Pam and I are at Myrtle Beach for a few days. I know this place has a bad rap. I’ve heard it called lots of things, from the Redneck Riviera to the Tackiest Resort on the East Coast. But we like it. There’s lots of stuff to do, and when you don’t want to do anything (or run out of money), you can just sit on the beach and look at the ocean. Today’s agenda is to ride go-carts then—you guessed it—sit on the beach and look at the ocean.
We’re in our thirty-third year of being together and times like this are growing more and more precious. Just time to get away and carefully listen to each other. Or to sit still with no one else around and just be together. Call it a vacation. Or time away. Or even rest and relaxation. It’s really an investment in our marriage.
We’re at that point many of you know so well. Our kids have left home and are building great lives on their own. Are we happy about that? Sure we are. But it takes a lot of getting used to. Our parents are getting older and require more of our attention. That’s a blessing, to be sure, but it subtly changes the dynamics of our home life since their needs must be accounted for as we go through our own lives. Retirement planning. Health situations. Anyone at this stage of life knows with the issues that come with it.
Investing in your marriage isn’t just for empty-nesters. Newly married couples struggling with small children and senior adults settled in their retirement years face the same thing. A lifetime together as wife and husband is important enough to give it the best you have.
We’re here at Myrtle Beach to catch our breath and take a time out with one another. I love what I do, and the congregation we serve is incredibly good to us. But couples need to be intentional about keeping their focus on one another. So here are a few things I’ve learned about investing in marriage. I think they apply not to ministers but to all of us:
· You can’t leave your marriage on autopilot and expect it to prosper. No matter how long you’ve been married you have to pay attention.
· Time when you can be just with one another is crucial to the long-term success of your marriage.
· Don’t fool yourself: long-term Christian marriages can and do break up. I know church leaders who were married for decades and seemed to be models of spiritual maturity who finally decided they didn’t want to be married anymore. That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention.
· Don’t be surprised by changes in personal faith as you grow older. Sometimes they result from the inevitable alterations aging brings. Sometimes they result from life's crises. Sometimes they come about from the relentless passage of time. Successful marriages find a way to embrace the changes and work through them together.
· Learn to celebrate all the seasons of marriage. Marriage carries with it an incredible richness of experience as you move from being newly married to having young children through the challenges of career-building into the (greater!) challenges of teen-aged children into the empty-nest phase then to retirement and finally into the inevitable season of physical decline and, finally, death. Each season can bring a blessing as well as offer you the chance to be a blessing to one another.
· Accept that your marriage is where God makes you holy. The core commitments of a truly Christian marriage are sacrificial love and mutual submission to Jesus. It’s no accident that those qualities are also crucial to your own sanctification.