This was the view from our table at a lovely little restaurant overlooking the Russian River as it meets the Pacific Ocean in Jenner, California. Sunday night’s dinner was a fitting conclusion to a four-day weekend spent in celebration of thirty years of marriage.
Traveling and celebrating with us were our friends Paul and Margaret who were married exactly one week before we were. The four of us sampled local cuisine, traveled the vineyard valleys on rented bikes, hiked through Redwood forests, explored beaches and soaked in a hot tub under the stars.
During our hike through the Redwoods of Armstrong Woods, as we admired the longevity of huge trees that have survived for centuries, we asked ourselves what it takes for a marriage to survive, grow, and even flourish for decades. Three, to be exact.
Paul recommended marrying your best friend. He and Margaret still have a great time together. They hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon this summer, and then they hiked back up the next day. It takes a strong marriage to survive that! For some added practical advice, Paul recommends investing in a GPS.
Dan and I recently recognized the importance of allowing one’s spouse to grow. We discovered this rather painfully in the aftermath of, well, a massive fight. (Sometimes big blow-ups are nasty but necessary relationship re-sets.) We had been interpreting each others’ actions through twenty-year-old filters, not recognizing that we had outgrown some of our former behaviors and attitudes.
Therefore, our recommendation is to give your spouse the freedom to grow by re-calibrating your expectations of his or her behavior when you notice rough edges becoming smoother or that expected negative tendencies are not so frequently on display. We’re working on applying our own advice.
Dan and I are not the same people we were thirty years ago. (Thank God. I mean that very literally.) I was just emerging from my Mr. Magoo years, and Dan had not yet met his Savior. Hopefully most of us change and grow throughout our adult years; the trick is to grow in the same direction. That’s a subject for another day.
We watched the sun set for a full hour over dinner on Sunday night. Each scene was more spectacular than the previous one. The view before us changed in depth and design while remaining essentially the same in form and content. Kind of like a marriage.
The intensity of a marriage eventually fades, but new colors emerge to create a more interesting and nuanced portrait. Our server commented that Sunday’s sunset was exceptional because there were clouds in the sky. Maybe that is a helpful thought when we feel oppressed by clouds in our marriage, for clouds of conflict and difficulty are the perfect medium for a stunning display of light.
The later stages of our Sunday sunset were the most spectacular. The sun itself was no longer even visible, but its light reflected brilliantly in the sky and clouds above. Same scene, same sun, same clouds. Unique beauty in each stage.
What does it take for a marriage to survive? The grace of God and His light illuminating our relationship and circumstances.
But we need to do our part too. I’d love to hear your ideas for sustaining a marriage. Suggestions?
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6