Will you and your spouse still be married 60 years from now (providing of course both of you are still living in your 80’s or 90’s)? Or, to put it another way, are the vows you both repeated on your wedding day strong enough cement to hold you together “til death do you part”? If you had to put odds on the survivability of your marriage, would you give it a 50/50 chance, or a 75/25 chance, or a 90/10 chance of survival? If no marriage is guaranteed to last, what odds are acceptable to you? Are you willing to live with less than 99.999 to .001 odds? Perhaps this is a better question, “If you are in a marriage you think has only a 50/50 chance of survival are you willing to increase those odds to 75/25 and then later to 90/10 and maybe even bring it up to 99.9 to .1?
I ask these questions because it seems that if the marriages of the best of the best fail, what chance do the rest of us have of keeping our marriages together? This past week mega-church pastor and grandson of Billy Graham, Tullian Tchividjian announced his resignation from the pastorate of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, the same church that Dr. James Kennedy pastored before he went home to be with the Lord. If people like Tullian can’t keep his marriage alive and well, what chance do I have? My answer: a lot better chance than you think.
- FEAR. No, not a fear of losing my job, or my reputation, or the loss of respect of my children and grandchildren. No, the fear I am talking about is the constant awareness that as a believer, I will be held accountable (2 Corinthians 5:10) before my Lord and I will have to face the Father someday for my actions and for my lack of faithfulness in keeping my promises. I do not think Tullian has that same fear. Why do I say that? Because the language of his apology does not indicate Tullian is taking his adultery seriously. If he did, he would call it what it is, adultery. Here is my paraphrase of his description of what he did: I caught my wife having an affair, I was hurt, I found comfort in the arms of another woman, (and these are his words) “I developed an inappropriate relationship” with her. I would be deeply hurt too if my wife was committing adultery, but I would be wrong to blame my own adultery on hers (I say that because it certainly sounds like he is blaming his wife for his actions in his apology, and I admit that his wording could somehow be interpreted differently, although I don’t know how). To my point however, he did not commit adultery according to his wording, he “developed an inappropriate relationship.” That’s like saying I got caught winking at another woman or flirting with another woman or got caught holding hands with another woman, all of which would be wrong and sinful but certainly not as sinful as having sex with another woman. You see, when a person diminishes their sin, they are not dealing honestly with their sin, and they are not taking their sin seriously, and if they don’t take their sin seriously, they are not taking God seriously about His displeasure at their rebellion against Him. Here are more clues in his weak apology: 1) he used the word “affair” in his alternate description of his adultery. Why did he do that? Of course the word affair is a synonym for adultery so it would be O.K. to use it right? Not so fast. We call it an affair because it is a euphemism for what it describes. In other words it takes the edge off of the sin of adultery by calling it “an affair” which could possibly be only an affair of the heart but not a joining of bodies in bed. See my point? Then, 2) he called his ordeal a “heart-wrenching storm”. The first time I heard that phrase used for adultery was when Gordon McDonald publicly called it “a storm” when he was being “restored” to public ministry after having his own affair, ooops, I mean his act of adultery. Pardon me, but those who are being sued for their faith and faith decisions, and those who are birthing a deformed child rather than choosing an abortion and those who have lost their jobs because they dared speak the truth about homosexual sin, now those folks are going through a storm. Maybe I’m way off here, but let’s start using the word storm for those occasions of suffering which we did not choose or cause, and leave the word out of any conversation having to do with suffering of our own making. After all, a storm is an act of nature we have no control over, a description which fits my use above much better than adulterers’ use of the same word. Now if they want to say that they blew up their marriage, or stabbed their spouse in the heart by committing adultery I would be O.K. with that language, because it is accurate.
