Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. –1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT
On October 14, 1974, exactly 45 years ago today … Ray Gamble kissed me for the first time. We had been friends for a couple of years and enjoyed being together. He had come to know Christ as Lord and Savior a few months before that special day, and I’d been thrilled that my friend who used to poke fun at my Christian faith now believed as I did. On that lovely October day, he and I had been roller-skating, one of our favorite activities at that time. As he parked his car in front of my house and we said goodbye, something magical happened. All of a sudden, just like in the movies, we looked at each other differently. We both realized something wonderful was happening here.
And that’s when he kissed me. I got out of the car in a happy daze and walked straight into a bush in my yard. Ha! This November 15 will be our 40th wedding anniversary. So, in honor of that Columbus Day kiss 45 years ago and all the lovely and not-so-lovely days that followed … here’s some marriage advice from someone who still loves the guy who kissed her all those years ago when he was 17 and she was 16.
It’s simple, really. Those passages in the Bible that tell you how to treat others? They all apply to your relationship with your spouse! As I thought about what matters most in our marriage, I came up with four key ingredients based on 1 Corinthians 13. The first letter in each one, when put together, just happens to spell the word pals. Isn’t that our goal? To be pals? Not just enduring but enjoying a lifelong friendship and love.
P is for Politeness. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that love is patient and kind. Not rude, nor demanding our own way. We should not be irritable, keeping a legalistic record of wrongs and letting the memory of them fester and stink. Nope. Won’t make a good marriage. Instead, we are to treat our spouse with great courtesy and kindness. When he wants to tell the same joke or discuss his favorite topic again, we practice patience and we listen. That’s what love does. What a shame that we are so often kinder and more patient with strangers than we are with the one we promised to love all the days of our lives. Let’s be courteous in our speech and actions in our homes. (Trust me, I’ve tried it both ways. Anger and irritation never make things better. Funny how that works. Anger stirs up anger. Kindness is more likely to produce kindness in return from our spouse.)
A is for Acceptance. First, what acceptance is not. It’s not “rejoicing over injustice.” We never have to accept poor behavior from our spouses and try to pretend it’s okay. It’s not okay to shout at each other. It’s not okay to purposely mock or lie or deceive or wound. We should never accept abusive behavior as “normal” or “okay.” It’s not. And, if that kind of behavior is the norm in your home, please go talk to someone about it. So, what do I mean by acceptance then? I mean accepting who your spouse is at his core. If he’s an introvert, you can’t make him an extrovert. (Been there, tried that!) If he has a special hobby that isn’t your “flavor,” that’s okay. You don’t need to be carbon copies of one another. Accept who he is and love the personality he was given. He was, after all, formed by God Himself, wasn’t he?
L is for Loyalty. Don’t forget the vows you took when you married. “Love never gives up.” Even when life is hard and your spouse isn’t meeting your needs, don’t give up. Seek counseling, pray, learn to find your wholeness from the God who always loves you and not from your spouse who is, just like you, a sinner after all. Realize that life is not always fun. There are seasons when the weariness and the pressures threaten to rob all the joys. That’s not the time to give up. That’s the time to press in and stay loyal. Loyalty also means speaking well of the one you married. We sure don’t want some of our angry moments shared with the world, do we? Let’s be careful that we don’t talk about his. Choosing a trusted, wise confidante when things are bad is fine. Choosing to tell the world every yucky thing your spouse ever did is not fine. Ray and I have had some tough years mixed in with a lot of good ones. I am very glad we stayed loyal. Part of the strength of an enduring marriage is the memory of getting through the tough times. The perseverance through the horrible becomes part of the blessing on the other side.
S is for Spirit led. I’ve saved the best for last. No human being will ever meet all your needs. Ever. They just can’t. The deepest and purest love is straight from God to us. Period. When we give God first place in our lives, looking to Him for ultimate satisfaction and joy, then we can love our spouses without demanding more from them than they can give. The closer I walk with God, absorbing His fierce and constant love for me, the more I can love and appreciate my Ray. When Ray and I are surrendered, following the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, life is really, really good. Both of us start the day with Bible and prayer. That reminds us at the very beginning of the day that we are God’s and He has a plan for our day. The humbling of a quiet time, seeking One who is higher and greater than us, helps us to do the politeness, acceptance, and loyalty things. Oh, how we need His Spirit to live like we should! How we need His guidance to keep us living as pals.
Father God, thank You for Your love for us—perfect and unblemished by sin and selfishness. Help us to walk so closely to You that we hear Your voice for our marriages. Please, Lord, guide those who need counsel to godly people who can help. Guide all of us toward Your truths in Your Word and toward the love You want us to have for each other. In Jesus’ Name and only by Your grace, Lord … Amen.
Note from Sharon: I’m not a marriage counselor. I’m just Sharon who married Ray sharing what I’ve learned. Hard stories of marriages that have failed after much effort and perseverance abound. This little blog is not meant as a criticism toward those who have anguished and lost. God knows every hurt and every trial. He heals when we’ve been wounded. He forgives when we’ve sinned. I pray that this blog is an encouragement to many, and that those who have endured the agony of divorce will know they are always, always loved by the God who made them and who stands ready to help and to heal.
You are loved,
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