Last Saturday, May 6, Debbie and I celebrated 45 years of marriage.
While grocery shopping this weekend, Debbie got into a conversation with the person bagging her groceries (not unusual for Debbie who always makes a point to speak with those who serve her). The topic of our anniversary came up and this individual asked what she thought was the secret of our marital longevity. Debbie’s answer was one word: COMMITMENT
Interestingly, the bagger replied that, for as many times as he has asked that question of couples he has met, this was the first time the word Commitment had ever been offered. Good communication, date nights, sustained romance had all been suggested, as had taking regular vacations, praying together and much more. But this was a first for Commitment.
Debbie and I do all those other things (and more) pretty consistently and they definitely contribute to the vitality of our marriage. But the reality is that over 45 years our communication has faltered many times; date nights have gotten lost in busyness; romance has fallen victim to tired and weary; vacations are seem too far apart; and their have been seasons when “Pastor Jim “ has not felt very close to God and prayer was challenging.
Moreover, in the early years of our marriage there was anger, selfishness, lies and betrayal (that would be me). It is one thing to not fully engage in the positive elements of a relationship; it is quite another to actually attack it.
However, in the midst of all the ebb and flow of our married life, one thing has remained: Commitment.
Debbie and I (once I got past my rebellion) are wholeheartedly, unreservedly committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. The strength and longevity of our marriage finds its source totally in our individual intimacy with and dependence on God. Jesus demonstrated love that is a choice, not an emotion, and modeled submission to the will and leading of the Father – then instructed us to walk in his steps. That has been the key to the last 45 years.
During ministry sessions with couples I tell them I can observe their marriages and pretty consistently know the status of their personal walks with God. Furthermore, the depth of their individual relationships with God will be exhibited in their marriages. So will I work with couples on the practical aspects of marriage, my first priority is always to address their walk with God.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Now there is a foundation for a long marriage!