John Stonestreet (@JBStonestreet) said, “The most significant images of marital love are only seen at the end, not the beginning of life together.” That might seem a little hard to grasp for those who’ve been recently married or have been married a handful of years. But when you stop and think about it—enduring marriages are a beautiful sight to behold. Just look at Dale and Alice Rockey in the picture above. They are each 99 years old and in 2014 they were married 81 years!
Yesterday Brad sat with a couple, Terry and Nancy. They who ran away across state lines years ago to get married when they were just 16 years old! Today, Terry says with a twinkle in his eye, “I tell my grandson (who has a girlfriend) that times were different back then.”
When they came home they didn’t tell anyone what they had done for three weeks. He took his new responsibility seriously, though, and did whatever odd jobs he could to take care of his young bride.
In their early 20’s they both became Christians. Several years later, he went to seminary and became a pastor. Together they served Jesus in churches all over Ohio for 38 years. Now, five children and almost 59 years of marriage to their credit, Terry and Nancy sit together in the nursing home. Nancy’s health has declined. Because of a recent fall and broken arm she is a resident in the nursing home for a few weeks while she heals and has physical therapy.
Their gaze into each other’s eyes tells it all. They are still in love. There is tenderness and selfless care for each other. She’s concerned about him at home alone. He’s concerned about her loneliness in the nursing home. They grasp every moment they can have together.
Brad asked what advice they might give couples today. Terry jokingly said, “Before you marry, have your eyes wide open. After you marry keep them half shut!” Nancy chuckled and added, “Once we had the Lord at the center of our marriage, everything started to work out.” While their life hasn’t been easy—far from it—it has been good and their marriage is solid because they kept their relationship with Jesus at the core.
So how did they go about building a lasting love? The same way you can, by following the 4c’s to build your marriage:
1. Christ first.
Make the decision together that you are going to do things God’s way. The values you share, the priority of church attendance, praying together, and how you treat each other. All of it will be done to honor Jesus Christ and keep him central in your marriage.
2. Commit to forever.
Divorce is not an option. It shouldn’t be mentioned in your arguments or even in jest. When your commitment is for life, then your conversation, decisions, and attitude all reflect the choice to be with each other “till death do you part.”
3. Care more for your spouse.
We see more marriages divide because pride and self-centeredness have taken root in the relationship. The antidote to pride is humility. Make the decision to look out for your spouse’s needs more than your own. You will be building their security in the relationship and reinforcing your love and commitment with every selfless act.
You two need time together. Go on a walk. Take a regular date night—without children, friends or family. Set aside time that is special so that you can connect at a deeper level than superficial pleasantries. Be deliberate and purposeful in your connecting.
When you live the 4c’s you will find, like Terry and Nancy, that the image of marital love in your marriage will be significant—and beautiful—because you chose to build your marriage!