Reflecting on our years of marriage, we remember good times and lots of challenges.
Two years after we were married, we moved from Philadelphia to Millersville, Pennsylvania to help start a Church. We were proud new parents of a baby boy and ready for our adventure. In a short time, the Church grew from 20 to more than 200 people. Our family also grew from three to five. A few years later, we would have our forth child as the Church continued to grow.
Leading a growing ministry and parenting a busy family tested us beyond imagination. Sometimes we still wonder how we survived those years. How did our marriage withstand the tests of life and ministry?
We would first honor God for sustaining us. Yet we recognize that we are not passive recipients of God’s work. Maintaining a strong marriage required some basic relationship commitments. Five specific commitments have helped us to stay on course.
1. We are teammates not opponents:
Marriage partners must look beyond the “me” to the “us”. Marriage is based on togetherness and companionship. Teammates watch out for each another. We guard against forces that threaten our unity. Even our children must sense the priority of our relationship and learn to value and respect it. Children build much of their identity and security on the strength of their parents’ marriage.
Are you too proud or too selfish to be a good teammate? Are you too critical? Are you open to correction? Does your tendency to be argumentative hurt team unity? The potential changes in marriage and family require flexibility and a willingness to make adjustments to protect unity. Work together! You are on the same team!
2. We will value and respect each other
In a pre-marital meeting, the pastor who officiated at our wedding looked at me and said, “The graces you used to win her love, you must use to keep her love.” Wow! I have not always done well fulfilling that assignment. In courtship, I tried extra hard to treat my future wife with value and respect. As the years passed, it became easier to grow complacent and to take her for granted.
As a “typical man”, for example, I don’t always listen to my wife as well as I should. My lack of listening often communicates disrespect. To value and respect each other, we must stay “tuned in” to each other. Encouraging words, well-timed compliments, thoughtful notes, a simple hug—these are little but meaningful ways to express value and respect. “I appreciate how hard you work around the home.” “I realize that your job has been stressful, how can I help?” “Thank you for______________.” These are ways we communicate value and respect.
3. We will acknowledge selfishness
Selfishness is “enemy number one” to a good marriage. A wise counselor said, “There are two kinds of people in the world, the givers and the takers. A marriage between two givers can be a beautiful thing. Friction is the order of the day, however, for a giver and a taker. But two takers can claw each other to pieces within a period of six weeks. In short, selfishness will devastate a marriage every time.”I encourage couples to preface there acknowledgements of wrong doing with the words, “It was very selfish of me to…” or “I was only thinking about myself when…”. Many couples have allowed selfishness to destroy their marriages. Do you tend to demand your way? Do you always have to be right? Are you easily threatened by constructive criticism? If you want a strong marriage, you must defeat selfishness.
4. We will not neglect our physical relationship
Sex is part of marriage. Most men would like it to be a bigger part. Men and women approach sex differently. Men are like the microwave; women are like the crock-pot. Both men and women would benefit from reading material that explains their differences.
This area of marriage (like all others) requires open communication. Couples with communication problems have many other problems. The absence of a healthy sexual relationship in a marriage is an indicator of deeper problems. Couples who struggle with this commitment need to revisit the first three commitments. Improvement on these –will improve a couple’s sexual relationship. Do not allow neglect or other issues to ruin sexual intimacy.
5. We will stay close to God
“A rope made up of three cords is hard to break” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The “third cord” of a meaningful and lasting marriage is God. As husbands and wives cultivate their relationship with God, they make a strong contribution to their marriages. We were created to live in a personal relationship with God and he has opened the way for this to be possible (see: John 3:16,17). We can strengthen our relationship with God by listening to him as he speaks through the scriptures. We also cultivate this relationship through prayer and fellowship with others who are trying to live for God. A husband or wife who continually examines his or her life according to God’s standards will become a better mate.
Millersville Bible Church