A runner focuses ahead in a race, anticipating the finish line. A golfer anticipates where the ball is going. Businesses have plans by which they operate for the future. But what about marriages? As you look ahead, how are you living now to ensure you finish strong? What does it mean to have the long view, “To have and to hold until death do us part?”
This afternoon I (Brad) went to a nursing home to visit a woman in our church. I made my way through the maze of hallways with men and women scattered throughout in their wheelchairs or walkers. Some with their heads bent downward biding time, others alert and waiting for someone to notice that they continue to exist. Rooms with TV’s or radios blaring shows or music that they couldn’t have possibly chosen.
Earlier I had called her husband to see how she was doing. He said they had just celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary last week. He also said that her mind is slowing slipping away due to Alzheimers. He shared that he still works three days a week, but is with her every chance he can. In fact, he said, the nursing home said that he is there too much.
“But that’s where I want to be. I want to be there with her and take care of her. She can’t seem to find the call button when she has a need. She’s been there for me all these years, I want to be there for her.”
As I visited with them I could see the love in their eyes for each other. A deep mature love that had weathered the years of raising a family, serving in ministry, and multiple moves. Now they faced what Ronald Reagan called “the long good-bye” of Alzheimers. Even so, more than once she looked at me and said with clarity, “God has been so good to us!”
Here are a few things that can help each of us fulfill our desire and promise in marriage “to have and to hold until….” As you read each one, breathe a prayer to God recommitting your decision:
When we said our vows before God and witnesses we made a declaration and a promise. There was no escape clause, no “out,” no option for the pursuit of happiness in a different relationship.
A marriage that endures makes a choice. We determine to be resolute in keeping our commitment to our spouse.
The intimacy of marriage means there will be things said, done, and undone that hurt. Forgiveness is a choice. It says, “I am choosing not to hold ________ against you.” Forgiveness allows for short accounts in marriage. It keeps accounts short and protects our hearts from bitterness and resentment. We will choose to forgive regardless of how we feel. (You can read more about forgiveness here)
To Show Grace
In marriage there are bound to be irritants, personality quirks, different perspectives and conflicts. Choosing to show grace is to show favor and kindness when our spouse may not deserve it. We choose not to be critical, harsh or demanding. Instead, we say a prayer and respond in a way that reveals Christ in us.
Our marriages will thrive through years of “having and holding” when we commit to pray with each other and for each other. Learn your mate’s prayer requests. Pray for them through the day. Hold hands and ask God to bless your marriage and your family.
Certainly there are other aspects of building a marriage that endures, but these four are key components to a strong foundation for any marriage. Recommit yourself to these practices “to have and to hold” and you’ll take significant steps to build your marriage!