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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Sacrament Of Marriage- Our 30 Years

Today is the 30th anniversary of our wedding ceremony-July 27, 1980. Last November 29, 2009, my wife, Cynthia, and I had our marriage sanctified in the One, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Just as the salvation of our souls has taken us on a journey so has our marriage done so.

We are real people with real human tendencies. There has never been a marriage free from human ups and downs, both good and bad, and ours is no exception, however, as two individuals bonded by the holy sacrament, and bound by our covenant before God, we have, by his grace, remained faithful to one another. Through the years, we have watched the dissolution of the marriages of some of our friends, and others forgo marriage altogether to live outside of God's sacrament. All of the sad examples we have observed have caused us work harder to remain free of the pit into which other relationships have fallen. Just in the last two months, two couples that we know have separated.

30 years ago, Cynthia and I agreed that we would adhere to three guidelines in the way we communicate:

ONE: We would never use cutting, negative humor, the kind which uses the other as the brunt of a joke or jokingly cuts the other person down. We determined that life was hard enough, and that we didn't need one another throwing jabs, even in jest. We would always attempt to be positive. This has come in handy when we went through seasons in which we didn't like each other very much or were in a state of selfishness.

TWO: We would never joke about, consider, or even talk about divorce. In fact, we would never even use the word relating to one another. Divorce would never be an option, no matter what. The world gives us too many reminders of that option, that "easy out". We agreed that we would fight such a temptation by not acknowledging it.

THREE: The worship of and service to our God would be the first and foremost determinate for every decision we made, great or small...period. Our lives were not our own but we were bought with a price. Our marriage is a tool for the Kingdom of God to be built in us and in the world.

Somehow, these three guidelines have helped us retain the fruit of long-suffering in seasons of intense stress. The idea of enduring happiness in marriage is overrated and not realistic. Marriage will not always be happy because life is not. The joy of the Lord is our strength, not happiness. Joy is unshakable. Happiness is fleeting.

"Through good and through bad, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."

When our daughters were young, they were part of a Protestant Sunday school. In one particular class, a young, newly-married young couple were the teachers. One of my daughters bonded with them and admired them greatly. They were an inspiration and example to her both humanly and spiritually. The news that, after only one year of marriage, they were divorcing, was devastating to her. I must admit that I had little compassion for the young couple. In fact, I was angry that their selfish actions not only effected them but had wounded the psyche of my daughter. Since that time, I have counseled many young couples to look beyond the current struggles that seem to be so insurmountable, and see the future. Imagine themselves as a couple, years in the future, who could say that they had worked through seemingly insurmountable odds and remained faithful to their marriage covenant. The tragedy comes 30 years from now when divorced couples look back at the event or events that led to their divide and realize that their unchecked, youthful immaturity, selfishness, and lack of forgiveness were the catylist to their divorce, and these could have, and should have, been prevented. The tragedy is especially intensified if there are children involved.

I once heard a fiery Protestant evangelist lower the boom on men by saying,

"Some of you men, here, get married and you are attracted to your wives. Then, a few years into the future, after your wife has had a few of your children and she doesn't look quite the same, you say, 'I'm just not attracted to you anymore. Our love has changed,' or some other lame excuse for your own selfishness. Then, you start looking in other places and find some other young woman to become attracted to and you decide to get a divorce. You men ought to get on your bellies and crawl out of here like a snake!"

Marriage is a life-long venture. The relationship will change over time. It is supposed to! A marriage relationship is to act as heavenly sandpaper, smoothing off the rough edges of our soul. We can always work through relational problems with time and effort. We can always find forgiveness in our hearts for our mate. It may take time, but it is worth the fight.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."

If there are seasons where you don't "feel" the way you once did about your mate, and there will be seasons, then fall back on the covenant and commitment you made to God..

"What God brings together let no man tear apart."

I love you, Cynthia...

11 comments:

  1. This is so beautiful, Nathan. Even the best intended humour can have subtle effects, which last and accumulate. I remember cringeworhty things that I have said to people just as, while I do not hold a grudge, because of the hurt they caused, I remember some cringeworthy things that have been lightheartedly said to me. It doesn't help that my debilitating fear of confrontation, (now being dealt with, having learnt the hard way that succumbing to it is detrimental to relationships and self), usually prevents me frm saying something. Instead it just simmers until it boils over, and then it's too late.

