Today is Pete’s and my wedding anniversary. We’re been married thirty years. That’s a long time—more than half our lives. Since we’re achieved such a milestone, we’re taking it upon ourselves to climb on the soap box and bestow some words of wisdom upon you all.
To have a lasting marriage, submit yourselves first to the Holy Spirit, and then to one another. Too many Christian marriage manuals start their discussion of submission with Ephesians 5:21, which the NIV translates as “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Back up one verse, and you get a more balanced understanding: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, wives to your husbands…” In the original Greek, it’s all one sentence.
Mutual submission is not an imposition, but rather one more way we demonstrate our love and devotion, both to God and to each other. I’m seeking to please Pete; he’s seeking to please me. I’ve read a lot about the husband’s role as head of the household. We so rarely come to a point where we can’t agree on something, I can count the cases on one hand. Rather, if we are not in agreement, we take that as an indication that God’s not done speaking about the situation. We stop, pray, and seek the Lord’s will. Then we both submit to Him.
Ephesians 5 also mentions respect. Have enough respect for your spouse to honor them. Pete adds, “Continually, purposefully prefer your spouse, without comparing them to others. Always seek those aspects of who they are, body soul and spirit, that you love and enjoy.”
If you have a grievance, wait until you’re alone, where you can discuss it in private. Speak well of your husband or wife. This benefits you as well… others will think that you must be pretty special to have attracted such a wonderful mate. And you’ll be reminding yourself why you married them in the first place.
You may not always feel strong affection for your spouse. Feelings come and go. The soaring emotions we experienced when we were just getting to know one another have transformed into a quiet confidence that we’re together through thick and thin. But love is a decision. We decide to love one another no matter how we happen to be feeling at the moment.
Pete has seen me at my worst… sick, crabby, whining, depressed. (Out of respect, I’m not going to describe Pete at his worst!) I’m sure that I don’t engender passion at those moments. But I know that Pete does his best to love me unconditionally… even when I’m at my most unlovable. However, don’t let the security of a lasting commitment be an excuse to act your worst around each other. We try to be on our best behavior for our most important relationship—the one we share.
With unconditional love comes forgiveness. I have a good memory, but in this case it’s best to forget some things. Even God, in His perfection, “remembers not” our sins. That’s an intentional decision to let things go. None of us is perfect, and there are plenty of ways that we’ve hurt one another over the years. But what good is holding a grudge? I don’t want to be burdened down with a list of offenses. In fact, I try hard to avoid taking offense in the first place. Having a sense of humor helps tremendously here. So does the adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” So what if he leaves sock lint all over the bathroom rug? I do annoying stuff too. Some things are just not that important.
Forgiveness doesn’t always mean forgetting. If someone has done something to seriously hurt you, it makes sense to protect yourself from further pain. God doesn’t condone domestic abuse. But I’m not talking about extremes right now. I’m thinking of times when I’ve said something belittling to Pete, or acted selfishly, or was inconsiderate. I’m grateful that he doesn’t keep a list of those actions to drag out every time we have a disagreement.
Avoid the temptation to try to improve your spouse. I’m sure there are a million things Pete would love to change about me. Rarely, he mentions one or two of them. I’m much more prone to point out his shortcomings, a habit I’m trying hard to overcome. It’s not my job. The Holy Spirit is the one responsible for bringing our character flaws to our attention.
I’m so far from perfect, God can easily spend the rest of my life making improvements. Thankfully, He knows I am but dust, and He doesn’t try to do it all at once. My experience is that, at any moment, there’s a specific lesson God is trying to teach me. I can avoid the issue, but He’ll keep bringing it back to me, over and over. Or I can cooperate, undergo some pain, eventually learn that lesson, and move on to the next one.
The last thing my husband needs is for me to add additional lessons to the one God is already teaching him. He needs and appreciates my support and encouragement much more than my criticism.
If we want a successful marriage, we must be intentional about it. It takes work, time and energy. We’ll be frustrated and disappointed… more often about ourselves than our spouse. Marriage is a great opportunity for personal growth. But I love being married. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Among other things, it’s a whole lot of fun. We’re praying that we get to be married for another thirty years!