Does all this make sense? I hope it does. So here’s how this works. If you are walking with the Lord daily and treasuring His smile, and fearing His reproof, then when that gorgeous blonde so subtly and seductively flashes her mile long eyelashes at you, the only thing you will be thinking is that she must have something caught in her eye. You also think that she couldn’t possibly think that you are emotionally or physically available because you are so madly in love with the one woman God gave you and there is absolutely no room between the two of you for anyone else to squeeze in, but that’s for my next point coming up. The fear of the Lord as a deterrent to adultery works best when both husband and wife are on the same page spiritually. So husbands, this is your responsibility. If you want to increase the odds of the survivability of your marriage by 20 points from 75/25 to 95/5 then make sure both of you are walking with Jesus daily, having personal devotions and prayer together both morning and night.
- Lack of daylight. No silly, I am not talking about literal shade here. I’m talking about the inability of anyone else to see any degree of separation between you and your spouse. At first I thought I must simply be stone-cold ugly because in all of my ministry life not one woman threw herself at me to capture my affection and love away from my wife. I was wrong. It was not that I was stone-cold ugly (please, no comments about this in the comment section below, O.K.?) but the effectiveness of my beautiful wife broadcasting every Sunday morning just how much we were in love with each other. It was not at all unusual for others to see us holding hands and in those rare moments of sitting together in the pew to see my arm around her shoulders holding her very snugly next to me. Nothing ever needed to be said to anybody but the message was shouted loud and clear, “hands off woman (or women), he’s mine and he will always be mine”. So, if you have already increased the odds of your marriage surviving 60-70 years by instilling the fear of God into your every waking moment, from 75/25 to 95/5, then you have just added 2 more points to 97/3 by restricting any daylight between the two of you for others to see (or not see, however one interprets this analogy).
- STEAM. There I said it and you already know what I’m talking about. If you think that hot blonde who is having trouble getting the grain of sand out of her eye is appealing to you, well my dear lad (ladies you can reverse the imagery here if you need to) there is undoubtedly something missing in your marriage bed. If the love and lack of daylight mentioned above is real and not just show, it is because the romance fires are burning hot and red. Wives, let me be very blunt. If you are leaving your husbands sexually exhausted and satiated, his hormones won’t be looking for an outlet. And men let me be ever blunter. If there seems to be a lack of steam on your wife’s part, it’s because you are not feeding the boiler. See the next section to learn what kind of fuel it takes to get the steam in her boiler boiling. End of discussion (unless you want to talk about creativity and spontaneity, and sex outside the bedroom and variety, which we could do but hey, you already know what to do to keep it spicy). Your odds just went up from 97/3 to 99/1.
- BOOTY. Yes I know what this word means in urban usage but my putting it here means something far greater and more beautiful. Men, and women too but this section is mainly for men, treat your spouse as if they are the greatest treasure you have in this life apart from Christ. Guard your treasure as violently as Blackbeard guarding his gold doubloons. Treasure her emotions by treating her with the utmost love. Never get impatient. Never be curt. Always treat her twice as nice as every other woman (including those at the office) in your life. Listen to her heart and know what makes her cry. Rub out those literal aches and pains with tenderness in a way that she knows means she is treasured. Not only will your wife feel cherished and much more secure in your marriage but your hearts will also be knitted together by sheer closeness. Our chiropractor told me that some of his patients whom he told to do massage therapy upon each other for purely physical reasons, saved their broken and silent partnership and marriage simply because of the magic of touch. It’s hard to massage a person you are mad at, isn’t it? Seems as if massaging tight muscles loosens others (like the hardened bands around a brittle heart). This last point adds no more increases to your already high survivability rate because it is not an ad-on. It is a foundation upon which every previous point is built upon. If you treasure your spouse you do so because God told you to treasure her. If you treasure your spouse, there will be no pretend affection in public, it will be genuine lack of sunshine between the two of you. If you treasure your spouse you will indeed find it a joy to see their every need satisfied (as much as it is possible for you to do so) and you will find ways to serve when it is convenient and then serve some more even when it is inconvenient and then serve some more even if it means a sacrifice to you.
What are your odds of a secure and happy marriage into your nineties and beyond? I think mine are close to 99.999 to .001. I like those odds. I think Pati does too.