    Well done, both of you, foracknowledging this from day one and building up your common life accordingly.

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  2. Thanks Michael. She gets the real credit. She has a depth of love for God and a steadfastness and loyally that inspire me. She also trusts me implicitly, which makes me want to be trustworthy. I am a blessed man. Even so, pray for us.

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  3. Anonymous4:03 PM

    blessings to you and your bride. we celebrated our 31st a few weeks ago.

    pstrmike

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  4. Anonymous10:19 PM

    Nathan those words are so so true. Fred and I will be married 30 years in 6 months. I have also seen alot of marriages fail for the most stupid reasons. Who suffer are the children of the people who have brought them into the world and vowed to protect them. I have decided that what a true man or woman is is one that sticks in the bad as well as the good times. There are fewer and fewer men and women in the body of Christ. We have a lot of babies though

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  5. "Many Years" to you and may you be blessed with 30 more.

    In Christ,

    Fr. Anastasios

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  6. Chip Bayer1:58 PM

    Wow!

    I can still remember when you and Cynthia first came to Clinton — a young married couple. I see the photo of you two together now and it brings a tear of joy. You look different in many ways and yet so much the same.

    I love you both.

    Congratulations on 30 years.

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  7. Chip! Thank you my friend. I am proud of you and am thankful for our friendship. I hope we will get to spend some time together in the near future. I love you too.

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  8. Dear Brother,

    It is refreshing to see after 30 years of marriage, you have still found it in your heart to love your wife and to truly make your marriage honourable to both God and each other. Unfortunately these days, even in churches, marriage does not seem to be treated as a sacrament but as a commodity that can be exchanged. This is a shameful trend of this world and it goes hand in hand with what our Lord Jesus Christ warned that "the love of many shall wax cold". Not only has this world lost its love of God but also of each other. Love is so important in our relationship even more than giving that the Blessed Apostle St. Paul spent a whole chapter on it and emphasized that without it we are indeed nothing. (I Corinthians 13). Christianity, unlike any other world religion, emphasizes 2 way responsibility in marriage. This is evident in Ephesians 5:25-6:4. It is clear that husbands are expected to LOVE THEIR WIVES as it is for a wife to submit to their husband. Not only are children expected to honour their parents, but also parents are expected not to provoke children to wrath, which is behaving in any unbecoming and unreasonable manner.

    I am also glad to see that you made it clear in your marriage commitment that you would not make jokes about each other in a negative manner or use cutting humour. This is exactly what the Blessed Apostle St. Paul urged us as Christians also. In Ephesians Chapter 5:4, the Blessed Apostle urges Christians not to have filthiness, nor "Jesting", which is inconvenient, but instead, the giving of thanks. The problem is these days, is that professing Christians in all churches have treated this lightly, to the point of not only joking and saying cutting remarks about each other, but even go so far as blaspheming Christ in jest! It all has to do with the love of many waxing cold and selfishness, as your rightly put it.

    It is also refreshing to see that you quoted a preacher, even though he was not Orthodox, as showing the correct manner in which men should behave towards their wives. You have in fact reminded me of what I heard personally from an Independent, Fundamental Baptist preacher years ago. This preacher stated that it was very important for us men to pick up after ourselves and behave in a manner that is loving, considerate and not in any way detrimental to the wife or the children. In fact, he stated that most of the problems in marriage are the men who are at fault more than the women. Whether it was in our brutish behaviour towards them, our inconsiderate actions or words, lack of reassurance of love towards the wife, or even our plain selfishness and neglect. This is totally in line with St. John Chrysostomos' Homily on Ephesians 5 regarding marriage. As much as he stated that the wife is to submit, so too did St. John Chrysostomos state to the men: "What good is it if your wife is fearful of you as of a tyrant?" He then emphasizes the need to love and care for our wives' souls as well as their bodies and spirits.

    Yours in Christ,

    Timothy Kwoh

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  9. congratulations Nathan and Cynthia! We love you!

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