Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ten-Year Anniversary Reflections

                Today is December 13th, a day which means a lot to Arinne and I.  Which is funny to think about, because for almost 25 years of my life December 13th only meant that we were getting close to Christmas.  But in 2002, December 13th took on a new meaning, because that’s the day Arinne and I were married, on a Friday night in Benton, KY, with snow falling outside the Walnut Grove Church of Christ building.

Which makes today our 10-year anniversary! 

We hope to celebrate a bit – probably something simple like going to a nicer-than-usual restaurant and then hanging out at Barnes and Noble while someone watches the boys for us.  And we always like to spend some time reflecting on our lives and marriage, which seems like a good anniversary-type thing to do.  So I’d like to use this week’s blog thoughts to get a head start on reflecting.  I’ll save the more personal  reflecting for tonight’s conversations (where we’ve lived, our favorite times, what our hopes and dreams are, etc).  But as Christians, we hopefully grow to view everything through the lens of faith and God, so I’d like to reflect a bit on what my 10-year anniversary reminds me from a faith perspective. 

                Perhaps you have heard people refer to life as a place of “soul-building” for eternity.  I believe that’s a correct view of the world, and it reminds us that God has bigger goals for our time on earth: He is about soul-building, not just “keeping us pain-free” or “giving me what I think I want.”  And the more I’m looking for it, the more I see God use situations in my life to help build my soul spiritually (or at least try to – sometimes I don’t allow it to happen like it should).

                So I wanted to reflect on how has God used the last 10 years of marriage to build/strengthen my soul.  Or to put it another way: what does it seem God has been teaching us as I glance back over the past 10 years?  Here’s three things that come to my mind…

1)      God knows what He’s doing.  Every couple has unique circumstances that bring them together.  I’ve often looked back over the life-path that brought Arinne and I together – first as friends, then really good friends, then dating, then deciding we wanted to spend our lives together – with admiration that God seemed to have a hand in each step along the way. 

And that admiration didn’t end at our wedding ceremony.  No one can plan out their first 10 years, and we certainly didn’t have ours planned as they have gone.  But there have been blessings in each of the unexpected twists.  The down times of life and marriage are frustrating and painful, yes.  But looking back at the big picture, I am constantly reminded that God knows what He’s doing. 

2)      Marriage helps develop traits that are not easily developed – at least not for me.  In pre-marital counseling with couples who are soon to be married, I always discuss with them the joys and the challenges of two lives becoming one.  The broad-brush challenge: changing my perspective from “me” to “we.”  Permanently connecting your life with another’s sometimes means riding the wave of their joys and successes; and it sometimes means slowing your own goals down – or putting them aside permanently – in order to help the two of you move forward together in the most effective, united way possible.  Most of us don’t do that very well.  In a word, marriage forces us to look beyond our own self-centeredness. 

Arinne I’m sure has had to learn patience in the times when I have allowed myself to be too distracted to be the husband I should be.  We have both had to learn hope in the times we prayed that our circumstances would be different than they have been.  In fact, you could probably take the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and list how each is made an essential “you-better-learn-it-now” part of your life in the perspective-changing relationship of marriage: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

And of course forgiveness should be added to the list of things marriage teaches you.  You quickly find out that neither of you are perfect, and that you will fail each other at some point in spite of your best intentions.  You learn to offer forgiveness quickly, and to hope for it quickly in return; and you’re both better people because of it.

3)       Life really does go by fast.  Everyone tells you this, and if you’re like me you usually just smile and nod.  Even God tells us: “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14).  And we often have the same “yeah, I get it” reaction.  It’s just hard for this to sink in until a significant period of your life is about to be behind you permanently.    

So marking off year after year with an anniversary dinner, and suddenly realizing you’re 10 years down the road already leaves you thinking a little deeper on that truth.  It reminds me that I want to get first things first.  I doubt I’ll ever look back and wish I’d spent less time with Arinne, or wish I’d said “I love you” fewer times, or wish we’d spent less time serving God together, or wish I’d been less patient or less appreciative.  So I need to make sure those things are prioritized in my life like they should be.


                Finally, two things are clear to me every time I reflect on marriage as I’ve done in this post:

                First, I love that Arinne is my wife.  She’s not only beautiful with a contagious smile and laugh, but she’s so much fun, so honest with me and with herself, so determined to do things well, a great encouragement to my faith and ministry, and a wonderful mom.  It’s fun to go through life with her, and I pray for many more “big anniversaries” like this one.

Second, I’m reminded that God really does use marriage as a teaching and training ground.  Every time I have pre-marital counseling with a young couple, I’m personally convicted by the high calling God gives us husbands in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”  Jesus is my example of how to put Arinne first.  He showed love to the church not just through a warm, fuzzy feeling on a good day when He felt like it, but by “giving Himself up for her” by coming to earth and going to the cross.  I’m now 10 years into learning how to put aside my self-centeredness for  Arinne, and hopefully I’ll do better at it in my next 10 years with her.

Just crystalizing these thoughts in writing has been encouraging to me and helps me re-commit myself to being the best husband I can be.  Arinne, I love you.  I pray for many more decades with you, and hope I keep learning all along the way. 

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