The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Marriage (and a winner!)

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It was the way his eyes kept returning to hers as he answered questions from reporters. And how he kept referring to her when mentioning key decisions and actions in his life—like she was a full partner in all these things. Then, when reporters asked former U. S. President Jimmy Carter questions provoking reflection on his life, he said, smiling, glancing her way again, “Well the best thing I ever did was marrying Rosalynn.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about him. This man who met with the world to tell us he has cancer—in his brain, no less—and to answer questions that are really none of our business? He seemed as smitten with his wife of sixty-nine years as a newlywed. Maybe more so.

Sixty-nine years.

And he says it’s the best thing he’s ever done.

After watching that news conference, I go for a run and I do what I always do when feet pound the pavement, I pray. I am thinking about Jimmy and Rosalynn and I pray for my friends with broken marriages. I’ve been a runner since I was thirteen, since seventh grade track, and there are still hard days. But I can increase the chances of good days if I work harder on it. It is something I cannot let up on if I want to get better. It’s something that requires disciplined attention. The constant up and down keeps me moving forward, keeps me growing and trying.

Why do we give up on our marriages?

I always shy away from writing about marriage because, well, who am I? I am careful with the waggling finger because I know my life, my marriage has not been through the fullness of time. There have been seasons when we thought of giving up. And there have been seasons when I thought we’d finally made it, only to be blindsided by an unexpected turn in the course. And there are always those special circumstances. There are the destructive relationships that some must flee for safety. I would never want my words to discourage that. Then there are those who have been left behind, through no choice of their own. Careless words can add to the heartbreak. But as I run, and endorphins crescendo, I feel anger. Anger at the unfaithful one, anger at the one who lets love diminish, anger at the ways we trade commitment for what feels good in the moment and ignore the possibility of enjoying what Jimmy Carter called “a good, harmonious family” in our old age. I feel anger at myself for neglecting my love, letting so many other things displace it on my schedule.

It’s not easy. A good marriage is something that requires disciplined attention. How do we make living out the days with the spouse of our youth a beautiful journey, a grand adventure? How do we make it to the place where we say it’s the best thing I’ve ever done?

Jimmy and Rosalynn know this: To stay close to our spouse we have to stay close to Jesus.

The truth is, the moments may be boring. In the scope of life, they may not have much impact on the course of things or the decisions we make. But learning to live well in ordinary time isn’t a call to elevate moments; it’s a call to draw close to Christ. What gives moments meaning is not the moments themselves but the presence of Christ with us in the midst of them.”~Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

I must remember that in my body, heaven and earth embrace. Because our marriages are a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church, I will follow his heart. I will not give up. On the hard days, I will seek love like seeking a hidden treasure. And on the good days, I will link arms with my beloved and celebrate our life together. I will fail. Because, unlike Christ’s, my love is not perfect. So I will remember the cord of three strands. I will draw near to Jesus. Because one day, I hope to say, “This is the best thing I ever did.

The winner of Karen Swallow Prior’s Fierce Convictions (and a few other of my favorite reads) is: Denise! Yay! Congratulations, my friend! I’ll be in touch.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Laura, these words are so wise:”To stay close to our spouse we have to stay close to Jesus” and I only wish I’d followed them earlier. Yet God has graciously granted my beloved and I forty (hard and challenging) years of union where He is increasingly coming to the centre of all we are and do. And the difference is amazing. We love one another more fully and freely than before. Thank you for your insights here. Blessings. 🙂

    • says

      Forty years! A wonderful milestone to celebrate. These words are so encouraging: “We love one another more fully and freely than before.” I am anticipating the sweetness to grow richer and deeper with each year.

    • says

      Thank you, Diana. I hope you are all settled in your new place! I hear that such a move is one of the biggest marital stressors, while we’re on that topic. Hugs to you as you make a new home.

  2. says

    Your words pick my heart on so many levels. The hardness of life with the love of my life, the call to keep trying as a runner. Year 18 was the year I wanted to say no, the year I let my head and heart marinate in words like divorce. But God. Our union isn’t perfect but I see God’s fingerprints all over it. It’s worth the work and every bit of my attention. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s run. I’ll take your words with me.

  3. Paula Gamble says

    This is lovely, Laura! I relate in so many ways with running since I was a young girl and how that relates to the ups and downs of marriage. You’re so right, both take work, but the work is well worth it even when it seems we’re not going anywhere. The miles build upon each other creating stronger muscles so we can endure for the long stretch and climb up the mountains – step by step. Reminds me of that insane hill at Laity we climbed together. The hills make us stronger. Blessings to you today, sweet friend. 💟

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