What’s the Secret to a Successful Marriage?
My, how time flies! I still remember Vanessa and me walking down the aisle more than 25 years ago. My emotions were all over the place. Happy. Nervous. Excited. Skinny!
As married life evolved, I remember asking older married couples on occasion “What’s the secret to a long, happy marriage?” and “How did you ‘make it?’”
The answers I got were what one would expect:
- great communication
- learn how to nod and say “yes dear” a lot (I didn’t take to that one)
- don’t go to sleep angry (I couldn’t always abide by that one)
- keep dating your spouse (great advice)
- put your spouse’s needs over your own (more great advice)
Now that Vanessa and I have earned the silver medal ourselves – 25 years last November – and now that we speak to couples through Just Us Limited counseling and coaching, we are getting asked that question more and more.
Some of the above is very sound counsel. But If I had to give a one-word answer to that question it would be very simple.
The centerpiece of our marriage is Christ Himself. When I have been stubborn, resistant, and unreachable to Vanessa, Jesus has been able to get through to me. And I know the same is true for her. Why, because beyond religion, we both have real relationships with Him.
In Ecclesiastes 4:12, the Bible tells us that “though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
In our marriage, those three strands are Vanessa, me, and Jesus. He binds us together because we engage in genuine relationship with one another and with Him!
I recognize that everyone is not “religious” and doesn’t subscribe to Christianity. Sadly also, there are many people who practice religion and call themselves Christians but do not have a true relationship with Jesus. Religious folks can go to church every Sunday, pay their tithes and offering, serve their communities, follow the “rules” and still not know Jesus. Far more so than 2 hours on Sunday and a tenth of your paycheck, Jesus wants your heart!
The Lord has been so gracious to me. He, who was perfect in all His ways, loved me so much that He submitted to bullying, beatings, blasphemy, betrayal and then death. I think about Him sometimes and it moves me to tears. That He would do what He did – for me. Singer Jonathan Butler croons it so beautifully - falling in love with Jesus is the best thing I’ve ever done!
When I think of my worst moments as a husband, I not only think of Vanessa. I think of Jesus. Thinking of her love, and His love, makes me determined to be better tomorrow than I was today.
Vanessa is a seeker, and her relationship with Christ drives her every day. I admire her devotion to Him! She conducts a Community Bible study every Tuesday. She also has a 6 a.m. call every Thursday with two sister-saints and they study and pray together. She listens to podcasts and messages from respected Bible teachers and preachers and weighs them against the truth of Scripture. She digs into the Word and seeks the counsel of the Holy Spirit for things she doesn’t understand. She loves on and leads people to Christ.
She and I enjoyed talking about the Word as we consider the lives of the ancient faithful – Joseph and Daniel and David, Esther and Mary and Priscilla, Paul and Barnabas, and so many more. The Bible often held a mirror up to these men and women, and showed their flaws and warts, right alongside their commitment to righteousness. Their stories give us inspiration and hope!
Through Jesus, Vanessa and I have learned that our marriage is the greatest training ground we can be a part of in this life. In a quarter-century of life together, we have both been forced to face down and overcome the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I.
Has God rooted all the selfishness out of me – no, but through His Holy Spirit, I am keenly aware of who I am AND who He wants me to be. And of His amazing love as He continues to make me over day by day.
I go to bed each night and wake up each morning confident in the fact that both my wife and my Jesus love me, just as I am. They love me just as much on my worst days as my best days. My spouse knows me better than any human on Planet Earth and I know she has my best interests at heart. So, when she tries to tell me something, when she shares an insight, I need to listen. We don't have to always agree – and we don’t – but she’s a voice that I greatly respect, and her counsel is wise. I see Jesus in her words and her deeds, and that brings me joy.
Vanessa and I don’t have a perfect marriage – how could we – there are two people involved. But we are proud of what we’ve built together – with a whole lot of help and an endless fountain of grace from a Friend who sticks closer than a brother. As He binds us together, we find ourselves far better equipped to love one another and love others.
The secret to our marriage is no secret at all – it’s Jesus.