it was the first day of summer. the ceremony was at 6:00. we had a short reception in the church fellowship hall (cake and church punch to drink), and by about 7:30, we were on our way to the airport to fly from san diego to LA…to spend the night before our flight to hawaii for two weeks.
we had saved our money for the trip, got two round-trip tickets for a couple of hundred dollars each…and bought a book titled, “hawaii on $10 per day”. game on.
the adventure of our trip to hawaii was simply a trailer for the real adventure our life together has been all these years.
a few years later, i received my professional training to do pre-marriage counseling. i was told it was my job to help couples make wise choices and prepare for a lifetime of married bliss. i was convinced my “counsel” was what they needed. my advice. my wisdom. i had read the books. i had been taught by the experts. i had five years of marriage experience, for crying out loud.
it took a while for me to learn that i really didn’t have all the answers for your marriage. early on, my pre-marriage counseling plan shifted from me telling you what you needed to do in your marriage…to me helping you get to know each other and develop a plan for your marriage. less talking by me. more talking by you. it’s a good plan.
what makes my marriage work may not make your marriage work. we are not the same people. we have not walked the same path. i have figured mine out. you have to figure out yours. mine has been an awesome journey. i hope yours can be, also.
i’m sitting here this morning reflecting. here are some things that have made our marriage “work” for 38 years:
we let people into our marriage. we walked close to good people…so close they could see us for who we really were. we couldn’t hide our shortcomings. they were there for people to see…and for us to deal with. i know that most people view their home as their “castle” and their private retreat from the busyness of the lives they lead. that was never our style. our front door was an on-ramp to a highway. it was often chaotic and fast-paced. our married life was played out in front of watching eyes. that exposure, for us, became godly motivation.
we read the same books. we were exposed to the same teaching. we were mentored by the same people. we shared the same journey. we didn’t walk separate paths to spiritual maturity. we paralleled each other. we maintained our individuality. we are really different people. but we never ran ahead of each other.
we are fortunate. neither one of us are fighters. we don’t yell. we don’t call names. we just never cracked that door open in our relationship. that’s simply the kind of people we are. even with people we have strong disagreements with, there is still respect. we have always been that way with people…even more with each other.
although our marriage has a traditional look to it…i’m more extroverted and up front and wanda is more behind-the-scenes…we operate as equal partners. i don’t speak for her. i am not the ultimate decision-maker and “last word”. i have never seen or declared myself as the leader in our marriage. that is reserved for jesus and we both follow him. decision impasses are dealt with by tabling them for greater insight. we each lead in our areas of giftedness. we each follow the other when they know best. my understanding of male “headship” has already been stated here and here and here and here.
although wanda always wanted to have a little girl, raising two boys was our lot in life. wanda’s willingness to adapt to boys, understand boys, clean up after boys, live with the smell of sweaty boys, go to untold numbers of practices, ball games and road trips… and countless other “boy” stuff…made our life together easier. not every mom (wife) becomes an expert at keeping a scorebook… learns the nuances of yelling at umpires…enjoys cooking team meals…doesn’t panic at the signs of concussions or heat stroke or trips to the emergency room…sees the value in working the concession stand…or loves the smell of good athletic competition. but that’s the woman who married me. i mean really…i had to ask her to stop yelling so loud at the television during the third quarter of the heat-spurs game last night because i was trying to read!
we learned the value of talking. and not just about the boys or church or finances. we learned the value of talking about the deep things in life. personal things. defining things. difficult things. faith things. yeah, we play together and watch tv together and go for walks together, but the thing that deepened our marriage was talking together.
maybe more than anything else, though, has been our shared understanding that marriage has a purpose greater than our personal happiness. don’t get me wrong…i believe our marriages should be filled with the greatest and most pleasurable experiences that we can have. but when you collectively agree (which for us was at the very beginning of our relationship) that you want your union to serve a greater good…to be a reflection of god’s existence…to be an expression of his grace extended to the world…then you have a reason to work on your marriage and to protect your marriage and to live with transparency for a greater good.
love is a good thing. love with a purpose is even greater.
and finally, waffles. when you can still get up on your 38th anniversary and eat waffles together, you know you have arrived.