My husband, John, and I recently celebrated 32 years of marriage together. This article which I wrote for Lookout Magazine describes the long-term marriages of people we’ve known who have reflected Godly patience while living together. I post it here with hopes it will help other couples stay married. I just wish I had photos of all of them.
My friend Sandy works for a large national business firm. Several times each year, she and other colleagues at the same firm are required to attend seminars in other cities. This means staying overnight for the meetings. Recently while we were talking, Sandy confided that on her last several trips, she had noticed something that made her uncomfortable.
Several of her colleagues seemed to be flirting with employees of the opposite sex from firms in other parts of the country who were attending the same meeting.
Having worked at her firm for several years, Sandy knew most of her colleagues were married. Finally, after watching this take place for several hours one evening, Sandy approached one of the men who had spent considerable time talking to women individually in a corner of the room. “Dan,” she said when he had ambled to the food table, “I notice you’re not wearing your wedding ring. Have you lost it?”
As Sandy related the incident to me later, Dan stammered a reply, saying he had taken it off to pack and forgot to put it back on his finger. While the encounter seemed to dampen Dan’s enthusiasm for a short time after he walked away, it did not quell it completely. Sandy noticed Dan and a female employee from another firm leaving the party together at the end of the evening, his hand on the small of her back.
Although some people might disregard my friend’s attempt to confront Dan in front of others as rude behavior, she said her goal was not to embarrass him but to encourage him to think about what he was doing to his marriage. During our conversation, she asked me a rhetorical question, “What do people expect from relationships based outside of marriage? Love for a lifetime?”
“What do people expect from relationships based outside of marriage? Love for a lifetime?”
Why remain faithful to a spouse?
Unfortunately, people do not have to take overnight business trips to sabotage their marriage.
The AshleyMadisonAgency in Toronto markets itself online to married men and women who want to have an affair with the slogan: “when monogamy becomes monotony.”
While it may not seem vogue in society to stay faithful in marriage, the Bible commands it. God thought so much of the union of marriage that he established it as a witness for the sanctity of one’s relationship with the Lord:
“For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” (Isaiah 54:5)
“Return, faithless people,” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband. (Jeremiah 3:14)
“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.” (Hosea 2:19-20)
“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.” (John 3:29)
In other words, a marriage is a holy institution between the bride and bridegroom. Outsiders are not welcome!
A marriage is a holy institution between the bride and bridegroom. Outsiders are not welcome!
Respect your spouse
Listening to the words of Christian couples who have been married for many years to the same person can help the rest of us understand the importance of this union and learn to implement this reverence into our own marriages.
Dr. Wes and Mary Gerig from Fort Wayne, Indiana, were married from 1952-2012 (sadly Mary died this year). Dr Wes taught Bible courses at Taylor University-Fort Wayne (formerly Fort Wayne Bible College) for 51 years.
It might seem to have been easy staying married while living in a Christian atmosphere, but both of the Gerigs admit they had challenges during their five and a half decades together.
During the week when the whole family was together, Wes and Mary involved the children in family devotions each morning after breakfast. “It was brief because everyone had to leave to go places,” says Wes. “But we read from a children’s Bible and prayed together as a family.” Today, the kids are grown and live around the world with their families, but Mary says they still call to ask for prayer.
Raising four children on a professor’s salary was not easy. Wes often earned extra income by filling in for area pastors who had to be away from their pulpits on Sundays. To create a regular routine for the children Mary stayed home and took them to the same church each Sunday.
Get pre-marital counseling
The Gerigs advise couples who come for pre-marital counseling to consider the value of having similar backgrounds. “We both came from missions-minded families and that helped us believe the same about tithing and serving,” says Mary. Wes’ father had been a pastor and Mary had grown up on a mission field in Peru, South America.
Another similarity the couple shared was a love for travel. After the children were older, Mary accompanied Wes when he was asked to preach at churches around the world in countries like Israel, Haiti, Jamaica, Ecuador, Philippines, Taiwan and the DR. The Gerigs have also made several trips to Japan and Russia where two of their children serve with their families as missionaries.
The important thing, they say, to having a long-term marriage is to have fun together and respect each other’s differences. “We consider ourselves a team,” says Wes. “God is the central part of our marriage. We live by the Bible and its principles and encourage our children and grandkids to do the same.”
We consider ourselves a team,” says Wes. “God is the central part of our marriage.
Go to church together
Bob and Evelyn Sprinkle of Bluffton, Indiana, have been married since 1943. Both were still teenagers when they wed in Evelyn’s home in Markle. Unable to afford their own home, the couple moved in with Bob’s family before renting a farm and homestead to live in on their own a few years later. They later became parents to a daughter and son. Larry Sprinkle, their son, is pastor of First Church of Christ in Bluffton.
The Sprinkles believe attending church regularly helped their marriage (Bob eventually became a Sunday school teacher and elder; Evelyn played the piano and organ). Even when they owned a nursing home and later a motel, they made an effort to be in church each Sunday as a couple.
“Nothing stopped us,” says Bob. “We hired people to work for us who didn’t attend church. We would have sold the business rather than have to miss church on a regular basis.” (Bob Sprinkle has passed away since this article was published).
My own parents were married 47 years before Dad died of an aortic aneurysm in 2005. Mom was 29and Dad, 32, when they married. Mom told me recently she thinks this helped them in their marriage. “We had lived several years on our own and we knew we wanted to be with each other,” she says.
Even though they had separate careers — Mom as a hospital lab technician and Dad as a farmer and small businessman – they managed to raise three daughters. Dad encouraged Mom to obtain her Masters degree in elementary education which she did. When he began working on Amtrak and was gone much of the time, Mom raised the three of us alone (I’m ashamed to say I gave her the most trouble!).
Don’t consider divorce
Though their personalities varied greatly (she liked to play games; he preferred working with tools), they came together in great ways. Mom always took us to church and kept us involved with church youth groups. Dad attended church when he was home and participated in hosting missionaries in our home. Despite occasionally getting mad at each other, she assured me recently the word “divorce” was never spoken in our home.
Coincidentally, my husband of 32 years was raised on a dairy farm five miles from where I grew up, though we didn’t know each other until I was in high school. Though the farm work was tough, John grew up seeing his parents work through difficulties. I’m convinced this stick-to-it-iveness, as well as both of our parents’ refusal to consider divorce, has helped us maintain our loving relationship.
It may not be easy staying faithful to a spouse in these days, but by examining the lives of those who have done it, we can see that it is possible and reflects a holy living. Evelyn Sprinkle may have summed up the thoughts of many married couples when she said, “We knew what God expected of us and we obeyed him. He blessed us because of it.”