Sadly, if a song was recorded today about love and marriage with the line, “You can’t have one without the other,” it would mean the opposite – there would be no marriage without sleeping together first.
My wife and I will celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary before August ends. I find it sad when people find this surprising. I do not want to diminish the significance of the event, but honestly, all we had to do was get married and live another 39 years.
Seriously though, people are not amazed we lived 39 years after our wedding day, but that two people could stay married that long without contacting divorce attorneys.
Below is a list of a few things I believe has contributed to our marriage list for nearly four decades. They are in no particular order of importance.
• We answered many of life’s questions before needed. Julie and I had a unique dating experience; we did not do a lot of it. We met at church while in high school, my ninth grade year, Julie was a year older. We went to different schools. For about two years we knew whom each other were, socialized in the church youth group, but that was about it. Then in Julie’s senior year, we shared a life experience almost by accident.
During this time, we discovered that we both had a love for the Bible. We started writing each other. We would write throughout the week and give each other our letters when we met at church. Both of us would sit down with our Bible and write our thoughts to one another. Once we exchanged letters, the next letters would discuss the others comments from the previous letter. Unaware to us, we were making decisions on life before the life situations arrived. By commenting on the Scriptures, we were probing each other’s heart about how to raise children, handle finances, roles in a relationship, even end of life decisions we still have not had to face for each other.
The Bible talks about every aspect of life, and we were forming our life philosophy within those letters to one another. Many, many times over the last thirty-nine years we have been faced with a situation that would cause many a couple to fight, but we were able to get through it with a level of calmness, because the principle for the decision was determined back in those letters from high school.
• We were virgins when we married. I know in today’s society this may sound like an impossibility, but we did it in the ’70s. Why does this make a difference? It is a matter of trust. We both enjoy the bedroom. I have never had to worry if I was as good as her other partners. The same is true with her. We do not have to worry about the other looking for something better because we have never known better. We may be the two worst sex partners in history, but we would never know it because we have known no one else and we both enjoy what we have.
• We had an understanding that the opposite of love is selfishness. When you love someone you give yourself entirely to them. The opposite of that would be to take as much as you can from someone – that is selfishness. When two people love each other in this way – giving themselves to each other – both get what they want. When
I see to her needs, and she sees to mine, both reach fulfillment. Love like this will work in all avenues of life. Consider the point I made before when this one is applied. Some will ask, “What about when what the two want are complete opposites of one another?” My answer is this – the purpose of number one above is to eliminate the areas of selfishness.
• We knew marriage is a relationship between three not two. Marriage is a relationship between a man, a woman and God. “What God has joined together … till death do you part.” God determines when a marriage should begin and when it should end, and it ends, as the vows say, at death.
Divorce has never been an option for us partly because we both believe God, not us, is the only one with a right to terminate the marriage. Before the wedding starts, both parties should know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God wants them to do this.
Then God, being the third partner, needs to be involved in all the decision-making, prayer, Bible study and understanding of God and His likes and dislikes. Just as we spend time together in our home, we spend time in His house. His word should permeate from the church and our homes, as well.
Preacher Tim Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Ind. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit preacherjohnson.com.