Phil and I just celebrated 38 years of blissful marriage in March. Well maybe not always so blissful! This was not the most significant anniversary. The most significant anniversary for both of us was when we passed the mark where we had been married longer than we had been single – 22 years (I know, just babies when we got married!). But our marriage almost didn’t happen. We broke up just a few months before Phil asked me to marry him. God had some things to teach us both first and it was up to us to see if we were listening and willing to learn them.
As much as we love being together and sharing every detail with each other today, we are independent people in many respects. Most of our activities are shared but I love my girlfriends, cherish my “me time” and focus on what God has specifically called me to accomplish. Phil has his guy groups as well and he focuses on his unique talents, gifts and his own career, and that’s why I believe we stay successful as a couple. Even after all these years, we are dependent on each other but are also still very independent and self sufficient because we look to God for our contentment and guidance.
That was the most important thing God had to teach me when we broke up before getting married. I needed to learn to depend on God and not on Phil.
Yes, Phil would be my earthly protector, and love me to “death due us part” but he wasn’t God – he was human. He couldn’t fulfill the desires of my heart – only God could. Putting Phil in that position of being super human and infallible wasn’t fair to him or the right way to love him. I believe a mature marriage means that each person keeps their identity and it’s up to the other to celebrate them and do whatever they can to see them flourish. Sometimes it requires you to walk through failure as their partner, not as a boat anchor dragging them down and making them feel guilty or shameful. It requires that both of you stand on your own feet and are self-sufficient and confident in the decisions you make under God’s leadership. God had to teach me to appreciate Phil the way he was then and there and not what I wished or fantasied him to be as a husband. It was wrong for me to think that those pesky little things would just vanish with the words “I do.” We both went into the relationship wanting to please the other but we’re human and those flaws in our personality and those daily habits didn’t just go away on their own because we wished them to leave. We had to consciously pay attention – work through issues because we are both, still to this day, very independent but determined to see each other flourish. God was also teaching Phil a layer of trust that he hadn’t known before – to trust God for providing and protecting someone else’s life. That’s huge for a person. Phil knew he wouldn’t only feel guilty but ashamed if he couldn’t provide for me and what would eventually be our family. I saw him praying hard for God’s sustaining power when our daughters were each born and with the responsibility given him to raise them to know and trust Jesus. Today’s millennials are under more pressure than ever. It’s scary for young couples these days with college debt, jobs increasingly scarce, and higher paying executive jobs harder to attain. Our media reports hourly of raging wars, higher taxes, national debt, and on and on. Newlyweds must step into a trust factor with each other and in God greater than any previous generation. It calls them to be personally connected with a strong walk and relationship to the only one that can bring peace to a storm, make the surface of a sea walkable, and bring the dead back to life.
It calls for a life appreciating each other for what each can give and then trusting God to do the rest. It’s about walking in an endless journey – “till death do you part” and trusting Jesus together.