"Tie a knot at the end of your rope and hang on for dear life."
Today is exactly 40 years since I walked down the wedding aisle to be married to the man of my dreams. My purpose in sharing this with you is to encourage you that every marriage has it's speed bumps and sometimes we need to learn how to slowly maneuver through them.
The theme for our wedding was "Let Love Be Your Greatest Aim..." Corinthians 14:1 Last summer I heard the 'Chapter of Love' being recited at my daughters wedding...and here today I can look back and say that 'Love' truly can cover a multitude of mistakes. I have enjoyed taking time to reflect through my '1973 Marriage File' looking through invitations, bulletins, photos, lists of music, themes and scriptures and am awed as I sit here and reflect on God's graciousness to us during the 40 years.
We have enjoyed celebrating with family and friends during the past weeks. But what I found most interesting was a question posed by a close friend.
"Has your path taken you the way you planned?" I thought for a moment....and realized we had experienced career changes, church changes, family changes...but somehow I knew deep down in my heart that I would not want to be anywhere else. But at the same time, we went through some unexpected changes. Changes that left scars. Somehow, it's difficult to know what to expect when one starts early in life, down that path and has no idea what winds of sail will blow your way. It's amazing how many times we were drawn back to our faith in God.
Marriage for 40 years. What does it mean? What have we learned? This past week I watched a friend go through a difficult time. She had trained diligently for 1 1/2 years. We spent many hours in the same gym chatting about her training program. She was preparing for the Tour Des Geants in the Swiss Alps where she had to hike 336 km with varying elevations of 24,000 meters, in six days. It was a grueling task, but I watched her train daily. She inspired and motivated me. It was her courage to take on such a difficult challenge. But things changed for her...along Day 3, she succumbed to an injury in her knee and found that she could no longer continue the tour. Medical reasons forced her to terminate her endurance trail as she hopped on the 'bus of shame' (as she described it to me) and drove back to the starting point. Her husband, who trained by her side daily was also committed to this event. I can only imagine the crushing moment when her husband would of paused and told her that he would terminate with her, but knowing her, she would of insisted that he continued to the end. My heart sank as I heard the words, 'bus of shame' I can only see her feeling despair and failure to complete the race.
You ask...what has this got to do with marriage? I have truly loved my married life with my husband. We have enjoyed the adventure that marriage brings. We have enjoyed the children that God gave us. We have appreciated the friends that God brought into our lives. I think that I can rightfully summarize in one short sentence that my past 40 years have been wonderful and that I feel blessed by God. I had no clue what the plan would look like 40 years ago.
But, I too stopped in my tracks when I reflected and identified with the words, 'bus of shame' I know she worked hard, but in-spite of all her training...she still went through the struggles of defeat.
We can train, we can work hard, we can be disciplined...but what do we do when interruptions come alongside and shatter our dreams? How do we respond to times like this?
I too, feel that we have given our marriage it's best shot, and yet there have been times and seasons that we needed to crawl on our hands and knees before God looking for new direction.
I truly believe that there are seasons that occur in our lives for whatever reasons, that bring guilt and despair to our lives...but the beauty of it all is that when we continue disciplining ourselves in God's word and recognizing that we both as marriage partners, came to the same wedding alter as two young adults, with sinful natures, then we can move forward in his unconditional love and grace. We need to recognize and identify with God's love, his forgiveness and redemption plan. This truly brings wholeness and renewal again to the relationship. It's important that we recognize that our challenges, joys, struggles and celebrations draw us closer to God and allow us to grow in Christian character, not feeling as defeated individuals on the 'bus of shame'.
In God's eyes, there is no 'bus of shame.' That is man made, but it's the courage and tenacity to enter the 'race' which can become incredibly inspiring. Reality is, that it often is the 'bus of shame' that reshapes our character to become more Christ like.
Here's a few golden nuggets that have shaped our lives over the past years as 'lifemates'
- If I prayed harder or read more scripture, my difficulties and challenges would disappear? No, sometimes we need other resources. Find some friends whom you respect to guide you through those difficult times. Who's marriage inspires you? Hang out with them.
- Many times we can dwell on problems, but do not take the time to look at solutions. Make your marriage one that will focus on growth. This does not happen over night. It takes determination and energy.
- Did God design marriage to make us happy? I believe he wants us to be happy, but more than that, he wants us to become holy...The two entwined together give endurance.
- Romance is wonderful, but it has no elasticity. It cannot be stretched...You can't depend on that to get you through your life.
- Mature love can stretch considering one has built a strong foundation of 'mature love' from God.
- Challenges in marriage have given us opportunities to learn more about spiritual advancement.
- Marriage takes a lot of time. It forces us to face some character issues we'd never faced otherwise. Communication...Commitment...Connection
- Respect each other allowing God to call each one, to recognize what is highly important.
- Selfishness has no place or time in a marriage if you want to be successful. I'm not referring to words like submission or boundaries with in a marriage. Know you boundaries...know what you can expect from each other and don't make unrealistic expectations.
- Discover and share the same core values....Family Faith Friends Food
- When things don't work out as planned, be willing to compromise and let God redirect and reshape your dreams.
- Learn to be intentional in your marriage and enjoy and savor each day. That's the biggest effort one can discover as you move ahead. If you want things to change, become INTENTIONAL!
- Don't ever loose heart!