Del and Julie are my mom and dad and they have been married for 58 years. I have always known that my mom and dad have had a great marriage. Since I was doing a series of articles on strong and reconciled marriages I asked my mom and dad what was at the centre of how they have held their marriage together so wonderfully all these years. A few days later I was sent the following response from my mom. I hope you are inspired by their story, as I continue to be:
Tale of a successful marriage
As we reflected on how God had worked to give Del and me a strong marriage that works and solves problems, it occurred to me that because we both belonged to God because of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary on our behalf, we came to marriage with some very helpful biblical priorities.
1) Our relationship with God as revealed in His Word. The Lord Jesus was and is our first love.
2) Our relationship with each other. Before any other distractions we belonged to each other. Our marriage commitment came before all other things.
3) Our relationship with our beloved children was the focus of our attention, especially while they were under our care.
4) Our relationship with work and service to the Lord in our church.
To show how we tried to exercise each of these priorities in a practical way:
1 – Daily personal devotion time with Bible reading was a must for Julie to have strength and wisdom for the day. Bible classes and godly friends helped to spur her spiritual growth and gave practical help in her Christian walk. Del’s Bible study was centered in his weekly preparation for Adult Sunday School Classes that he taught for 30 years, teaching through the Bible three times.
Respect and intimacy
2 – How we treated each other grew out of God’s love for us, so we were respectful of each other even before we married. Del honored me by his care in preserving our virginity until we were married. This is held in such low regard in the world today, that it almost seems harsh to mention it. But young people have no idea of the power this brings to a marriage. I have always, from the beginning, known that my husband was a man of character and self-mastery. This gave me confidence in his faithfulness over these 58 years of marriage and great joy in being loved by such a man. Closely related to the foregoing, was our commitment to seek always and consistently to meet our need for intimacy. To me, being available for my husband was a huge part of my biblical submission to him, which may sound at first as a hard or unpleasant thing, but the outworking of it was building a habit that resulted in sheer joy. Who knew that obeying God actually could make us sublimely happy.
We were always careful to keep our friendship alive, knowing that one day our children would leave home (some 30 years ago now). We recognised a day might come when we had grown apart if we didn’t preserve and enlarge our own connection with each other. We came to marriage with many shared interests: our love for God, our love for each other, our love of music, our love of books and we share an interest in sports.
3 – Del was definitely a great father in our children’s lives. He spent many hours playing pass-out-football in our side yard or catch in the back yard with his children. When he taught the kids to play ping-pong, he taught them to simply hold the paddle at their end of the table and he would hit his ball to hit their paddle. He was always a patient teacher, not a competitor. He was involved in our children’s lives to the extent that I often referred to his homecoming each evening as “the marines have landed”, because he took weight off me just when I was fading.
Not all play
His view of rearing “good citizens” was clear in my mind, so when I might have been more lenient with the children, I knew I had to hold them to Dad’s standard. It made being steadfast so much easier for me.
We believe that God loves our children even more than we do, and our children do not belong to us. They are given to us by the Lord as His stewards to point them to God and His love for them in Christ. This conviction is a great help in rearing children. Because they are God’s and not ours, we are enabled to deal with them more objectively and less emot-ionally. And we can be prepared for God to use them as He wills.
Occasionally we are asked if we are proud of them. Our response is that we are very pleased with them all. We cannot take any pride in them, because they are all God’s workmanship, and it is the Lord who enabled us to be a part in their lives. He is a great and wonderful and wise God.
4 – While making a living is a priority with a family of six, it was not THE priority. Del was very diligent about providing for his family. He was always early to work, performed in such a way that he moved steadily upward in his career, and made it possible for us to pay for our children to go to college, all without staying late at work.
In many ways our serving each other and our children were viewed by us as serving the Lord. In making certain the needs at home were secured first, we could then be free to faithfully attend church services, teach/enjoy a number of Bible classes and conferences, sometimes separately and sometimes together, as appropriate.
Reward in challenges
We have passed through some challenges that have served to move us closer to the Lord and to each other. Del survived a brain tumor and five-way heart bypass surgery with no significant long-term ill effects. Julie had both hips replaced. (For the three months in which I was unable to do much of anything, I depended on Del completely to feed and care for us. In that time, every time I asked for his help, when I’d thank him, he’d say, “Glad to do it”. What sweet words those are!) And, we have seen the Lord’s hand in any number of challenges that our children have faced over the years. We praise Him for His love and protection and healing in so many difficulties over the years, giving evidence that “all things work together for good to them who love God and are the called according to His purpose”.
– Reverend Bradley S. Belcher is the senior pastor with the International Baptist Church of Budapest, www.ibcbudapest.org. Should you have a question or comment regarding this column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.