I have noticed over the years that people have asked me about "the secret" to a number of things. One is this question (often by a wanabe), "What's the secret to making it through SEAL training?" My response is often, "Sorry bud, no such secret." We live in such an instant society where we juggle a bunch of stuff yet really don't think or focus on anything. We expect that there is a shortcut to greatness. There isn't.
In recent years, I have started to hear this question in relation to marriage and family. It is humbling to think people would look to me and think, "I should ask him about the secret to marriage and raising a family." This blows me away because I feel like I put great effort to succeed in this arena. I have often thought to myself, "I am okay with failing at everything in my life, just as long as I don't fail at my marriage and being a dad." It's hard work. I feel like my success ebbs and flows at times, but it takes work.
Tomorrow, February 2, 2011, I am celebrating my 9th year of marriage with my wonderful wife Anna. This in large part is causing me to reflect on life and marriage--you know, sort of an annual review sort of thing! She is my best friend and I think we are very happy--although like all relationships we have our great days, mediocre days, and bad days like everyone else. In coming to Valley Baptist Church, we have been exposed to marriages that have had great influence on us. One marriage that was 70+ years strong, many that are 60+ years long, many 50+, and many surviving widows that were married for many years prior to loosing their spouse.
What have I learned along the way? The first thing is marriage flat out takes commitment. This is simple. You know, actually standing behind the vows you make, "To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part." These are major. Simple to understand, difficult to live by. The only way to do this is to commit for the long haul.
But how when things are bad? This is where God comes in. First, I have found that my biblical worldview has shaped my understanding of marriage. So when the bad days come and I am frustrated, I cling to the understanding that God gave Anna to me. Therefore, He must be working something out in me through the bad times. I also know that He wants me married and so I am left with two options: 1) Stay miserable, or 2) humble myself and initiate something to make things improve!
I recently heard that an author said that "Quality time often occurs unexpectedly in quantity time." I think this is so true. I family must intentionally spend large chunks of time together to grow together. There is no way to get around this one. The more time spent together to better friends you become. I also think marriage is more about friendship or companionship over the long haul so this must be cultivated.
If you are married, and you want to improve your marriage. I would encourage you to read the book of Ephesians and pray every day for a month. I think you will be surprised at what God does through that!
I love you Anna Jean and am so thankful for you! God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and mother of my kids!