Marriage is a test of faith

By Debra Whittington: QCS Religion Columnist

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Shirley and R.H. Hale, good friends and mentors of many others, and ours reached a milestone last week as they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

In a society like ours today where couples are divorcing at an alarming rate, this is an outstanding accomplishment. One statistic I heard stated that there are as many divorces for Christian couples as non-Christians. This breaks my heart to think about so when a couple reaches a milestone like Shirley and R.H., it is definitely something worth celebrating.

Two Sundays ago, a large number of their family, including their children was in church together to worship. It was a wonderful witness of the example Shirley and R.H. set for their family from the beginning of their marriage. Their family includes three children, seven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and another great-grandchild on the way.

I later asked R.H. what was the secret of their marriage and what advice he would give to others. He responded, “Shirley and I put the Lord in charge of everything.”

He went on to say that they learned there were times they had to put “self” aside to do what the Lord wanted for not only their marriage, but also their entire lives.

R.H. acknowledged that a lot of people don’t live long enough to celebrate 60 years and consider the time he has with Shirley as a blessing. That blessing began when they met in college and became engaged while R.H. served in the military in the Pacific during World War II. They were married on March 3, 1946, a Sunday afternoon right after R.H. got out of the service after 22 months apart. Now, 60 years later, the couple looks ahead to whatever the Lord has for them.

Mark and I are looking forward to our 30th anniversary this spring and I try to imagine what it would be like to be married twice that amount of time.

There are times when it seems I have been married all my life and other times it is as though we exchanged our vows only yesterday. One of the things I learned over the years was not to take each other for granted.

It is the little things we do for each other every day that shows our love for one another. Those little acts of love and kindness add up and mean more to me than expensive gifts. (Although I do appreciate the gifts Mark gives to me, even the practical ones like a coffee grinder.)

Whether a couple has been married sixty years, thirty years, one year, or are planning to get married this year, it is important to stay focused on the One who designed marriage and place Him first in their marriage. Sometimes young couples expect too much from marriage and aren’t prepared to take that first step.

That is why I think pre-marital counseling is so important to help prepare them for what lies ahead.

For couples that are already married, there are numerous opportunities to improve their marriage.

Reading the Bible together, praying daily together and attending church together are all ways to grow closer to not only one another, but to the Lord as well.

There are numerous helpful resources available as well including Christian books, videos, classes, and marriage retreat weekends. Last fall, Mark and I taught a class titled, “Experiencing God for Couples,” and through the preparation together, I think we learned twice as much as those who attended. For the last 22 years, we have attended a marriage enrichment retreat at Glorieta. It is a wonderful time to get away alone together and every time, we learn something valuable to help improve our marriage.

While concluding our conversation, I told R.H. how he and Shirley are such an inspiration to us and how much they mean to us. How they have lived their lives and their words of wisdom from experience are a testimony to all of us for a long, happy marriage.