Monday, January 8, 2007

Telling Secrets

My wife Debra and I have been married for 28½ years. I don’t think of that as being all that long. As a matter of fact, I think that we are a long way from being married a “long” time. It does give me pause, though, to realize that we have been married for as long as my parents were. My folks got married in front of their pastor’s Christmas tree on December 22, 1946. My mother died on June 22, 1975, exactly 28½ years later. It’s kind of weird to know that we have been married for as long as they were. Still, I don’t think that’s a very long time. My grandparents (my father’s parents) were married for 65½ years when my grandmother died. My father and his nine siblings threw a big shindig for them on their 65th anniversary. I heard my grandfather say, upon being congratulated by someone on the milestone, “Yep, that’s a heckuva long time to be married to the same old battleaxe.” He said it with love in his voice. One goal in life that I have is to be married at least one day longer that my grandparents were. Debra assures me that she’s up for it. To God be the glory.

What got me to thinking about this is two conversations in which I participated the other day in the span of about twenty minutes. I was at a local business; in the course of my shopping I talked with two young ladies, both of whom were under 25 and both of whom had been married for just a few years. One of them has two preschool children. The other has not yet had children. The subject of marriage came up in both conversations. Being a minister, I can get away with personal questions, so I think it came up because I asked each young lady how long she has been married. That gave them the freedom to ask the same question. And when I told them, both of them—both of them, now, and in separate rooms and twenty minutes apart—asked me, “What’s the secret to a long marriage?” (The question came from one of them after she had said, “You don’t look old enough to have been married that long” and from the other after she had said, upon hearing that our children are 22 and 19, “You don’t look old enough to have children that old.” I was so grateful to them that I really, really wanted to give them a good answer!) Now, again, I don’t think of my marriage as having been all that long but compared to theirs it certainly has been.

I wanted very badly to give them both a helpful answer. I gave them several. I told them that commitment was very important, that it made a difference if you went into your marriage with the attitude that it was going to last and that you were going to do everything you could do to make it last. I told them that having common cause was very important, that it made a difference if you saw your marriage as a great adventure in which you had the blessed opportunity to share. I told them that liking each other was very important; that love was obviously a key but that it was good to enjoy being with your spouse. I tried to tell them that there was something of a mystery to it all, that God has blessed me with a wife who is easy to love, easy to like, easy to enjoy, and easy to be married to for dozens and dozens and dozens of years. I found myself feeling a little frustrated because I could very easily tell those young ladies what I regarded as the secrets of our marriage but I could only hope and pray that they had been blessed with those mysterious miracles of love, companionship, camaraderie, and just plain fun that must, because I can explain them no other way, come directly from heaven itself.

It reminded me of a responsibility that we have to the people around us, though. I have been greatly blessed in my marriage. It would be easy to just sit back and enjoy it; you know, to say “Sit back, relax; eat, drink and be merry. After all, I have everything I have ever wanted.” But that’s really not enough, is it? Great blessings are meant to be shared. When a young lady or a young man or a young couple (or middle-aged or senior adult folks, for that matter) ask, “What’s the secret to a long and happy marriage?” I want to be able to tell them something that will help. I want to pray for them that they will have what they want. I want them to throw themselves wide open to what can perhaps finally come only in the mysterious grace of God.

I am grateful for my “long” and happy marriage. But pray for Debra. She’s committed herself to live with me for at least another 37 years!

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