My parents and my husband Calvin’s parents met for the first time over a lobster dinner, two nights before our May 12 wedding. That was thirty-two years ago, but I still remember my apprehension. Our two worlds were colliding there at my mother-in-law’s sprawling dining room table.
If you had asked me then, I’d have had plenty to say about marriage. At twenty-seven, I’d seen enough terrible marriages to have inspired a holy fear of “doing it wrong,” sentencing both of us to a life of joint misery. As a single woman, I had done extensive “field research”–even though I had never really expected to be married.
What Story Do You Want to Be Able to Tell?
Many years later, the cross-country road trip we took with four kids, a mini-van, and a big tent would furnish one crucial guiding principle for a successful marriage. About a third of the way across the country, weary of feuding brothers in close quarters, we were ready to throw in the towel and come home. One thought sent us westward with renewed resolve: What story did we want to be able to tell about this trip when it was all over?
Did we want to remember the trip as an abandoned dream? As it happened, we actually made it! We put up with each other, we saw a lot of beauty together, and now, our roadtrip becomes a better memory every year.
I’m thankful that it’s a memory of persevering with one another in hope rather than giving up and embracing failure. And so the question emerged, and it’s still with me: What story do you want to be able to tell?
Of course, at that time I had not formulated any guiding questions. I was fully immersed in the crisis of the moment. And certainly, the principle was no where to be found in the mind of that up-tight bride the day we recited the vows that made us “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).
Marriage is a gift I had neither the optimism nor the good sense to pray for, but thirty-two years into the project, I’m still asking myself the same guiding question: What story do you want to be able to tell?
I’ll offer it to you now in the form of some very specific goals:
Do you want to hold the trust of your husband’s heart? Decide today that you will not berate him, talk down to him, complain about him, or betray his confidence. Treat your husband as if he were your “neighbor” as Jesus defined the term in the Gospels.
Do you want true intimacy with your husband? Establish a climate of total honesty with no secrets or shady behavior. Pray together.
Do you want to have an easy rapport with your husband after the kids have moved out? Start today by having open conversations during which you both talk and listen. If there’s a complaint or correction on your tongue, ask yourself if it really deserves airtime. Bend over backwards to find common interests and shared passions–even if it means someone has to learn a new hobby or skill.
Daily Grace for Your Marriage
As “heirs together of the grace of life,” you are both recipients of the very thing that will lubricate the relational gears that make life together possible. Here on this country hill, grace continues to facilitate the merger of two very different people who came to marriage from two very different backgrounds. So I’ll continue to ask the question: What story do I want to be able to tell?
And then I’ll look even further ahead and ask: What story do I want my kids and grandkids to be able to tell about our marriage? When their marriages hit a rough spot, I want them to remember that we persevered through financial pressures, health challenges, family crises, and the sandpaper of every day life. I want them to remember that we loved one another well, that we have been a united front and a refuge for them.
As we celebrate thirty-two years together next week, what advice do you have for us?
What goals do you have for your own marriage and what seems to be working well for you?
I think it’s worth saying here that marriage is nothing like what I expected it to be.
It’s infinitely better.
Marriage is a gift I had neither the optimism nor the good sense to pray for, but thirty-two years into the project, I’m still asking myself the same guiding question: What story do you want to be able to tell?Tweet
And Now Let’s Talk Books…
I’ve never had a big brother, but if the role were subject to referendum, I’d vote for Bob Goff in a heartbeat. The truth is that I have purposely avoided Goff’s work until now, having consigned it to a genre I’ve named “perky self-help books.” It wasn’t until I heard him interviewed on the Welcome Heart podcast that I realized I might be missing out on a good thing.
One glorious discovery from Undistracted is that it’s not only NetFlix or the daily Wordle that’s stealing our attention from what’s important. A distraction is anything that keeps me from doing what I was meant to do–to “live a life loaded with legacy.”
I was delighted with Goff’s suggestion that I could actually “dazzle God” somehow with my little life, and I thought, “He’s right!” God is dazzled when his children “open the unique gift God wrapped” in us; when we “stop thinking we need a different ticket from the one [we’ve] already got”; when we “find the work he has given [us] and do it until the job is done.”
Perhaps the biggest gift from Bob Goff’s story is that he knows when to quit, and he’s not afraid to do it. He left behind a successful law practice to pursue his passion for encouraging people. When he became a grandfather, he cancelled seventy-two speaking engagements because he didn’t want to miss a moment with those priceless grandkids. This feels so affirming to my own personal choice to work as a substitute teacher instead of getting a “real job”– just so that I can be available to my kids and grandkids.
Perhaps most important for the evangelical community of my heart is this: “Most disagreeable people out there don’t think they are mean. They think they are right.” Whether or not you already have a big brother, you will benefit from Bob Goff’s warm counsel and engaging stories.
Holding You in the Light,
It’s not only NetFlix or the daily Wordle that’s stealing our attention from what’s important. A distraction is anything that keeps me from “living a life loaded with legacy.” @bobgoff #Undistracted via @ThomasNelsonTweet
A New Free Resource…
Curiosity has been my strange companion since my recent diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease, so I’ve created a resource to invite you into curiosity along with me! God is not some grumpy parent, silencing his children and condemning our questions.
This line of thinking sent me on a biblical scavenger hunt for questions posed by the Bible’s authors. What were they asking and how should this affect the questions I’m asking and the way my curiosity is framed?
To receive your copy of “Half a Dozen Biblical Questions for Entering (and Enduring) Hard Times” simply enter your email and then click on the button below…
Many thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.
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