WARNING: The individuals seen in the following photo were older than they appeared. Slightly.
This was not a staged, dress up photo – it was a real life picture taken moments after life-altering vows had been made. There were a lot of reasons conventional wisdom said this was not the greatest idea these two kids had ever had. They had no real source of income. An upwardly mobile career path was not even on the radar. No house… Vague hopes and dreams… No actual plans… An uncertain future… No life experience… No testing to see if any “better options” would surface… They hadn’t even had sex yet… How could they possibly know they would be compatible? And yet…
Today is our 24th Anniversary.
So what did we do right? How have we “made it” this far despite our inexperience and youth on our wedding day? (We were 17 & 18.) We’re both far from perfect and have not done everything right, but here are a few things that we’ve done that I believe have made all the difference in the world for us – and they can for you, too. I write this to say: if these two kids could do it, so can you. You have everything at your disposal to make your marriage work that we did/do.
We let God unite us. We weren’t hunting for someone to complete us. We weren’t desperately looking for a spouse before it was too late to find one. We were friends from church that God drew together as we chased after Him. I don’t want to over-spiritualize what happened – we were as wonderfully afflicted with puppy love and all the chemicals and hormones it induces as anybody else has ever been – but our relationship with each other grew out of our relationship with Christ. And as we stay connected to Him, He keeps us united with each other.
We left home and made a new one with each other. Both of us grew up in great, solid, Godly families that we continue to love to this day. But God intended us to grow out of those cultures in order to develop our own. The afternoon following our wedding, we drove a couple hours away, set up a tent, and began our honeymoon and our life together. After a couple weeks of cheap travel, we loaded everything up and headed to an on campus apartment 500 miles away from anyone we knew. We didn’t have much, so it was easy to learn to depend on God. We couldn’t go run to mommy and daddy to calm the sparks when frictions developed… we had to figure it out together. So we did. We listened to God and did what He said, and He made us one as nothing else can.
We talk about everything (and listen to each other). Communication is crucial to the success of any relationship. We go for walks just about every day and talk. About life, our future, the kids, work, friends, neighbors… pretty much everything. We keep each other informed about what we think God’s doing, and He keeps us on the same page.
We even talk about money. One of the issues that hurts so many marriages is how a couple handles money. When there’s “his” money and “her” money… there are going to be problems. When there is agreement on the fact that the money is God’s (all of it), and He has entrusted it to us to engage in His mission, there’s little reason to fight about money. We discuss how He wants us to use what He’s entrusted to us, then do what He says to do.
We don’t talk negatively about each other. You will never hear me even jokingly refer to my wife as my ball and chain, the old lady, a nag, a slave driver, or in any other derogatory way. She’s none of those, and it’s just not funny. I don’t ever want to get a laugh from my buddies at my wife’s expense. And when we do have a problem with each other, we talk about about it WITH EACH OTHER. God has created each of us uniquely and given us an inexpressible value for each other. That doesn’t mean we always have the same opinion on everything. It means we value each other more than we value our own opinion and work it out together. We value the gift that God has given us in each other, and He keeps increasing the value of what He’s given us in each other!
We forgive. We have not done any of the above perfectly. Our marriage has had the same difficulties as anyone else’s. We’ve had to kill our own egos time and time again. We’ve hurt each other deeply a time or two. But instead of walking away… instead of giving up… we’ve learned to forgive. There is no right to get even that I will ever hold against LuAnn (at least not for long). As Christ forgives us, He’s also enabled us to forgive each other.
There’s a risk in a post like this of coming across as more than a little prideful. I don’t hold myself up very often as the hero of the story or the model to be followed. But in a world where so many marriages are being abandoned and leaving kids shattered and broken shells of who God has crafted them to be, I’m going to humbly go out on a limb with the apostle, Paul, and say “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” You can do this, too.
The bottom line is this: We submit to Christ and to each other and place our own selfish desires and agendas aside for the sake of the mission God has given us together. If you think it can’t be that simple… try it and see what God does!
It’s been pretty productive for us for the first 24 years. I can’t wait to see what God produces in the next 24!