This is part three of a series about marriage. As the Farmers Insurance commercial touts, “At Farmers, we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” Well, I’ve learned a thing or two and mostly the hard way. And I’m apprehensively sharing, with my wife’s blessing, what God has taught me through forty-three years of marriage. God deserves the credit for the longevity of mine and Susie’s marriage. I frequently look back and think, “If it wasn’t for the Lighthouse, where would this ship be, (The Lighthouse, by Ronnie Hinson)?” God has been and is my Father, and as the writer of the book of Hebrews declares: “God deals with you as with his sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten… Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness, to those who have been trained by it, (Hebrews 12:7-11).” And I have surely been “trained by it”.
I was tempted to abort this series when I said to myself, “Who are you to write about marriage? You aren’t exactly a shining example of a good husband.” But hopefully, some of you may learn from my mistakes. Therefore, “Oh mothers tell your children not to do what I have done, (The House of the Rising Sun).”
During the first three years of our marriage, God revealed to me that “There’s never an excuse for unholy behavior”; that I’m responsible to Him no matter what anybody else does and that if I put Him first He will take care of the rest. And He told me in no uncertain terms that, “There’s no back door”; that as long as I entertained leaving as an option that I would never do the work necessary to construct a lasting marriage.
Several years went by and Susie and I were lasting but not thriving. Paul Tournier, Swiss Physician, suggested that marriage progresses through stages and that the third stage is typically characterized by, “… the progressive giving up in the struggle for happiness…gradually man and wife have grown apart without there ever having taken place any serious conflict… they live side by side, without hurting one another, but poles apart because of no real understanding of one another… They appear unaware of something that is missing in their life…wonderful as it may be in other ways. Their home life has not remained a living reality… the dialogue has been broken off. There is only a superficial exchange of information… Courtship’s beautiful curiosity has been lost. The thirst for discovery and for understanding has been dried up, (To Understand Each Other, 1962).” This accurately described our marriage about ten to fifteen years in.
I can’t remember the issue or the reason, but I distinctly remember telling myself, “Well, I guess this is as good as it gets. I just need to accept it.” And immediately I heard that familiar “still small voice, (1 Kings, 19:12)” of my heavenly Father, “You’ve settled for less. Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which I have prepared for those who love Me, (1 Corinthians 2:9).” There is no end of the depth and the intimacy of your marriage but you have to fight for it. Your marriage is like the Promised Land, but you have to go in and possess the land.” Talk about a “broken heart” and a “contrite spirit, (Psalms 34:17-18).”
Joyce Myers wrote, “The children of Israel spent forty years in the wilderness, making an eleven-day trip because they had a wilderness mentality,(Battlefield of the mind).” When things got difficult they complained and murmured. They talked about turning back, going back to Egypt. They sent spies into the land that reported, “The people are greater and taller than us, and the cities are great and fortified up to heaven, (Deuteronomy, chapter one).” Therefore, they failed to enter in, they refused to go in and possess the land. They weren’t willing to fight for it. It’s easy to settle into a “wilderness mentality” in regards to marriage also, isn’t it?
Jesus declared, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force, (Matthew 11:12).” The Apostle Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight of faith, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, (2 Timothy 4:7).” And Paul exhorted his young protégé, Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…, (1 Timothy 6:12).”
I’m writing to husbands now. What do you say, let’s “man up!” Let’s fight for our marriages, our wives, our children; let’s go in and possess the land and never settle for less. My friend and retired preacher, Charlie, pointed out, “God commands husbands to love their wives but nowhere in the Bible is the wife commanded to love her husband. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church and lay down our lives for them. We are the ones expected to take the initiative, (Ephesians 5:25-29).” In the words of my good friend, Chris, “If we are sleeping on the couch it’s our fault.”
“We were made to be courageous,
We were made to lead the way…
We were warriors on the front lines, standing unafraid,
But now we’re watchers on the sidelines,
While our families slip away…
This is our resolution, our answer to the call
We will love our wives and children,
We refuse to let them fall.
We will reignite the passion
That we buried deep inside,
May the watchers become warriors,
Let the men of God arise.”
(Courageous, by Casting Crowns)
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.