What 25 years has taught me…
Today my wife and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary! I’ve been really excited
about this day. After all, 25 years is a long time! For the past several days, I’ve been thinking about our marriage and how it is that we have made our marriage last this long in a day and age when marriages seem to be doomed for failure!
Have we ever had disagreements and arguments? Of course we have! Even the most devoted couple will experience a stormy bout once in a while. A grandmother, celebrating her golden wedding anniversary, once told the secret of her long and happy marriage.
“On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of my husbands faults that I would overlook strictly for the sake of our marriage.” A guest asked the woman what some of the faults were that she had chosen to overlook.
The grandmother replied, “To tell you the truth my dear, I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I’d say to myself, Lucky for him that’s one of the ten!”
Today, on my 25th wedding anniversary, I want to talk about relationships…and I’ll be
focusing mostly around the concept of marriage but I want you to understand that when I speak of relationships this includes all the relationships we have as Christians…especially in the context of the church.
I want to examine the question, “Is Love Ever Really Enough?”
I want to address the common, almost universal belief that says, “As long as you genuinely love each other, everything will always work out.”
One of the most tender scenes from the Fiddler on the Roof occurs on the night of his daughter’s wedding, when Tevye asks his own wife of 25 years, “Do you love me?”
Their marriage had been arranged and, as he had said to his wife, “My father and mother said that we would learn to love each other. And now I’m asking you, Golde, do you love me?”
After reciting some of the ways her love for him has been expressed over those 25 years, she replied, “I suppose I do.” Then he responds in a chorus where she joins him and says, “After 25 years, it’s nice to know.”
And it is. It’s nice to know you are loved. In fact, it is absolutely essential to the survival of the human spirit to know and experience love!
But yet nothing is any more of a myth than to believe that love is all you need to build and maintain a lasting relationship of any kind… especially a marital and family relationship.
One of the most fascinating love stories in all the Bible gives a clear illustration of the fact that love is not always enough to maintain a deep and enduring relationship.If there was ever a marriage made in heaven, this was it..the marriage between Isaac and Rebekah!
It was a marriage that got off to a wonderful start. But then, as this couple neared their golden wedding anniversary, their marriage was threatened by misunderstanding, deceit, and miscommunication. Only by the grace of God is love strong enough to resist those kinds of self destructive forces.
According to the Bible, Isaac was 40 years old when he got married. Today that is getting up there for a man to be taking the big plunge. In this case it was even his father who eventually took the initiative in finding Isaac a wife.
The custom of the times was for the father to make the arrangements… and in keeping with that custom, Abraham appointed his most reliable servant as matchmaker. And this servant was to go back to Chaldea to find a wife for Isaac.
This servant was given very specific instructions. Abraham wanted a bride for his son who was a good match…in character, personality, background, and religious faith. (It looks like Abraham would be an easy target for the computer dating services we have now).
But he believed that a proper matching was an essential foundation for a successful marriage. I wonder how many of you would be married to the same person if this same custom were in force today!!
I don’t know about you…but I never had a list of parents who thought I would be the ideal person for their daughter. But the important thing to remember here is this … Abraham knew that who a person marries does make a difference.
Now, every couple who is about to be married I’m sure has dreams about their life together. They have this vision about a life filled with shared interests…common goals and values…the same cares and concerns. Sometimes it’s right out of a Harlequin romance novel.
Many newlyweds feel so lucky…especially on their wedding day…lucky to have met someone who understands them…shares their likes and dislikes…someone who is just so obviously right for them.
Weddings often bring such joy…watching two people so “love struck” that they often do some of the silliest things…but weddings are some of the most interesting occasions.
That reminds me of the story of an elderly preacher who advised his young preacher friend that when he was performing a wedding, if he ever forgot a part of the marriage ceremony to start quoting Scriptures until he remembered.
Well the second wedding the young man did, sure enough the preacher forgot…and the only Scripture that would come to his mind was, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
But no matter how ideally suited my wife and I are, at some point we realized that ours is not a perfect match. We realize that we do not always agree…we do not always think, feel, and behave the same way.
The blending of the our individual personalities, preferences, and backgrounds is much harder than we ever imagined. When this happens, many are shocked and devastated when the bubble finally bursts.
The common phrase “the honeymoon is over” is one that every couple seems to end up saying at one point in their marriage. It is so common to hear of a friend confiding in another that: “This is not the same person I married!”
Someone once said that while love is blind…marriage isn’t. Now, it’s not always that marriage partners don’t see certain truths about their spouse before the wedding. Many times they simply choose not to see them.
They get swept up in the romance and the excitement and the passion they just don’t want to focus on anything but the positive. They are so in love that nothing could ever get in their way.
