Thursday, June 21, 2018

52 Years of Friendship

50 Years of Marriage - June 15, 2018
I was much younger then.  Just a kid really.  Standing at one end of a gymnasium with my roommate in my second year at a small Midwestern college.  Assessing the first year female students when I leaned my head in the direction of Dale and mutter, "See that blond girl over there?  In the purple pants?  I'm going to date her this year."

Arrogant.  Okay, minimally cocky.  Presumptuous. Young.  Just a boy really.

There was no thought of a budding relationship that would grow and develop into a half century of covenant that would be the most important human relationship of my life.

Her name was Pamela Jean Wilson.  From Dixon, Illinois.  Petite.  Cute. A bit aloof.  With a boyfriend back home.

But, just like Adam had with Eve all those years ago, I had that same "Wow!" attraction that would motivate me to climb any mountain, swim any sea, overcome any opposition, and remove any obstacle so that Pam and Paul would become an item.

And we have.  I'm not really sure how we reached this milestone of 52 years of friendship and 50  years of marriage, but here we are.  The view over my shoulder is radically different from the one I had looking forward in September of 1966.

I don't think about it much until someone remarks that they want a marriage like Pam and I share.  But, yes, with all of my brokenness and our challenges through the years, this relationship I share with my girlfriend is the best ever.  I can't think of any relationship that is better.

How did we get here?  It can't be the result of two perfect people.  We are each flawed and, like all humans, broken.  We began as two individuals and somehow became one ... without losing our individuality.

I was a typical self-centered male who hadn't yet identified my inner motive to get rather than give.  I knew I had a strong desire to be married to this girl, but I also had a distorted view of leadership ... or at best an undeveloped understanding.

That was then.  This is now.

According to census statistics, only 6% of married couples in America celebrate 50 years together.  It seems safe to say that Pam and I have joined a rather elite group of people. The journey over the past half of century has changed both of us ... radically.  The explanation is simple, somehow.  Let me mention the primary foundation stones that caused this fulfillment.

God's Way

June 15, 1968
What a person believes will affect their thinking resulting in their behavior.  Pam and I believed that God designed the marriage covenant.  Following any other blueprint would result in disaster.  We believe that before we could be the right kind of partner we would have to be the right kind of person.  We believe that it was not a matter of performance/behavior, but heart change.  Man's way never had the capacity to produce what God's way has.  We believe it was a life long covenant ... until death ... which would separate us.  We believe that friendship is the best foundation for marriage.  And we have been best friends through all these years with a commitment to continue to grow as individuals and bring that growth into our relationship.

The Bible is the written revelation of God's way.  It doesn't say much about marriage.  More is said about heaven and hell.  But much more is written about finances.  What God said about marriage initially (Genesis 2:24) must be foundational since it is referred to three other times in Scripture.

Pam and I have found the three foundation stones of marriage to be contained in this single verse.

Leave Your Father & Mother

Pam & me with my Dad on June 15, 2018
We have discovered that we can't go somewhere until we leave somewhere.  We couldn't enter the design of God for marriage until we left our families.  Father and mother stand for family who are part of the community and government.  Most of the really important transitions of life take place in public.  Baptism, graduation, awards, and other recognitions are never a private affair.

One author has said, "Leaving is the price for happiness."  There needs to be a very distinct transaction similar to the cutting of the umbilical cord when an infant "leaves" the womb of the mother and enters a whole new dimension.  There must be a clear separation from one's family so that a marriage covenant can develop and grow up.  If there is no real leaving, the relationship will be in trouble. 

Leaving does not imply the end of relationships with family, but it is a clear separation of dependence.  Pam and I live in a nation that has historically practiced the dowry.  This is sometimes used to keep the married couple dependent on the extended family (the clan).

Leaving facilitates cleaving.

Cleave To Each Other

This is the other side of the coin of a marriage covenant.  Leaving not simply implied, but clearly stated in a public and legal ceremony.  There is a giving of the families and a receiving by the couple.  That is one side of the coin.

The other side is the cleaving ... the more intimate and personal component.

I remember when I studied this word "cleave" because it was not a commonly used word in my English language.  It was an English rendering of a Hebrew word that meant to stick to, to paste, or be glued to another person.  Those meanings indicate that to separate what has been pasted or glued together is going to be difficult and painful.

