This past weekend was my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary. We didn’t expect them to make it. My dad, now 91, had been given 30 days to live last Christmas while in the hospital. The doctors said he went downhill so fast, they didn’t expect to stabilize him. He has congestive heart failure and his kidneys aren’t working well. As he says, “I proved them wrong.” So Saturday, we had Christmas on the Farm – an open house to celebrate 60 years of marriage.
A lot of people don’t make 60 years. In fact, when Bill and I say we’ve been married 31 years, we get expressions of surprise. It’s a sad world we live in when long marriages are rare. So celebrating 60 was a way of showing our kids, the grandkids, and friends that it can be done. Dad and Mom love each other deeply – he’s there for her in the early stages of memory loss, she’s there for him when his arthritis starts screaming. It’s what marriage is all about – trust, love, and perseverance . Congratulations Mom and Dad – you are incredible role models.
Thirty years ago, I said the words “I do.” It’s been a wonderful ride! While we’ve had our struggles, we have been committed to loving each other and working through the hard times. Last summer I videotaped my parents, who are 91 and 83, in order to leave a legacy for our family. One of the questions I asked – “What advice do you have for your kids and your grandkids after 59 years of marriage?” Their answer was to love each other, talk things through, and learn to compromise.
This week Oregon State University published a study finding that in 40% of married and non married couples aged 18-25, one partner said the couple had agreed to be monogamous while the other said there was no such deal. The idea that marriage wasn’t monogamous didn’t even register on my parent’s radar – or mine! Quite frankly, when I married, I assumed it meant forever monogamy. “A man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife, and they become one.” (Genesis 2:24) I also spoke a vow – “to cherish, love, and honor til death do us part”.
When we speak of the Generation Gap, nowhere is it more clearly illustrated than in this scenario. The millennial generation now lives in world of commitment phobia. Mark Sayers says, “ This commitment phobia is a natural byproduct of their coming of age in a hyper-consumerism culture that demands that we act like good shoppers, putting off committing in case a better deal can be found.”
My parents had a great deal – so do I. We have been blessed with strong marriages. So if we are called to serve with integrity, then our challenge is come along side young people – with caring and respect – so they too can experience a long and wonderful ride!
Last year I was in Dallas, TX at a Christian speaking event. The speaker made his points, but throughout the speech, he used his wife as the brunt of jokes in order to add humor to his speech. A couple of days after the speech, he called me, asking for feedback. I honestly told him that for a Christ follower speaking at a Christian event I had been disappointed that he had failed to honor and cherish his wife. He was taken aback and asked for examples, which I gave him. He called me back two days later and promised to never use his wife that way again. I hope he had the integrity to do what he said he would do.
While I don’t like anyone using their spouse as a source of humor, I have a higher standard for Christ followers. In Ephesians, Paul challenged men to love their wives as Christ loves the church. So I find it sad to hear jokes made about marriage that taint the beauty of it. When we do that, we aren’t practicing what we preach. That’s one of the reasons we are called hypocrites.
The unique fact about Jesus is that without any exception he practiced what He preached. He served others, he healed, he encouraged – and he held people accountable for their actions that came from pride and arrogance. He even called some hypocrites! He challenged us to serve – “the first will be last and the last will be first”. Servant leadership is practicing what we preach – and it starts at home.
How are you loving and honoring your spouse today?
I’ve been to a lot of weddings, but none have touched me as deeply as the wedding of Michael and Merrill. A simple, beautiful wedding, held down by the river at Grace Chapel, it was deeply moving. Under an archway built of branches and with the sun setting at their backs, the couple exchanged beautiful vows they had written -“You have captured my heart.” And it was so evident that the Michael had captured Merrill’s heart. Her face was lit from within as the excitement about marrying the man she loved was reflected in every movement, facial expression and word. She couldn’t wait. Michael choked up over his vows. Their love was evident to all who attended and, of course, I cried.
Thirty years ago Bill and I exchanged our wedding vows – til death do us part. It’s been an adventure, a delight, and a blessing to be married to my spiritual warrior. It’s also been hard work – learning to truly listen, to respect and to give. The years have melded, molded, moved, and made us into a couple who cherish our time together. At our wedding, my grandmother gave me her best advice: Never go to bed angry. I didn’t know at the time that her advice came from the Bible – “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”(Eph 4:26) Jesus stood with Michael and Merrill at their wedding as they asked him to bless their marriage. He entered our marriage two years after we said our vows and captured our hearts. I think that’s why I cried at their wedding – it foreshadowed a future reunion of even greater excitement and beauty – with Jesus.
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. – Song of Songs 8:6
I didn’t marry you to have you gone when I wake up and crashed on the couch after supper.
Those words served as a danger bell tolling in my marriage. It forced me to choose between the two things I valued most in life: my marriage and my career. I was the executive director of the New City YMCA Family Center in Cabrini-Green near downtown Chicago. We lived in one of the suburbs and the commute was awful. On a good day, with little traffic, it was a thirty-minute drive. During rush hour and inclement weather, the drive easily turned into an hour and a half. If you’ve driven in Chicago, you know what I’m talking about! One day, thinking I’d take the train in and avoid the rush, I went to the station and spent fifteen minutes just looking for parking. I didn’t realize that unless you got to the station before rush, there were no empty spaces. From that point on, unless it rained or snowed, I always drove to work on Chicago interstates.
I’m a Type A personality, and I have little patience with stop-and-go, rubbernecking drivers. On top of that, spending an hour driving seemed like such a total waste of time. So I got up at 4:30 am and arrived at work by 6:00. I was rewarded by getting lots of work done before 8 am, when business in the building increased. I stayed at the office until around 6:30 pm because I felt guilty leaving in the middle of the afternoon, even though I’d already put in a full day’s work. I arrived home around 7:00 in the evening, just in time to wolf down some dinner and crawl into bed so I could get up again at 4:30 and do it all over again. I often went into the office on Saturdays and Sundays, because the YMCA I worked for was open seven days a week.
It was about a year into this grueling schedule that my husband challenged me. The irony was that when I’d interviewed for this job, I’d told the committee that my values were: my faith, my family, and then my career. But I wasn’t living those values—especially not in that order. For a long time, I put my career way ahead of my first two values. With my husband’s words echoing in my head, I made a choice that night between my marriage and my career. It was an easy choice, because I dearly love my husband and I value our marriage. He had challenged me to live with integrity.
When have you experienced a challenge to the priority of your values?