It was a hot, beautiful day for a wedding. He was twenty-one and she was nineteen. Their theme was “United in Christ”, and the décor centered around daisies – daisies on her dress, daisies in the arms of the bridesmaids, and daisies in vases.
They were both the oldest in their families. He had three siblings and she had four. They were loved and they loved each other. Life was good.
August 4th that year would fall on a Saturday and it also happened to be her nineteenth birthday. And so the date had been set, and family and friends gathered to celebrate a wedding and a birthday, and to encourage the young couple as they began their life together.
How the past forty-five years have flown by! When our anniversary arrives each year, I find myself reflecting again on the Scripture that our Pastor gave us at our wedding. It comes from Psalm 84:11, 12 (ESV):
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!”
I used to wonder when we were first married if this verse meant that God would only give us good, and not hard, sad, lonely, or difficult times. At nineteen, I was naïve, and didn’t realize that He would allow the difficult times to help me to grow to depend more on Him. I would learn to believe that He is my deliverer and my portion no matter what happens in my life. I would learn that it is in the hard times that we can grow deeper in loving and trusting Him.
I recently sat in our smashed truck and watched while the paramedics checked out my husband for severe whiplash. We had been hit by a truck pulling a boat trailer that was unable to stop at a red light. There were many thoughts going around in my head, but the main one was how precious to me this man of mine is, and how did we get to be married for almost forty-five years and still be friends?
I don’t know what your situation is today—if you are single, newly married, married with children, or in the days of grandparenting, but I do know that God is faithful and that as that Psalm says, He will grow us closer to Him and to each other as we walk uprightly.
We have practiced a few principles in our marriage that have kept us growing towards oneness:
My husband and I were friends long before our relationship became romantic. We were young and needed guidance so we spent a lot of our time with our families, going to church activities, and with friends.
Our friendship has continued to grow through the years as we intentionally carve out time for each other, and schedule a regular Friday night date night into our week, and often plan our vacation time only as a couple. We have seen our friendship grow and shared experiences like building houses together and we’ve run a business as partners for forty years.
Every couple has times of disagreement. My husband took initiative at the beginning of our marriage to ask that those times be worked out between us. We have learned to be the first to initiate an apology and to ask for forgiveness when we have been at fault.
Walking uprightly has roots in living out 1 John 1:7-9 (ESV):
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
It is easy to let pride, selfishness, and anger keep us from correcting what has hurt our spouse, but the long term effects of unrepentance brings harm to a marriage.
I have been studying Proverbs 31 with Pam Forster at her Mama’s Refill site. Pam began the study with talking about Proverbs 31:31, “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
It was amazing to me to think of how this woman’s works could be discussed in the public forum as the fruit of her life was visible to everyone. I was convicted and encouraged again to bring my life under God’s authority and to be obedient to what He asks of me in each area.
I’m personally called to be faithful to my “Audience of One”, to my “one guy”, to my children, and to living my one life of service to others. It sounds like a lot of responsibility, and yet it holds eternal consequences, both here on earth and in heaven. My husband and I have been blessed by practicing faithfulness to the Lord and to one another, and also as we’ve practiced staying active and involved with a local church, as part of the body of believers in Jesus Christ.
The fruit of growth
When friendship, forgiveness, and faithfulness grow over the years in our marriage, a bond of oneness does become evident. God is faithfully present whether life includes times of joy and celebration with babies, milestones, and work success, or if we experience times of suffering, death, mourning, or the consequences of other people’s sin.
Of course there are times when outside counsel may be needed in your marriage, so please pursue that if necessary. But whatever your current situation, you can know God as your deliverer and portion, and trust that He is good, no matter what.
What kind of growth are you seeing or hoping for in your marriage? How are you cultivating friendship in your marriage, faithfulness to God and your husband, and a culture of forgiveness in your home?
Colleen van Nieuwkerk, wife to Dick and Mom and Grandma to six and ten, is passionate about women faithfully following God. It is her privilege to lead Heart2Heart, a discipleship ministry at her home church in Alberta, Canada. She’s also passionate about Chai tea lattes and scrap-booking. Connect with her on Instagram @mrsvan55.