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Happy marriages go beyond simple strategy
What can you say about a society that says
God is dead and Elvis is alive?
— Irv Kupcinet
I think Elvis was a whole lot of fun to watch during his younger years. I recently downloaded a couple of his songs onto my iPod and this week my son caught me singing out loud with Elvis as I vacuumed the downstairs. Elvis’ status as a cultural icon, along with the world’s continual fascination with the minute details of his life so long after his passing, eludes me however.
God granted him good looks, talent and opportunity, yet Elvis allowed excess to rule his life rather than the pure love of his craft. Eventually, it seems, he was unable to manage the fame and the money and the available females in positive ways. He died in a most tragic fashion: ill, drug-addicted and emotionally alone.
It’s been reported his daughter has recently given birth to twins. As the daughter of a deceased father, I know this to be a brutal reality: In our most blissful moments, no matter our ages, we’d give nearly anything to share these moments with our dads.
Not only are many of the personal facts we know about Elvis unfortunate, but so is the message believed by so many: That a couple cannot possibly fall in love, marry, build a family, then sustain a happy marriage as “empty nesters” until death parts them.
Most people head into marriage with high expectations, but 50 percent or better stall out somewhere along the way. I listened to an interview with an evolutionary biologist who provided her take on this phenomena. She cited her studies of testosterone levels, how they change in response to big life events, predictably differ in accordance with male and female social behaviors, and influence our lives. It was fascinating, but didn’t provide any ways for us to override their effects.
Testosterone aside, many married couples are unprepared for the hard work or get too focused on their children or careers and allow their marriages to die from neglect. Others grow disenchanted when the continual challenges of everyday life seem to dissolve the high of newfound love.
It is when married couples experience long, dark stretches in their relationships that many begin to view their marriages as too sick to heal. They embrace the “fresh start” approach. They do not realize, or are unwilling to discover, that amazing human growth frequently happens in the midst of trial and tribulation. Human beings can grow stronger when the wind is blowing. Marriages can recover and improve.
I long ago asked Christ to enter my life because I understood I do not possess the knowledge, wisdom, patience, strength and endurance to live well on my own. As a young 22-year-old bride, I was unable to foresee all that would challenge us throughout our marriage, but I did understand I could not stay married without including God’s love.
This approach to married life goes well beyond a simple outlook, strategy or philosophy. To ask God to be part of your marriage is to ask him to participate, inter-relate, influence and bond you and your spouse on a daily basis.
How do you move to these levels with God? Some days easily, joyfully, wondrously. I anticipate experiencing these feelings of overflowing joy in the coming weeks when I vacation with my family aboard a giant ship surrounded by warm, turquoise seas. As I play with my husband and children it’ll be easy to detect the blessing. We dreamed about such a trip, planned long and hard for it, and will give credit to God for helping us make the dream a reality.
But the trip will end and we will have to return to the realities of our daily lives. We will be faced with managing our personal finances inside a volatile financial marketplace, walking family and friends through medical crisis, counseling children as they make important life choices, discovering ways to better communicate with our neighbors and coworkers and each other.
It is these and a multitude of other circumstances that Christians ask for the living God to draw near. And we do this by setting our alarm clocks early to pray. We complicate already busy schedules with Bible study because God’s wisdom is spoken through the Bible and fellow believers. We get ourselves to corporate worship programs and pray as a group because God promises he will be present. We volunteer and experience inspiration.
When we actively look and act, our eyes begin to see God’s daily touch.
May we stop simply living by natural impulse and ask God to be a spiritual reality this week as we look into the faces of our spouses, searching for love and companionship and passion. May God be direct. May he be real. May he be obvious and stand out in love and hope, apart from our worries. May he help us live deeper and better because our spouses deserve the best in us and we cannot possibly live well on our own.
Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.