Forevermore

Forty-eight years is a long time to live with one person. For my husband and me, these years have included career changes, financial adjustments, illnesses, celebrations, and the ongoing miraculous expansion of our family. Together we have experienced joy, anger, confusion, and an awe of the One who orchestrated it all. Through it, we have stayed together because God Almighty has bound us with His love. We have seen His miracles and mercies for almost five decades, and we are still learning about the commitment of marriage.

Dan and I were married five months after we met, during which time he went on three short cruises and I moved to another town with my family. We were married in December 1966 because Dan was scheduled to deploy in January. If you think five months of sporadic dating is not long enough to know someone well enough to get married, you are right. But God answers the prayers of those who call on Him, sometimes even before.

Our first fight came a week after our wedding day when I wanted to drive and Dan wouldn’t let me. The good news was, rather than Dan going to sea on a carrier for eight months as we had expected, we were driving to Pensacola, Florida, where he would begin flight training.  As newlyweds we would be able to set up our first home together. Funny how that worked out. I had not yet known to ask God for this, but He was already in our marriage.

While Dan trained to become a fighter pilot over the following years, I learned how to keep house, become a mother, and be a Navy wife. This combination of Top Gun vs. babies vs. Drama Queen was spiraling toward disaster, so I threw temper-tantrum-laced prayers at God. He chose to intervene by being closer than just the recipient of my fits and showed up complete in the Person of Jesus Christ.

I will be brutally frank. Jesus Christ saved our marriage. It had nothing to do with my weeping and wailing, our adorable daughters, Dan’s 1,000 carrier landings, or how madly (pun intended) in love we were. Jesus Christ taught us how to love one another as He does His Church.

After I met Him as my personal Savior, Jesus threw me (He had to be tough and fast) at I Peter 3:2, in my new King James Bible, which is now as wrinkled and withered as I am –

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear…”

Translated – “Beloved, stop whining. Smile. Leave the rest to Me.”

Because I wanted Dan to have the freedom and joy I felt in my new faith, I was happy to comply with any suggestion Jesus offered. With uncommon calm and contentment, I made my husband’s breakfasts before pre-dawn flights and left him dinner after late night happy hours. I tried to hold back my tongue and tears and made an effort to keep the house neat. By then we had two little girls, I was pregnant again, and Dan was gearing up for his fourth deployment in seven years. My ladies’ Bible study kept me balanced. Jesus is a smart and timely Savior.

Meanwhile, Dan did not object to the Bible I left in full view on the table. He joined our elementary-style table graces and attended church with our kids and me whenever he was home. These were not easy adjustments for a fighter pilot who didn’t know Jesus. Yet. But God heard my fervent prayers and, knowing my husband’s deepest needs, brought Dan into our fold. We became one in the family of Christ.

Fast-forward four decades. One would think by now I have learned the Secrets of a Good Marriage and could perhaps teach on the matter. But recently I attended a Bible study with younger women, including my daughter, and was deservedly convicted when the group’s leader, practically a child, shared her own humbling advice about marriage. She had been under a lot of pressure keeping up with the needs and demands of her children, meeting the schedule of the Bible study curriculum, and preparing to give her testimony to its leadership, when her husband basically shut down, probably from his own work stress. Tears streaming down her cheeks, this beautiful young woman of God shared, “I have always prayed for our home to be a safe haven for our family, where we can lay down our burdens and rest without fear of condemnation.”  She then thanked God for her husband who worked hard for his family and trusted them enough to find release at home. What grace God had given to this Christ-filled wife!

I wish I could tell you this was something I had known. It is not. But because of the humility and submissive spirit of a woman nearly half my age, I have been inspired to also make my home a “safe haven.” It is never too late to learn.

Dan and I are now approaching the “forevermore” of our marriage vows, and we are discovering we need new guidelines, ones that will lead us into eternity. Like the house we’ve lived in for almost twenty years, a few of our structural units have had to be replaced, a little remodeling and painting is needed to keep our looks updated, and the parties we plan are spaced further apart on the calendar.

We are learning to live together in a new season.

I have arthritis and back issues; Dan has sore feet and a choosey stomach. I walk the dogs, fold the laundry, and still make great pasta dishes. Dan makes the bed, carries the laundry downstairs, and fills my flowerpots with soil. I make sure he doesn’t eat mayonnaise or processed bread, and boil dozens of eggs for him to eat instead of chips. When I am crippled with back spasms, he stops anything he is doing to help do what is necessary to ease the pain.

God has given us the grace to laugh at our embarrassing moments, enjoy our slower pace, make fun of the crookedness of all our forty fingers and toes, and hold each other when things just hurt. He has not abandoned us.

Dan and I thank God with words hard to express for the abundant blessings He has poured upon our family. Our testimony of His faithfulness is our marriage, and our children and grandchildren, who “love the Lord with all of their heart and soul.”

We have learned at times marriage is hard, but it is holy; it is work, but it is worthy; it is challenging, but it is cherished. It is a commitment God designed for the man and woman He chose since the beginning of time. He binds them together in His Love, that they may be one throughout eternity.

“…that they may be one just as We are One.” -John 17:22