40 Lesson From 40 Years of Marriage: Part 2 of 4

40 Lesson From 40 Years of Marriage: Part 2 of 4

11. What you remember is just as important as what you forget. 

We tend to suffer from spiritual amnesia. Wanting to remember God’s faithfulness, I started a spiritual milestone file in 1998. It now has 920 reminders in it—remembrances of the little things, and the big things, that God has done.

Milestones remind us of three things: what God has done; who God is—His provision, care, and deliverance; and the need to trust God and walk by faith.

When we forget the deeds of God, we will ultimately forget to trust Him.


12. Marriage was designed by God to be missional.

Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” And Acts 13:36 says, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep …”

I want to be about the purposes of God, in my generation, with my wife. She is a partner in ministry. We are not two individual people who are just successfully going our own way. We are two people who work at merging our life purpose and mission together so that we increasingly share it as we move toward the finish line.

The other evening, Barbara and I sat in our living room in two chairs that we bought in 1972 for $5 apiece. They’ve been reupholstered three times. We sat in those chairs, talking about, “Should we reupholster them, or go buy new ones?” I turned to her and I said: “You know what? We have not given our lives to stuff.”

Now, do we live in a nice home? Do we live better than we deserve? Absolutely. But as imperfect as we are, as many struggles as we’ve had, we are headed toward the same mission. We are a part of the Great Commission. We want to be fulfilling the great commandment, together as a couple.

My challenge to you is this: As a couple, believe God for too much, rather than too little. Remember what A.W. Tozer said, “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan to do the things we can only do by ourselves.”

Life can wear you down. It can wear you out. Disappointment chips away at faith. As a couple, you have to work on this to go to the finish line.


13. It’s okay to have one rookie season, but it’s not okay to repeatedly repeat it.

I was an idiot in our first 12 months of marriage—repeatedly ignoring the dignity of the woman that God had brought me.

The lessons that you learn need to be applied. It’s not good to repeat rookie errors in your 39th season of marriage.


14. Never use the d-word in your marriage. 

Never threaten divorce in your marriage. Never let the d-word cross your lips, ever! Instead, use the c-word—commitment, covenant, covenant-keeping love that says, “I’d marry you all over again.”

I can still remember an argument my parents had when I was five years old and divorce was not in vogue. Your kids are highly sensitized to what your relationship is like and how you communicate when you disagree. Let them hear of your commitment to one another.


15. Honor your parents.

Exodus 20:12 is the first commandment with a promise: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

Our marriage was brought to life as we honored our parents. We are a generation that has bashed and blamed our parents, ignoring this commandment. It is time for us to return home to our parents with honor. A practical way you can do that is by writing them a tribute and, then, by reading it to them.

Instead of giving your parents a dust buster for Christmas, or a tie, or a pair of house slippers, give them a tribute, thanking them for what they did right. Barbara did this with her parents. I did it with mine. Honoring your parents is a life-giver.


16. Different isn’t wrong; it’s just different.

We marry one another because we’re different, and we divorce each other because we’re different. When Barbara and I moved into the empty-nest phase, we discovered that we are much more different than we ever imagined. Here’s the key—your spouse’s differences are new capacities that God has brought to your life to complete you.

Barbara’s an artist and as we began our empty-nest years I told her, “Wherever you go, you make things beautiful.” You see, I didn’t appreciate beauty. I had no idea how beauty reflected the glory of God. Your spouse is God’s added dimension to your life.


17. Marriage and family are redemptive.

Being married to Barbara and having six kids has saved me from toxic self-absorption. The way to have a godly marriage and family is the same path as coming to faith in Christ. It is surrender—giving up your rights to Him first, then to your spouse—serving them.

I have a confession to make. I mistakenly thought that God gave Barbara and me six children so that we could raise them. Now I think that He gave me six children, so He could finish the process of helping me grow up. Nothing has taught me more about self-sacrifice and following God’s Word than loving and leading my children.


18. A man’s wife is his number one disciple. 

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru in the United States), said countless times that a man’s wife should be his number one disciple.

Husbands, help your wife grow as a Christian. It's the smartest thing you could possibly do. When your wife grows in this area, not only does she triumph at life, but you benefit as well.


19. Go near the orphan.

When you go near the orphan, as a couple, you go near the Father’s heart. Barbara and I went near the orphan, and we adopted one of our six children. I’ve learned more about the Father’s heart through adoption—of choosing a child and unconditional love. This is pure and undefiled religion.


20. Make your home a storm shelter.

I grew up in southwest Missouri and spent many a night in a cellar, down with the potatoes and green beans. It was a musty smelling place. I was down there trying to dodge a tornado that never hit.

In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus compares two builders of two homes—both in storms. We should get a clue from that: We’re going to build our marriage, our family, our home in the midst of storm warnings, floods, wind, and rain.

Barbara nearly died on four different occasions; she had a heart rate of more than 300 beats a minute. I often imagined life as a single dad, until we got her heart problem fixed. And then there was a 13-year-old son, our athletic son, who was stricken with a rare neurological disorder. There was a prodigal. There was the day my dad died. There were short paychecks in ministry. There were challenges in my ministry—all kinds of issues with people.

Your marriage covenant is more than just saying, “I do,” for a lifetime. It is for better and for worse.

Make your home a storm shelter—a safe place to go in a storm.

40 Lesson From 40 Years of Marriage: Part 2 of 4

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