The Greatest Gift - Three Keys to a Healthy Marriage

Last May Bonnie and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. I thought it might be great if I planned a surprise family dinner to mark the occasion. It seems fate had other plans as Bonnie ended up in the hospital instead with a bad blood infection. Still, I bought the biggest bouquet of flowers that I could find along with a box of her favorite chocolates and headed up to the hospital to spend the day with her. I knew it was not what we had planned but it did not matter because as we shared the box of chocolates while laughing at the small square TV in her room we found an extraordinary gift still binding us together. It was love.

It is hard to say nowadays what makes a marriage last it seems. So many times I hear about how couples are drifting a part for this reason or the next; in most cases it seems because they express it has just become to hard to "make it work". Maybe that is the point though; you can't make love work. You can only wait for the precious instances in which you experience it between each other and celebrate in those moments.

After ten years of marriage myself I still find comfort reflecting on three keys which the Apostle Paul gives in 1 Corinthians13:13. He says, "So know faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

I don’t think Paul meant faith in a religious sense; but rather faith as the relational tension between two people. In the Biblical sense faith is defined between two Hebraic and Greek understandings. In one sense it is about what I know and understand about my wife and who she is. While in the other sense it is about the way I act and speak about and towards my wife. To put it in short, when I consider my marriage in all situations and places; I place my thoughts and actions entirely upon my integrity. As Oliver Cromwell once said, “Subtlety may deceive you; integrity never will.”

The second key of hope is closely expressed with the passions of dreaming and sharing my aspirations with Bonnie while sharing in one another’s gifts and talents. Like the tensions in faith there are times when I recognize Bonnie might seem like she is drifting away with different pursuits and enthusiasms. Likewise there are times I might be doing the same. It is in these moments when I begin to feel like there is this emotional elastic which is stretching between us and the further apart it stretches the more I feel like it just might snap. I don’t consider this sort of tension in our relationship a bad thing though and nor do I think that it must be resolved in the immediacy of our awareness of it.

However, at some point I always recognize this as a sort of calling to strive after Bonnie; to act in faithfulness, find interest in her talents, passions, and giftings while wanting to participate in her hopes, goals, and pursuits. Believe me; it’s not always easy as she seems to always have me cutting the onions in her latest recipe! But the rewards from sharing are hopes and dreams always balance out the work put into them.

Ahhh the rewards! I suppose this is the key to these moments when I recognize the real gifts I receive when I am faithful and pursue hopes with my wife Bonnie. Love cannot be created. Love is a treasured gift that is found through faithful action and inspired relational hope. I didn’t really make love happen, I just seem to recognize how it shows up between us as we live life together. As one person puts it, “Marriage is not finding the right person; it is being the right person.”

Yes; if you were paying attention to the grammar I used above I did say “gifts” in the plural sense of love as I have come to see each one of these expressional moments as separate, unique, and new every time I encounter them. It is what makes them special and something which only I can recognize and cherish. I live for these moments when they come in bundles and when they seem so far a part as Joseph Addison puts it by saying, “Mysterious love, uncertain treasure, Hast thou more of pain or pleasure! . . . . Endless torments dwell above thee: Yet who would live, and live without thee!”

I wish you all a Happy Valentines Day that you might all live Faithfully, strive Hopefully, and encounter the greatest gifts of all – the gift of Love!