Lifestyle

FAITHFUL LIVING: With God, marriages become strong and lasting

Twenty-nine years ago this week I walked into one of the most profound experiences of my life. It began with a call from a family who lived up the street. They were hosting an end-of-summer spaghetti feed for the teenagers in the neighborhood and I was invited.

Because I was 14 and did not want to make a solo appearance, I enlisted the company of my next door neighbor who I usually avoided because he teased me incessantly. This time I would put our playful animosity aside to gain a temporary escort. We would make a joint appearance, then split. It was the perfect plan.

That night I would sit on the orange shag carpet in the family room with a plate filled with Italian food. The neighbor kids would analyze their new class schedules and laugh when the old dog asleep in the corner passed so much gas it would momentarily clear the room. I would eye one of the twin boys I had never noticed before. He was funny. Edgy. Kind. And way cute.

That same boy would walk me home that night, leaving my next door neighbor to walk home alone. And this week, nearly three decades later, I would wake up to see his face, a bit older but no less handsome to me.

My husband and I believe that our relationship is one of the most tangible signs of God’s love for us. It is a gift that arrived early in our lives. No doubt we would be very different people without each other and living very different lives.

Interestingly enough, I live in a neighborhood with at least two other couples who were childhood sweethearts. The band Orleans during the 1970s recorded “Still the One” with lyrics that accurately express our sentiments and others like us:

We’ve been together since way back when

Sometimes I never want to see you again

But I want you to know, after all these years,

You’re still the one I want whisperin’ in my ear

You’re still the one I want to talk to in bed

Still the one that turns my head

We’re still having fun, and you’re still the one.

I love the brutal honesty of these lyrics, for there are moments when I would love to hop in the car and drive far, far away, leaving Matt and the kids to fend for themselves. Just try to live without me! I privately scream to myself when interactions create stress and anger and worry, rolling over me with a force that resembles a mighty ocean wave. Those are the tough moments, the ones when being a responsibly married adult and the parent of three kids does not feel good.

Understanding the natural dynamics and rhythms of a long-term marriage are most helpful during those moments of high stress. Such information provides balance, encouragement, and hope when things are no longer new and exciting.

Stage one: Ah — spice and excitement is the first stage of marriage. You are enraptured with your new mate and madly in love. You made the perfect choice. With a single look or touch or word the world disappears. You feel eternally bonded and the natural high you are experiencing is intoxicating.

Stage two: You love your spouse but now that you are living together and experiencing those day-to-day matters together, it occurs to you that there may be just a couple of things that are, well, a bit annoying. But not to worry. Life is still rosy and those annoyances are surely fixable. You dive into various plans.

Stage three: You have placed your re-training programs into action more times than you can count and less has changed than you had hoped. You resolve to accept those things you cannot change because you want to stay married.

Stage four: You resolve to move a step beyond and genuinely appreciate and love those things in your spouses that have driven you crazy throughout the years. His conservative approach to spending — while always making you wait — has placed you in good financial standing. Her restless nature has sometimes worried you but has also provided wondrous life adventures you would have never initiated on your own. His disinterest in clothes has embarrassed you countless times but his true love of people has helped you learn that those who really matter look well beyond clothing to see the wonderful person God brought into your life.

Not a one of us can reach stage four without asking God to be a part of the process. Next week let’s talk about incorporating a living, interactive God into our marriages.

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