can intentionally choose to march toward learning, growing, and flourishing as a couple, or they can simply march in place separately with a sour stick-it-out-for-the-long-haul kind of attitude. I’d much rather flourish.
Several years ago, I heard that the best thing a mother can do for her children is to love their father, and the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. Now that our children are grown, married, and have children of their own, we 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.
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 began working on our hearts and our spirits. We became convicted of the legalism we didn’t realize we held so tightly. For all our adult Christian lives, we had tried to follow all the so-called religious rules. We believed if we did certain good things we would receive a gold star. Any deviation from the rules would earn a dark mark. If we wound up with more stars than dark marks we’d go to Heaven. That kind of thinking made it easy to transfer the same approach to our marriage. Do all the good things, and you’ll be blissfully happy. Do the bad things, and you’ll suffer for it.
It wasn’t until we 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 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 are used to seeing Ron and me “cuttin’ a rug” in the living room; they always want to 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.
Lord, let us older-marrieds not grow weary in showing our affection for our spouses in words and actions. Help our lives 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!
“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)