Today Susan and I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. We are actually a bit shell-shocked, it is hard for us to believe. Forty is a number of Biblical proportions. That is how many years Moses was in exile in the back side of the desert and then the number of years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness on their journey to the Promised Land.
There are approximately 100 references to the number “40” in the Bible. In numerology, the study of numbers, it has a very significant meaning. It is a number symbolizing perfection, testing, preparation and the completion of a significant period of time.
All this must mean that we are finally positioned to leave our wanderings in the marriage wilderness and cross the Jordan River into the promised land of marital bliss. Ah, we can hardly wait!
All kidding aside, we are more than survivors, each passing year has drawn us closer together and given us a deeper appreciation for one another. Our marriage is the best it has ever been as we are now enjoying the fruit of 40 years of faithful covenant life together.
Here are some reflections on lessons I have learned about marriage. In a sense I’ve been waiting 40 years to write this, thinking by then I would be an expert. But now having arrived at that magic number I realize I still have so much more to learn about my wife and how to make our marriage all God intended it to be. And so I write this nonetheless in hopes that these principles learned in the crucible will make the promised land of marriage even sweeter.
1. Ask Jesus into your marriage. – This is absolutely critical! How do I know? We had one year together without Jesus and it was rough. The first year of our marriage was before Christ came into our lives. If He hadn’t come in we would not be married today.
My own self-willed ways had our brief time together on a course to destruction. Our marriage was at its lowest point when both of us accepted Christ into our lives. It was then that the homily at our wedding service came back me.
The parish priest from my home town told us that marriage is a three party covenant. It is not just an agreement between two people but God is the third-party; and the initiator and keeper of the covenant if we will ask Him. He is that third strand of the three-fold cord that makes it unbreakable. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) Jesus is like the glue of marriage. His love is the perfect bond of unity. (Colossians 3:4)
2. Learn how to fight. – Disagreements are inevitable. Susan and I are the classic “opposites attract” couple. The problem is opposites not only attract, they also “attack.”
Knowing how to fight, how to handle disagreements and resolve conflict is absolutely essential in a marriage. With God’s help we have established and kept the following rules of the ring.
First make a commitment to staying in the ring. No matter how bad it gets certain things must never be allowed. No abandoning or walking out on the “discussion” no matter how heated. No mention of the “D” word. No sleeping on the couch. Keep short accounts and don’t let the sun go down on your anger.
Covenant does not guarantee there will not be problems, but it does guarantee that you will stick together to work them out.
Ask Jesus to be the referee. Nothing resolves conflict more powerfully than kneeling side-by-side and praying for His help and wisdom. Susan and I make this a regular practice. At the time we may not have the answers to our disagreement but it establishes in our hearts a peace to trust God to work it out and renewed love for one another.
More on lessons from the wilderness of marriage tomorrow.
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