.This year my wife and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary. I can close my eyes and still remember in vivid detail the sights and the sounds of my wedding day. I can see Robyn in all of her glory standing at the end of a long aisle in her wedding dress with a white veil over her face. I flinch when I remember the stern look on her father’s face as he slowly walked down the aisle to give his daughter away to a young penniless Baptist preacher.
Over these thirty years we have learned a great deal about the joy and sorrow of marriage. The preacher spoke true when he made us vow “for better or for worse.”
As a pastor, I have had the joys of seeing marriage from both sides. I stood by the groom countless times as the miracle of marriage happened right before my eyes. I have also been called to walk in the dark valley with couples struggling to stay together as they sat at the ends of the couch glaring at each other in a last ditch effort to hold it all together.
Unfortunately, I have also stood among the fragments of a broken marriage after divorce has been decreed, and the couple set out trying to put the pieces of their lives back together—alone. Marriage is not for the faint of heart.
If there are two critical times in the life-cycle of a marriage, they have to be the beginning and the middle years. In the early days it is the “fire” of conflict that can rage out of control and threaten the viability of the union. As “two become one” life can become very complicated, and if selfishness wins the day, life together can become unbearable. Loving, sharing, giving and forgiving often are learned arts. It takes time to learn to live together in love.
Sadly too many young couples fall into the trap of thinking they made a mistake
at the altar by not marrying “Mr. or Mrs. Right.” So they hastily draw up an escape plan in search of the perfect mate. What they do not realize is that they may have given up way too soon. The reality too of-ten sets in during the second or third marriage.
The other danger zone comes in the middle years. After decades of living together and raising kids, the nest begins to empty and two strangers look across the breakfast table wondering what happened on the way to “happily ever after.” The demands of raising kids, hectic schedules, never enough time or money begin to take their toll. The young couple who knew they could live on nothing but love now lives in a three-bedroom house spending evenings in opposite ends of the house alone. To make matters worse, the idealistic dreams of youth now haunt them at night. Goals unmet color their world in dark hues. Sadly, during the crazy years, couples often entertain strange thoughts like “I just don’t love you anymore.” Who are we kidding? Love does not come and go with the wind. Love abides deep down in the soul and endures all things when nurtured and treasured.
Every marriage is worth fighting for, better yet worth loving for. I know of no “perfect marriages.” I like Reggie Joiner’s perspective on marriage and family. He observes that God focuses His creative energies more on storytelling than painting. Don’t compare your marriage to a perfect picture consider it to be more of a story in the works than a finished portrait. If you find yourself in a dark spot in your life, turn the page, and ask God to help you write a new chapter in your relationship. Remember the sage observation of Paul who wrote “love never fails.”