But sadly, love does not conquer all. „ªMost couples who get divorced were in love when they were first married.„« That is something we need to think long and hard about…because it is true. Just being in love is not enough…and it is never the primary reason for marriage.
Well, if love is not the first and final word in relationships…then what else could there be? The Bible consistently stresses the importance of compatibility in relationships.
The Apostle Paul specifically urged the Corinthian Christians to avoid marriage with non Christians. And that is one of the most obvious failures of Christians today. Recent statistics indicate that the odds are not in favor of couples who marry outside their faith. I must tell you that when my wife and I became engaged, this was one of the most important things on my list. And it turns out that it as also on the top of my wife’s list.
The rate of divorce, separation, or annulment for these marriages is nearly 4 times greater than for marriages between those of the same faith. This may be hard and cruel, but just look around and see the problems that exist because of that very thing.
There should also be common interests with your spouse. Today, many families have both partners in the work force, which means that the only time a couple really has to get together is after work, and the cooking and cleaning up after supper is finished.
For most couples in this situation, that means little time to actually relax and enjoy each other…especially if there are kids. If you don’t marry someone who can be your friend as well as your roommate and financial partner…you are headed for trouble.
That means you spend much of your “free time” together…doing things you both enjoy
doing…not him off with the guys and her off shopping or gabbing..conversing..or whatever. What were those common interests you both shared when you were dating?
Now, I don’t mean that you have to be identical to your mate at every point. Nothing would be any more boring than to be in a relationship with someone exactly like you.
It simply means, as Abraham realized, that the more common ground there is…the better the relationship. For some of you, that means you better find out what those areas are and begin to share them once again.
But even a successful marriage will encounter problems, as we see from the account of Isaac and Rebekah. They had married, and their love for each other continued to grow…even though their marriage was arranged for them by their families.
But there is something here that I find very interesting…this is the first time in Scripture that love is even linked with marriage. It is apparent that the idea of love as the basis for a lifelong union between a man and a woman was a rather late development.
Neither Isaac or Rebekah had ever laid eyes on each other until after all the arrangements had been made, and Rebekah came to Canaan for the actual wedding. But the love that developed between them was genuine and lasting…even in the light of the problems that developed.
Now, their twin sons, Esau and Jacob, were at least 40 years old when the marriage faced it’s most serious threat. The Bible describes the problem in simple and concrete terms…it was over the children!!
Isaac had always been more drawn to Esau, the firstborn. He was a rugged outdoorsman, and extrovert who was liked by everyone. But Rebekah found it easier to be close to Jacob. And to complicate the whole matter..these two brothers had always been extremely competitive with each other.
In fact, the nature of their relationship had been determined from birth. Esau was first but Jacob was right behind, holding his brothers foot as if to hold him back so that he could get ahead of Esau.
In O.T. times it was common for the father to give a blessing to the son who would succeed him as head of the family. The blessing always went to the firstborn son. This blessing was a tangible as well as legal power to the one who received it. And once it was given it could never be canceled.
One day Rebekah overheard Isaac tell Esau that it was time for him to pass on the blessing. But since Isaac was blind, Rebekah and Jacob seized the opportunity to deceive the old man and steal the blessing from Esau. Through a clever series of acts and disguises, they succeeded in taking what was not rightfully theirs.
And what this woman and her son did was a blatant and intentional act of deception and
fraud. It broke the sacred trust that is essential to an honest relationship…especially one between a husband and wife. And above that, it showed a basic contempt for the family.
Whether you are aware of it or not, everything you do…say…think… or feel reveals whether you see the world in terms of “I, me and mine” or in terms of “We, us and ours.” And that is what makes a family a family.
You see, families are failing because we fail to see the world from a family perspective. We have believed the world’s lies and come to the conclusion that its every man for himself…and if I don’t take care of me…nobody else will!
And that’s the idea that Rebekah and Isaac seem to have adopted…and that they apparently passed down to their children. It didn’t matter to Rebekah and Jacob what family tradition dictated. It didn’t matter how heartbroken Isaac would be if he ever learned of the fraud.
It didn’t matter how severe and painful the negative impact on Esau would be to have this precious, irrevocable, paternal blessing stolen from him. The only thing that mattered was to get what they wanted for themselves.
But I want to tell you that reverence, respect, and love for the family requires the decision to value the family over everything else in the world…including your individual personhood. A family is dedicated to the importance of a family point of view.
The reason we are so committed to the family is that we know that the family nurtures and
encourages the development of each family member. As each individual is dedicated to family welfare, the family is committed to individual development and security.
The primary goal of the family is to make sure that everyone is given the chance to live and love happily within the family system. And I want to warn you…if your family does not come first…if the needs of any individual family member comes before the needs of the whole family…that family will not last!
It is not simply an issue of setting priorities. The issue is one of making difficult choices for your family. There can only be one “Number one.” Will it be you…or your family?
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