The consequence of being welded together is that husband and wife are closer to each other than anyone else in the world.  Pam was 800 miles from her parents and I was more than a thousand miles from my parents.  We had each other.  We were closer to each other than anyone.  She was 19 and I was 21 when we wedded.  We grew up together.  Best friends.

Cleaving is not the result of an emotional expression of love.  Cleaving is the result of a choice ... a commitment ... a resolve to no longer be looking for love because it has already been found.  Love which cleaves is a mature love, regardless of age, which has decided to be faithful ... exclusively faithful to just one person.

Become One

50th Wedding Anniversary
The Bible describes this as "two becoming one flesh."  There are few things as intimate as sexual oneness.  But this oneness goes beyond physical intimacy.  It is oneness of body, soul, and spirit and yet there remains two different persons.

In the nation of Uganda a period at the end of a sentence is referred to as "a full stop."  But, in Uganda most unions between a man and woman seldom have a full stop behind them.  It's more likely there is a comma or a space that leaves a room for adultery and divorce and multiple wives.  All of these fly in the face of oneness.  One is singular and that is what God intended in the covenant of marriage.

The book of Proverbs declares that the beginning of wisdom (the skill of living life) is the fear of the Lord.  Fearing the Lord meant that Pam and I fully embraced God's design for marriage and not some aberration developed by man.  These three elements compose our respect and awe of God.  Responding to them and embracing them is our expression of respect for God's way.

Since I am only going to celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary only once, I want to lengthen this blog to include a couple of other necessary elements Pam and I have utilized in assisting our relationship to be lifelong and fulfilling.

DTR - Define The Relationship

One of the genuine enemies of a covenant relationship is living life by default and not intention.  It is so easy to take a relationship for granted ... to coast on yesterday's words and demonstrations of commitment and love.  It has been helpful to define the relationship on a continual basis.

Half a century?
On our 25th Wedding Anniversary Pam and I sat high about the Columbia River, on the Washington state side, and talked at length about what we liked and didn't like about our first 25 years together.  Then we talked about our next 25 years together and what we hoped to see emerge from them.  It was an intentional discipline to have integrity with each other about the character of our relationship.

A healthy relationship is a two way exchange.  We have often told those we mentor that a good marriage requires two givers and two forgivers.  There are three basic questions that help define a relationship.
  1. What do I give to this relationship?
  2. What do I receive from this relationship?
  3. What do I take from this relationship?
Pam and I decided, though some people are takers in relationships and no more, we wanted to out give each other and learn to receive from each other.  And, to make sure that the perspective of the other is what we want to respond to rather than being rigid with our own.  This helps us resist being mostly a consumer in marriage rather than a distributor.

The best relationships are intentional.  The best relationships are the result of constant personal growth and change.

And ... now ... a word about love.

Danny Silk in his book, Keep Your Love Ondoes a fantastic job of laying our three themes of healthy relationships:  (1) Communication, (2) Connection, and (3) Setting Boundaries.

Love is a choice to stay connected.  Everything we do or say will either connect us or disconnect us from other people.  There is a need in every relationship to learn some skills which will result in connection.  The place to begin is to communicate love consistently in ways that others can hear and receive.

A person may feel love for another person, but that love may be the best kept secret ever.  What Pam and I do must constantly communicate is "I love you."  I must make sure that Pam believes that my relationship with her is really, really important to me.  There must be no doubt in her mind that I love her.  She must know and believe that I care for her like no other.  Without these constant connections anxiety begins to grow and we will begin to get scared and fear will replace love.

Love is composed of three essential elements: (1) Commitment, (2) action, and (3) result.

Danny Silk writes that commitment is communicating "I care about you and value you ... all of you.  I care about your soul, spirit, body, relationships, dreams, and destiny."  The action part of love is the demonstration of care and value in many ways and many situations.  And the result of these actions is that the person feels loved.

May dad taught me a principle concerning life.  He said, "When you are green you will grow.  But, when you are ripe you will rot."  Pam and I are still green after all these years together.  We are still in change mode.  Still learning ourselves and each other.  Still being intentional.  Still genuine and transparent with each other.  Still learning from each other.  Consequently, we love our lives and delight that we are making this journey of life with each other.

1 comment:

  1. Your reference to the small percentage of couples reaching their 50th anniversary reminds me of a comment George Burns made as he approached age 100 -- "I'll have it made when I reach that point because I've read that very few people die at that age."


Please share your comments here.