Last week Melanie and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in grand fashion. I could not imagine a more delightful way. Philip and his wife Laura (who is 6 months pregnant) and our grandson Lucas (he’s 13 months old and perfect - sorry, it’s my blog and I can brag about my grandson and yes, I’m that grandparent) and Andrew and his wife Kadee joined us in Destin, Florida for a vacation. We took parts of 7 days (left Sunday night after church and headed home Saturday morning early) and I pretty much disconnected and we got to enjoy what I feel is the reward of a good marriage - well adjusted, faithful children we love who love us back. Tuesday night was actually the date of our 30th and Andrew and Kadee had not yet arrived so we went to eat at “The Back Porch” with Philip and Laura and Lucas. They asked us if we’d rather it be just us - but honestly we wanted to enjoy this time with our kids as much as possible. Over dinner overlooking the waves and beach Philip asked “So, what’s the key to 30 years of marriage?”
Well, I wouldn’t put our marriage on display as “the way to do it” but I have given that a lot of thought. Here are six essentials to the success of our marriage:
1. Marry well: I know it’s trite to say that “I out kicked my coverage” - BUT - Have you met Melanie? I did. I had things I wanted in a wife, how blessed I am that I didn’t get some of them but instead got Melanie. There are things about her that are so unique. Everyone says she is sweet - that’s not really true - not to say she isn’t but that is not her best quality. Her best quality is that she doesn’t do wrong. She is intent on doing what is right. She is an example of what a Christian is to be. The year was 1981 and I was a summer intern in Roanoke, AL (where her dad has preached for 54 years). We were having a retreat at “The Primm Lakehouse” and my uncle Dan had come to speak. Now 31 years later I remember one thing he said that probably changed my life in a more significant way than I would have believed: “You are not ready to get married until you can say to the other person: ‘I want to spend the rest of my life helping you go to heaven and you helping me go to heaven.’” I knew then and I know now - for me - that’s Melanie.
2. We see life as an adventure: I told Melanie when we married (incidentally she wanted to marry a farmer - if you know me - HA!) we will probably never have much money and probably won’t ever own a home - but I promise you you won’t ever be bored. And she hasn't been! God has blessed us richly in material ways. More than we could have dreamt. We’ve faced plenty of slim days financially BUT our life has been rich with adventure and story and laughter. We see the challenges as adventures and it keeps life fun! Oh, I pity those who focus on each problem and fret and worry and fuss and fume.
3. We trust God: This is obviously the biggest thing! There have been slim times: I remember once we didn’t a penny in our bank account, hadn’t eaten all day and were in Illinois on our way back from a wedding and didn’t think we had enough gas to get home. And there have been times that other women would probably have walked out. But we really do trust God. He has gotten us through more messes we have gotten ourselves in than you would ever believe because we believe He will and ask Him too. And we believe when we ask Him to He hears us and will do His Will in our lives - which is perfect. We are miles from perfect - but our faith in God is very real and active and He has ALWAYS been first in our lives. He is bigger than we are. There is an optimism about that. One of our favorite quotes is from my dad: “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”
4. We try not to be down at the same time: I’m sure in every life and every field of endeavor there are times and reasons to be “down.” The life of preaching is no exception to that. The old adage “into every life a little rain must fall” is a bucket full of truth. Now this is not easy and takes some work. But if I am down emotionally Melanie seems to perk up and if she is down in the same way I try extra hard to be optimistic. I see so many couples who pull each other down into the mire of life together and revel in their misery. Yuck! Yes, we both sometimes get depressed and at times we have been depressed together - but we try NOT to be in the same cycle on this.
5. We don’t hold grudges: Let me tell you how to do this. DON’T! If you already do: STOP! Maybe it’s genetic makeup but as far as I know in 31 years of being in love Melanie has never a single time brought up a mistake of the past (except to laugh with me at it). She has never said: “If you do that again...” Again, I’ve made some colossal blunders, typically financial. How many times have I said: “I may have done something really stupid” - and been correct? But she has never used my errors as an arsenal against me. And, if my memory is correct I haven’t toward her. And, why would I? I love her! Why would I want to carry around memories of times she failed? Why would I want to store up hurts?
6. We have never thought about leaving each other - or discussed divorce as an option: We haven’t joked about it, we haven’t used to as a test for our kids love, we haven’t used it as a tool to get our way. I would rather die than leave her. And I would rather her die than she leave me. We both took a vow. I know plenty of people who took that vow and the other broke it - we are blessed that we haven’t. I wear a ring - it rarely leaves my hand and when it does there's an imprinted/embedded (not sure the word) ring under it - that reminds me whether in India or Indiana, Nashville or Naples - I belong to another. And I'm not ashamed that I do. Michael Martin Murphy’s 1987 hit “I Come From A Long Line Of Love” fits us well. We were both taught that God says marriage is for life.
I do not intend to boast in this piece - if so only of my God who has blessed me - and I hurt for those who have not been so blessed but I am. And some of those blessings are fruit in the form of how we have viewed our life in God. I am thankful. If you have not been as blessed this is not to be “in your face” - I’ve hurt with many who hurt. But perhaps others may get something from our experiences.
Oh, about about the title: When I married Melanie I had no intention of living past age 60, so I asked her to marry me for 40 years! Well, she's got 10 left and then I suppose we'll have to renegotiate - but if you know me - I'll win then too :)