Today my husband and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. It seems inconceivable that twenty years have passed. But the gray hairs and wrinkles and expanded waistline remind me that yes indeed, twenty years have elapsed. The husband of my youth is now the husband of my middle-age. And you know what? Life and love have only grown sweeter.
Is there a secret to having a successful marriage? One that not only endures but flourishes? One that stands the test of time? One that only gets stronger as the years go by? Yes! There absolutely is, and my marriage is a living testimony to that secret.
How is this for a beginning: My husband and I met at the county courthouse. Romantic, no? A mutual friend of ours was embroiled in divorce proceedings. My husband was there to take the stand as a witness. I, along with several women from our church, was there to offer moral support. It was a long day. I was in my final year of college and had come prepared with an army of books to keep me occupied. Those plans were derailed when a tall, handsome man sat down next to me and introduced himself. We talked the morning and afternoon away.
In the weeks and months to follow we talked a lot. There was a connection. There was ease, comfort, and love and marriage three years later.
On April 27, 1996, as we stood in front of our friends and family and exchanged our vows, there was something much deeper going on, something that no one else could see or hear. My husband and I were coming before God to vow and promise our commitment, our lifelong commitment, to the spouse He had saved for us. We were establishing not a bond of two, but three. We were forging a union where the mutual love for our Lord would be the anchor, the stronghold, the very core of this marriage. We were arming ourselves, putting a hedge around our partnership, asking the Lord to be the very center and compass of this union.
That is the secret. The Lord.
Wedding days do not come with a road map to the future. They do not come with a vision of events to come. The wedding day only comes with a promise to weather the storms that will inevitably come (oh, they’ll come). I have never met a single soul who has not endured some kind of hardship in their life. I’ve never met a husband and wife who have lived a completely carefree life, free of trial. I feel pretty confident saying that rough times will come during the course of marriage. And those vows and that promise and the union of three will be the only thing that holds marriage together.
When I speak of my husband, I tell people that he is a man who has had to live out his vows…the for worse, for poorer, in sickness parts. As I stood in my gown, and he in his tuxedo, as our hands met and eyes gazed on our wedding day, we would have no way of knowing the trials and tribulations that were to come. There would be sickness, long sickness, scary sickness (which would lead to the “poorer” part of the vows). There would be times of weeping and whaling. There would be moments of anguish and uncertainty. The road would be rough. But through it all my husband remained committed. Our marriage, love, and devotion to one another remained strong and sweet.
I grew up in a divorced home. I grew up watching men leave. I saw the wavering commitment some had when times were tough. I saw their selfishness and disregard. While I was ill, times were dark and bleak. I would often comment to my husband that some men would have already skipped out, would have no problem walking away, have no problem disregarding their vows and looking out only for self. He always responded the same way, “I love you. The Lord has commanded me to love you in all times. I made that commitment to the Lord, and I am not backing out.”
During the tough times my husband has always told me that he loves me. He has always reminded me that I am beautiful. He has always shown me that I am treasured. He has always reminded me of God’s promises and plan. He has always remained faithful and committed. He will be the first to tell you that it has everything to do with his relationship with the Lord.
A bond of three is not easily broken. Therein lies the secret.
If you are focused on what you can get out of marriage, you are on a road that leads to disaster. If your primary focus is on making your spouse happy, your focus is wrong. In order for a marriage to succeed, both spouses must be focused on the Lord as the head of the house. When our relationship with Him is right, when we are in fellowship, when we follow his guide for marriage, we are on the right path. The Lord’s plan for marriage is clearly laid out in Ephesians 5:22-33. Some do not like the Lord’s wording or His plan. I guarantee that any other plan for marriage is a plan that leads only to disaster.
While our marriage is not perfect, for we are both imperfect people, it has stood firm and committed through the challenges of life. The only reason? The Lord.
As I sat down with my husband over a humble bowl of oatmeal this morning, he prayed, “Lord thank you for twenty years of marriage to my bride. Thank you for the challenges that we have faced. Thank you for the tough times that You have used to make our marriage stronger and better. Thank you for the laughter and love that we have. Continue to strengthen our marriage.” No Hallmark card can come close!
If your marriage is not everything you thought it would be. If you find yourself thinking more of self than the Lord or your spouse. If your marriage is barely holding on by a thread. If there is no love, no joy, no peace in your marriage, look to the Lord. Remember, He is in the business of making all things new. He is the business of remaking the broken. He puts together the pieces into a glorious picture in His time.