Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of my wedding to Susan.
Long by some counts, short by others.
But a milestone.
So what would someone who has been married thirty years tell others who are more on the front end of things?
Five things came quickly to mind:
1. Marry an authentic follower of Christ. An authentic follower of Christ is not perfect, they are just in a relationship where they are intimate with God through Christ, and Christ is continually being formed in them. I don’t ever have to concern myself with Susan’s values, much less her truth-source. Most important of all, the deepest parts of our lives – the spiritual parts – are shared. It truly allows two to become one.
2. Marry your best friend. I’ll be brutally honest. I don’t have many friends. Lots of acquaintances, but few real friends. Susan is my best friend, and there is no one I would rather be with, travel with, talk to…you get the point. Why is this important? As the years go by, it is the friendship that will matter the most.
3. Cherish her. That means you appreciate her, care for her, prioritize her, and make it clear that she is the love of your life. I’ve seen the failure to do this lead to the demise of countless marriages. It is also at the heart of developing your heart for her. As is often said, you don’t feel your way into acting, you act your way into feeling.
4. It’s the little things. I’m a morning person. So, every day, I bring coffee to her bedside when I wake her up. Then I go to the gym for my workout. She has an omelette waiting for me when I come back. This.Is.Every.Day. It’s special to us both. And over the years, you learn that it’s the little things in a relationship that often matter the most.
5. Pray for her. I can’t remember when, but one day it came to me: who will pray for Susan if I don’t? Lots of people love her, but I am her husband. It’s my responsibility to pray for her…daily. So I do. I don’t know that I’ve ever told her that (now she knows). But it’s a privilege. When you pray for someone – faithfully, regularly – it makes a difference when you then rise from your knees and (in my case) bring her coffee. You interact with someone differently when you just prayed for them.
There’s a lot more I could say.
My wife is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, and ever will see.
(She’s pretty on the outside, too.)
My wife is the wisest woman I’ve ever listened to. She is salient and clear, insightful and direct, challenging and gracious. Her intellect stuns me. She doesn’t think this of herself, but it’s true.
My wife is the kindest woman I’ve ever met. Genuinely, sincerely, kind. Particularly to me.
My wife is the most child-friendly, child-loving person on the planet. Hands down. It’s her sweet-spot, gift, and calling.
And last, but not least, my wife is the most grace-giving person to her husband that I can imagine. I’m a sin-stained, sin-soaked, sinner. No one sees it more than her. Yet she loves me, encourages me, prays for me, forgives me, protects me, defends me, accepts me…
All to say, I married a saint.
My only sadness is that when we get to heaven, I may not see her much. She will be so close to the throne of Jesus that people like me may never get close enough to catch a glimpse.
But I thank God for thirty up-close years on earth.
(Happy anniversary, honeybabe).
James Emery White
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is now available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit www.churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.