Keep the Fire Burning
My wife and I will celebrate 36 years of marriage next Christmas. With Valentine’s Day upon us I was thinking back to those early years. We both attended the same college in Tulsa, OK. One year, she went back to Michigan and I stayed in school to do a one month class in Greek. When the class was done, I laid down and could not sleep. My plan was to sleep and drive home the next day. I really missed the lady I would marry. After hours of tossing and turning, I decided to drive through the night and surprise her at her home in Southfield, so I set out on the thousand mile journey.
My journey of that 1000 miles to see the lady I would marry was eventful. It stared out fine as I was charged up with adrenaline. In the middle of the night I was driving through the flat wide open spaces of Illinois, feeling really tired. I pulled off and got some Revive (a caffeine supplement). I took Revive several times to stay awake. At one point my body started shaking as an effect of Revive. The sunrise was my salvation and I drove the last part in daylight.
I arrived at my future bride’s house and hid behind the couch to surprise her. I am sure I looked pretty rough. She was gracious and genuinely excited to see me. Since I stopped several times to stay awake, the drive took longer than normal. I don’t recommend this action, but I was young and crazy with love for her.
We have been a couple for 38 years. Our love has matured and grown over those years. We have raised 4 children and have 2 grandchildren. I don’t know that I would drive through the night again to see her half a day sooner. I don’t think she would want me to. But I love the fire and passion that I demonstrated for her.
Will you allow me the privilege of speaking to the importance of strong marriage in our culture? My wife and I had five divorces between our parents. I love and respect my father, but I recall him telling me, “You don’t have to sacrifice for your mate.” His record demonstrates that his way was not the best.
If you see marriage in your future, purpose to grow all you can to prepare for that season of life. I tell couples to have both eyes wide open before you marry and after, close one. This is encouraging the single person to get to know the person they want to marry well before they say I do. It is well documented that premarital counseling is an excellent way to prepare for a healthy married life together. To close one eye speaks of being a quick forgiver.
If you are in a strong healthy marriage be grateful - you are truly fortunate. I always ask couples that I marry to meet with three other couples, share a meal together, and learn from them what works in real life. Why not offer to be one of those couples for others?
If you find yourself in a struggling marriage, I encourage you to invest in your marriage and make conscious choices to bless your partner. I am aware of several marriage investment tools, including conferences like Celebrate Your Marriage on Mackinac Island and Marriage Encounter in Bay City. There are also evening Date Nights with Jay and Laura Lafoon all over the state. Do a quick search online and you’re sure to find something that fits your budget and your schedule.
Can we stop keeping score? When we work through a struggle, it is human nature to feel that the other person is at fault. We let our pride get in the way. How has this way resolved challenges you face? My guess is not at all. There is something about the five-year-hump: He doesn’t work as hard as I thought or she can have icy comments. I am totally convinced that if more couples got help before, during, and after the five-year-hump, their marriages would thrive.
The best book I ever read about marriage is Timothy Kelller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage. Among many fascinating things, he says that we all have shortcomings and disappointments in marriage. We expect to receive grace from our partner in our shortcomings. The key is to offer grace to our partner in their shortcomings, even though we may be hurt.
Strong marriages are good for communities and children. When children witness fighting it releases the stress hormone, Cortisol. High levels of Cortisol have been shown to increase depression, anxiety, drug abuse and suicide. All families ought to decide that fighting in front of the children is a boundary that we will not cross.
Choose to bless families with young children. When our children were little, some couple friends offered to watch our children every other Thursday. We used that time for date night and projects. This was a huge gift to us, and I know it encouraged the givers as well.
I don’t recommend driving all night to see your love if it can be avoided, but I do recommend living life with the same passion. Marriage really is not about an all-night drive. It is about little things given sincerely over a long period of time.
Why not consider one thing to help and do it? What is one shortcoming of your partner that you can apply grace to? When did you last say I am sorry for your own stumbles? Why not bless your spouse with a seminar that is an investment in your marriage? What is the thing that you may fight about a lot that you know is not worth it? Why not step back and ask what can I learn from this situation? Whose marriage or family can I invest in?
When I teach about marriage, I will often say that my wife is my best friend and that there is nothing I would rather do than spend time with her. That was true as an engaged couple, as newlyweds, as young parents and it is true 38 years later. As I finish this article, I am very excited about date night tonight.
Pastor Scott Harper
Clare Assembly of God