My husband and I are approaching our fiftieth year together and when people see us joking around and laughing together, they usually ask how long we have been married. When we tell them, they want to know our secret. Well, our first secret, which isn’t so secret after all, is that we have built our marriage on the Lord. He has always been our foundation and we have taken our vows before Him seriously. That is not to say that there have not been times when I wanted to throw in the towel, walk away and start a new life without Harry in it. But God just wouldn’t let me do that. He knew that the feelings were fleeting but the commitment was forever.
As I read my devotionals this morning, I realized that one of the reasons that we have been together for so long is that we bear each other’s burdens. When Harry was working on his Master’s degree and having difficulty writing his papers, I had him write them longhand and then typed them for him, editing the grammar errors as I read aloud to him and changed the wording so that his meaning was clear. I did that for two years, complaining some but also realizing that I was helping to make things better for both of us and for our family. Then, many years later, when I had a stroke, Harry took over all of the cooking duties and has continued that to this day. I can still cook and do so when the urge hits me, but my loving husband shouldered the responsibility to make sure that I am getting the nutrition I need for my brain to function as well as possible. We have been partners in raising three children, partners in our many moves and in finding churches. We encourage each other and when one is down or upset about something, we can tell the other and know that we have immediate understanding, concern and prayer.
We know each other well and can sense when something is not quite right and when the other person needs prayer, some time together or an encouraging word. Just a smile helps sometimes. You know, it works for strangers, too, the people you meet out in the world who just need a smile and an encouraging word. I try hard to notice what people are doing well when we are out doing errands and make it a point to compliment them about something, no matter how small. People in the service industry especially get a lot of flack and grief from customers, but I don’t think they hear a lot of positive feedback. It only takes a few seconds to notice how carefully someone is bagging your groceries or how attentive they are to putting in the right cost or even how friendly they are in spite of how tired they must be. Take time to comment and watch how their face lights up, from the inside, because you touched their hearts.
I always used to tell my own children and then my students to be careful not to judge others by the standards we set for ourselves because we don’t know what they are going through. That is another reason that Harry and I have been together for so long. We understand how difficult life is for each other and have worked together to lighten the load instead of adding to it. We have shared our history before we met and we know each other’s story for the last five decades. The hard times…we were there to hold each other up. The fun times…we were there to laugh together. Laughing, crying, embracing, always together. What about those you meet briefly? Do you instantly dislike them because of an outward appearance of a first impression? Do you judge them because of the way they live or the car they drive? Maybe we should all just take a step back and realize that where that person is now is perhaps not where they want to be, but neither is it where they once were. Instead of walking away and being glad that we are not like them, maybe we need to imagine if we were like them and be more compassionate towards them. Jesus never met a stranger that He did not seek to understand their needs and to show them love. How can we not choose to do likewise?
Yes, almost fifty years have passed. Actually, we met on my birthday fifty years ago and got married the following April. But the time seems short to get to know each other, to walk in each others’ shoes and to encourage each other. There are many whom I meet for only a few minutes who need me to understand, to look them in the eyes and to appreciate them for the unique creation that God has made them to be. Why have we been together for almost fifty years? Because of sharing worries and shoes.