“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.”
May 29, 1993 wasn't a magical day, but it was the day that I married the woman I love to this day. However, love is not the secret to a long, lasting, and good marriage. In fact, there is no secret. The ingredients are simple and yet, in many ways, difficult. I love my wife more today than ever, but it isn't a mystery as to why.
Later this month it will have been 30 years of imperfect, grace required, marriage for Chris and I. We both fully expected this day to come apart from some tragedy that took one of our lives. We both fully expected there to be hard times, days, weeks, even a month or two where we were not exactly enamored with one another. There have been a lot of great years and some years that were much more difficult. Expectation is the first ingredient to a good marriage. For us, divorce or even separation just weren't options, at least that is what we told ourselves. In reality, divorce and separation are always options, but they were not options we were going to consider apart from extreme circumstances. We married one another with full expectation that we would be married until one of us died, "until death do us part." We meant it when we said it and we still mean it.
False expectation isn't helpful. We expected there to be hard times that required work, perseverance, repentance, hurt, and forgiveness. We got that part right. There have been those moments. If I was honest, I have probably needed more on the forgiveness front than she has, but it has been both of us at times. The gospel is the model for marriage. We sacrifice for one another, forgive one another, and love one another. The second ingredient is expectation that recognizes that their will be great difficulty and even hurt that will require forgiveness from one another and the perseverance to move forward when it seems almost impossible.
Self-improvement is probably one of the most overlooked keys. I am not the man my wife married and she is not the woman I married. The truth is, both of us are better. Had we refused to change and grow our marriage would continue to be very difficult. The humility to recognize my own need for growth (along with my wife) and to follow through and grow as a person (including and perhaps especially my spiritual growth) is essential. I was not ready for 30 years of marriage 30 years ago, but I grew into it. I imagine I'm not ready for 60 years of marriage right now, but I'm going to grow into it.
I said earlier that love isn't enough for a successful marriage, that's true, but I was referring to the kind of immature love that the world refers to. The kind of love the world tells us about is the kind that a person falls in and out of. Biblical love is different. Biblical love requires sacrifice, forgiveness, kindness, putting the other person ahead of self, repentance, commitment, overcoming sin, and so much more. Biblical love in marriage is, in fact, enough.
All of that said, as the old saying goes, "it takes two to tango!" A successful marriage requires not one person who is committed to making it work, but two. One person can quit even if the other person doesn't.
Marriage isn't a burden, it's a blessing. Embrace it, pursue it, and enjoy it. In the most difficult moments in life, I'm never alone. When I'm depressed my wife encourages me, when I fail my wife picks me up, when I'm scared my wife tells me to man up, when I need grace my wife forgives me (like Jesus has), when I wanted to pursue degrees my wife supported me (in many ways), when my wife needed those same things from me I have done my best to provide them...marriage is a great blessing.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.