Bobbie and I were eating dinner at the Manitou Restaurant one night this summer and struck up a conversation with a family at a nearby table. I was joking with the 11year old boy who had two older sisters, telling him how lucky he was. “I had two older sisters and they really helped me understand women when I grew up. Maybe that’s why I’m still married to the girl I started dating at the Cherry Hut 63 years ago and married 59 years ago,” I told him.
When the family got up to leave, the mother came over to us and said: “One more thing. We’ve been married 16 years. How do you stay married for 59 years?” I could tell it was a very serious question for her, but there was very little time for a serious conversation. All I had time to say was: “Trusting each other.”
I’ve thought a lot about what I could have said. I think a long marriage lasts because both people really want it to, and want it so much that they accept each other as imperfect and somewhat crazy human beings who need a lot of forgiveness, as well as trust. In marriage, love becomes teamwork, sharing goals for family, careers and fun, and working together toward these. Bobbie and I had the challenge and good fortune of building the community of St. Andrews from scratch. We’ve often commented on how that strengthened our marriage after we had both retired, for it taught us to appreciate the strengths of our diverse gifts.
In marriage, disappointment and anger become tools for communication: talking and listening and trying to understand. This is not easy. We were fortunate 12 years into our marriage to find a very good therapist/counselor who worked with us to teach us what real love meant: to listen and understand, and to trust each other’s experience and feelings. We found we had some unreal expectations of each other that were based on idealistic perceptions of our parents. We found we had very different temperaments or preferences for dealing with and understanding life issues. We found we needed to trust and value the instincts that brought us together in the first place. So we got to know each other in a deeper and more exciting way. That’s what makes us want more years to discover what is really special about the person we chose to marry those 59 years ago.
So how does this relate to the meaning of our faith? Our relationship has deepened our relationship with God in learning to love, learning to forgive, trusting without reservation, trading expectations for surprises, and appreciating the diversity and uniqueness of each other. Isn’t that what the Christian faith is really about?
Rev. Dr. Ned Edwards, Author