What exactly do married couples build into a marriage? After our decades together, here are some of our thoughts.
TRUST. We knew each other very well when, on December 20, 1947, we made lifetime pledges of love and loyalty. Mutual trust was real from the outset. But beyond engagement, marriage is a fully shared life and the mutual trust had to be applied in a whole variety of new experiences. Putting that initial trust to the test enriched it.
SHARED FAITH. For us, marriage has been a prayer-based life together. From our first days in our one-room apartment, each morning after breakfast I would read a portion of Scripture and then we both prayed, committing our precious union to the Lord. It was at first a learning experience, but a practice we have continued to this day.
FAMILY. Marriage is solid ground for the building of a family. Our daughter, Carolyn, arrived ten days before our first anniversary. We were young and declared that we would incorporate our first child into our youthful lifestyle. But reality dictated otherwise. So we reshaped our program to fit the new reality. We had now to address the task of building a family.
Eventually there were four children — Carolyn, Donald, Robert and our youngest, John David, our special needs child. For John David, family adjustments had to be made and as months rolled into years necessary changes were painful. We made them together. We would not let our heartache adversely affect the wholesome development of the three older children.
We continued to build a family with the children God had given us — enlarged over time to include our children’s spouses, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren.
REPUTATION. Marriage is a challenge for the building of a reputation. This is unavoidable. What do growing children see from the inside? What do onlookers see from the outside? Do they all see a strong and stable marriage? Is it bound together by a durable love?
Do we continue to respect one another even in stressful times? Christian marriage is about more than personal happiness. It is also, inescapably, about building a reputation that can serve as a beacon to couples nearby who may still struggle.
AN ESTATE. Marriage involves the building of an estate. “Estate” doesn’t mean a fortune. It means whatever joint possessions have come into being through the shared work and careful accumulations of husband and wife together. Estate may be only a bungalow and a modest bank account. Or it may be additional possessions, savings and investments.
In this area, Kathleen and I build with three purposes in mind: personal security for the closing years of our lives; gifts of love to leave the children; and something to bequeath to Christian causes we have supported in life and wish to continue to support after we have gone to be with the Lord.
To think of marriage as a lifetime building project gives long-range perspective. It puts the present moment into a grander framework. And it keeps our thinking about the future unfogged by pressures that come and go in our day-to-day life together.