Christmas Greetings to my readers near and far! This is a season of both joy and hope — joy that Messiah has come and hope that through him the long term future is assured.
A shared note: This week Kathleen and I have celebrated our 70th Christmas together. Seventy years ago, on December 20, 1947, we stood side by side under a homemade arch in a simple cottage on North Street in Niagara Falls, Ontario. There, we exchanged marriage vows.
We were only 21, and unsophisticated by today’s standards, but the conservative religious backgrounds from which we both came, and the generally positive attitude toward marriage permeating society at the time gave us cultural as well as Christian standards to live by.
Those solemn promises we made under that arch before God and to each other — for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health — we believe made us husband and wife in the sight of both God and man.
We enter our 71st year together knowing that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ guided us faithfully through the past 70 years. And we are confident that He will guide us in the uncharted days ahead.
On several occasions people who learn of the long span of our marriage have asked Kathleen, “What’s the secret?” Her one-word answer has always been the same: “Respect.”
That may at first sound too simple for anything so complex as the “total shared union” marriage turns out to be. The Bible calls it appropriately a “one flesh” union which must mean it involves a shared identity, family responsibilities, resources, sleeping quarters, opinions, successes, and on and on. In a sense, two become one. If respect is lacking, each of these areas of life can become a source of conflict.
We know that after a commitment to mutual respect is made, lots of details are left to be worked out as the relationship grows. Every marriage has its moments of stress, disagreement, disappointment, misunderstanding. The key to a strong, satisfying marriage is to retain respect as the umbrella under which adjustments are made, opinions reconciled, and misunderstandings corrected.
Mutual respect is a good cornerstone on which to build the day-to-day ins-and-outs of this shared life. In a strong marriage there’s much more than respect involved in the relationship, but there’s never less. Disrespect, whether occasional or constant, gradually chokes out love.
The Apostle Paul had it right when he summarized his simple instructions to what may have been a congregation of first generation Christians in the pagan city of Ephesus:
…Each one of you (husbands) should love his wife as himself, and wives should respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:13 CEB). That requires respect shown in both directions for sure.
A blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year to all!!
Photo credit: Kenneth Lu (via flickr.com)