“God’s way to a successful marriage focuses on what husbands and wives put into it, not on what they can get out of it.” John MacArthur
Every year I officiate a few weddings. To be candid what I most enjoy is not the wedding but the pre-marital counseling. It probably is a vital issue with me because of my own background and unfortunately, the lack of pre-marital counseling that Jane and I received prior to our wedding. In the goodness of God while we had little pre-marital counseling, we had been blessed to observed firsthand a few godly marriages and homes.
It’s not a universal, yet you can often surmise what someone’s formative home life and particularly their parent’s marriage was like based on their current marriage. We tend to be creatures of habit and our environment greatly affects us. That means more is caught than taught. If alcoholic parents tend to have alcoholic children, why would we then be surprised if troubled marriages are passed on generationally?
Tomorrow Jane and I will celebrate our 35th Anniversary. I praise God and am so thankful with the wonderful wife that He blessed me with. Yet, to be candid, I know that being married to me has not been easy. Though the way that my father treated my mother is repugnant to me, more times than I want to remember, I found that I followed that same vile pattern.
My Dad was a rage-aholic. He was a scary person. In his defense, my grandfather, was a rage-aholic…and much worse than that. My Dad used to tell of how my grandfather stomped a dog to death because it had snapped at my father, when my father was a small child.
Sunday dinner after church in our home during my early years was a weekly train wreck. We went to church all smiles and sat in the second row together each week. Yet, at dinner, it was “normal” for my Dad to berate my Mom so badly about something that she’d flee the dinner table in tears.
35 years of being married to me and Jane is still not a fighter. In shame, I must confess that I’ve driven her to tears far too often, much as my father did with my Mom. Angry words spewed out of me. All of my life I have fought my temper and worked to keep it under control...sometimes I failed.
God in His grace has been so good to me. The words of John Newton, author of Amazing Grace, are so encouraging: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” Spiritual growth, sanctification is a lifelong, ongoing process. One day I will have it all together…when I’m finally Home. Through the years God has wonderfully worked in my heart to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit – peace, patience, longsuffering.
I don’t believe in accidents. Humanly speaking, a boy from Atlanta should never have married a girl from Michigan. Not only are Jane and I from opposite ends of the country, we’re polar opposites on most things – except one. We both love Jesus and that’s made all the difference. Neither of us will settle for status quo or mediocrity in our marriage. We study God’s Word and pray for each other. We pray for our marriage. We read books on marriage and attend marriage conferences. Often, it’s not to learn something new but to remind us of what we already knew.
Over the years we’ve kept short accounts with each other. When we’re wrong, we admit it. We rarely argue or disagree. Though we’ve failed sometimes, we seek to live out Ephesians 4:26, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” When there’s a disagreement, we get it out there and resolve it…and then forget it. If God forgives and forgets, surely we must do that for each other. I can honestly say that I love Jane more today than I did on July 2, 1983 when we exchanged our vows before God of lifelong marital commitment. Having a fulfilling marriage is not complicated. It begins with loving Jesus and seeking to keep Him first.
Add to that, Jane and I are best friends. We’ve got each other’s back. Neither of us demeans or disparages the other, especially in public. If you want to know Jane’s weaknesses, you’ll never get it out of me and the same is true of her. We protect each other and each other’s reputation.
We’ve sought to surround ourselves with friends who have godly, healthy marriages. One of our favorite couples is Don and Margaret Wise. Jane and I are teens compared to them. Now that they’ve relocated to Michigan, we rarely see them. Next year though they’ll celebrate their 75th Anniversary. When we’ve been with them, they always mention that they pray for us every day. I can’t recall them ever uttering an unkind word to each other. They’re one of many godly couples God brought into our lives.
Though Jane and I want to do things well and enjoy nice things, at the same time, we have low expectations. Too many couples are frustrated with life and exasperated with each other because they’re idealistic. They bicker and chronically complain, even about the trivial. Life is a gift from God to be enjoyed! Joni Eareckson-Tada is right, “True contentment on earth means asking less of this life because more is coming in the next.”
You’ll never enjoy marriage unless you learn to laugh and laugh a lot. Jane and I don’t have to be entertained or go to a show or even watch some comedian to burst out laughing. God is the most creative comedian of all. (If you don’t believe that, look in the mirror.) Learning to laugh at yourself and with each other, so lightens your load. When we learn to laugh at life and not take ourselves or it so seriously, it’s so freeing. Proverbs 15:15 says, “the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.”
Marriage is a journey. Jane and I have now been on it for 35 years. It still seems like just a short trip around the block. If Christ is Lord of your life and marriage, it can be the most fulfilling journey that you will ever take.
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.