On this day forty-eight years ago, Cheryl and I stood in front of family and friends and spoke marriage vows to one another. These vows included the words, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, and for richer or poorer. The negative components seemed unlikely and unrealistic at the time. At best, they were far in the future, posing no threat to our planned happiness.
For the next four years, we enjoyed college and married life with lots of good friends, weekends listening to great live music, and jobs on campus that paid a whopping $1.25 and $1.35 per hour. Life was very good, and marriage was remarkably easy. And simple. And cheap! Our married student housing apartment cost $90/month, all bills paid, and we ate on less than $5/day.
We look back on those years fondly. However, through the decades we added to our family one at a time, growing from the two us to twenty-three precious souls. Cheryl and I see life and marriage and the purpose God has for our lives very differently now than we did as newlyweds.
One of our favorite marriage resources, one we have used in pre-marital counseling with young couples, is a small book titled Happily Ever After: Finding Grace in the Messes of Marriage by Desiring God Ministries. The thirty devotions (chapters) are short and written by several different authors, well-known pastors, and theologians.
The first chapter of the book, written by Francis Chan, gets to the point quickly. The Goal of Marriage is not Marriage. There is a truckload of important truth in just the title alone.
“Remember that the Bible is not a book about marriage; it is a book about God. The best thing we can do with our brief lives is to devote ourselves to him and his mission. This is the goal. And marriage can actually help us achieve this goal.”
Chan’s chapter forms the first bookend to help us understand the purpose and foundation of marriage and the final chapter by Marshall Segal, Committed to Someone Larger Than Marriage, forms the second.
Segal writes :
“Marriages don’t survive for decades on comfort and self-fulfillment, at least not happily. Marriages endure and thrive on unchanging, selfless mutual commitment to one another, and to something bigger, stronger and longer-lasting than the marriage. Christian marriage, therefore, is an opportunity to show the world something better…”
Here are my take-aways (among many others) from the last forty-eight years married to this beautiful person:
- Our marriage is not just about us. When we were first married, it was all about us having fun together. We enjoy looking back on those early years. As God grew our family, He began to broaden our view and purpose.
- The state of our marriage matters. It matters for each other, for our children, our extended family, future in-laws, all those we come in contact with. It matters for our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and those who will come after them. What our marriage is like matters.
- Our marriage together is a reflection of who we are individually as people. We are either obedient to God or we are not. This obedience (or disobedience) will show more in marriage than in any other relationship.
Remember the “in sickness and in health” and “for better or worse” parts which seemed so far away in 1972? Even in sickness and in our worst moments, God has taught us ways to delight in each other. So here we are, rejoicing on our forty-eighth anniversary, ordering take-out, as Cheryl endures a broken foot and fractured ribs. Thankfully, we are continually being offered new ways to grow together.
“To love is to desire, to plan for, and act for the ultimate good of the beloved.”