Twenty years ago today at 1:30 pm in the afternoon, Larry and I took that momentous walk down the aisle and became Mr. and Mrs. In that moment, everything changed. We had no idea what the next twenty years would hold. The next few days we are in Naples at the Grand Hyatt in Coconut Point where we will celebrate together this incredible journey. Our eldest son is taking care of things while we are gone. My, how far we have come! To think we are married for 20 years, and have a son who has graduated from high school. Just realize folks, we are not THAT old, we did get married young! LOL
Some of the past 20 years have been absolutely awesome, others more difficult but every one of them adventurous. Remember, we take our vows, “for better for worse, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health…” but we never believe the worse, the bad, or the sick will come. (“Surely that will befall someone else, not us…” we think.)
I thought about writing today about the absolute joy I feel right now in being married to Larry Shrodes – my deep love for him, and about the wonderful romantically hot relationship we now share. All that is true and I could have done that. But instead of writing something flowery, and leaving it at that I wanted to share more of the whole picture.
As my wedding reception was winding down to the last moments, there were just a few family members and friends left. I realized this would be the last day to wear my wedding dress, so I savored each minute, twirled around in it and said to a friend, “Can you believe it’s almost over?” Without missing a beat, she said, “Over? Are you kidding? It’s just beginning!” I was so young and naïve. (You can probably tell that by this wedding photo. Can you believe my husband had a 29- inch waist? He was only 19 years old. He was just a little skinny boy when I married him. He always says that he is now "twice the man he once was"! Actually I don't want the little skinny husband again. I think he's much more handsome now.)
Years later after our wedding I found a book entitled, After every wedding comes a marriage! and I thought to myself, “you can say that again!” Many people are in love with the idea of a wedding but don’t realize that marriage is going to be the hardest thing they will ever accomplish. The wedding plans are NOTHING in comparison. I personally think being a wife is harder than being a mother. When your kids do something that is driving you insane you can justify it by saying, “well, they’re just kids…their reasoning skills aren’t developed yet…they are immature…they are still growing…kids don’t realize, yada yada yada. But when your husband does something that is threatening your mental state of mind, you can’t say, “well, he’s just 42. His reasoning skills aren’t developed yet…he is still growing…” No – at some point you realize to make it work is going to take an incredible amount of patience, forgiveness and unselfishness.
A few months after we were married, we were so poor we couldn’t pay attention. We robbed Peter, and THEN robbed Paul. You get the picture. Well, we only had a few dollars for groceries for that week, but to my absolute shock, Larry went out and used our grocery money to buy a Nintendo. I thought, “okay, what does he want me to do? Crush this up and fry it?” I was so mad I thought I would spit nails. (And if I ate that Nintendo I guess I literally would have.) I thought…”Oh my…we have our work cut out for us here…” I quickly learned, getting married, having sex or even turning 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 doesn’t make you a man…or a woman!!! It takes quite a number of years to fully become a mature man or woman of God.
The problem is, most people these days don’t hold on for that, they just experience the shock of the first years of marriage and so many don’t even make it to the five year mark. When Larry and I were just in our mid-thirties we were at a family wedding and they invited all the couples out onto the dance floor. Every few minutes they would say things like…”if you’ve been married a year or more, leave the floor…” Then, “If you’ve been married five years or more, take a seat…” so on and so on. This was a very large wedding reception with lots of couples dancing but within moments, everyone was cleared out with the exception of my husband’s mother and father, and…us. We were shocked. A very sad statistic I came across is that 70% of all divorces are for “non-severe” reasons. Most divorces are not because of abuse or adultery. Most divorces are because people just can’t handle the challenges of everyday life together.
Many people ask me about the keys to a lasting marriage. Through twenty years of many ups and downs, here are the first three that come to my mind:
1) Unselfishness – Philippians 2:3
I always say, “Marriage is an every day exercise in getting beyond your selfishness.” You might as well get over yourself, because 90% of all second and third marriages fail so if you think you’ll fare any better getting another partner, think again. Get over having to have your own way all the time and things will get much better.
The other day my husband was surfing on a ministry site on line and found a t-shirt that people were selling that said, "I wanna be a pastor's wife!" I had to absolutely crack up at that. WHO is buying these shirts? I'm sure perhaps plenty of young girls are, or even older single women who are hormonally challenged (lol) but the fact is, you don't know what you are getting into getting married, let alone to a pastor! Believe me, I was 100% called to ministry and to be not only a pastor's wife but a pastor myself and let me tell you...I still had a wake up call. By the time you are married a few years as a minister's wife believe me you should have a degree in unselfishness. I think for any pastor's wife who is married and in the ministry for 5o years they need to crown them the absolute queen and give them a medal. This is one reason I admire people like Sis. Coker so much. I know all she has been through and she's still so powerful in God...and an excellent wife with a happy husband.
A co-worker at her secular job recently asked Misty, our children's pastor's wife, "so, what's it like to be a pastor's wife? Do you just sit around together and praise and worship all the time?" Um, believe me, Misty found that just as funny as I did!
Are you kidding? Being a wife, and being a pastor's wife on top of that is an incredible life of sacrifice and dying to oneself. It is a role in which you put your own concerns aside most of the time for the sake of others. I could talk about this aspect for a few hundred hours, but I'll move on...the next thing I've learned that's really crucial is...
2) Sex – I Corinthians 7:3-5
Know your priorities. If you are too busy for sex, you're too busy. If you are going to go from the honeymoon lingerie to wearing a t-shirt, just make sure it's see-through. :-) Keep doing things to fuel the fire. Men have two basic needs: food and sex. Keep them full of both and many if not most of your problems will be solved. As I mentioned yesterday, Larry's favorite three words are, "lock the door..." and believe me, if I'm the one that says them, he is doubly excited about them, and more so as time goes on. I’ve found you have to PLAY and PRAY, throughout every season in your marriage. It’s an unbeatable combination…and speaking of that…
3) Prayer – I Corinthians 7:3-5
While we have all heard the statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce, a little known statistic is that only one out of every 1,150 couples who pray together on a regular basis will get divorced! Prayer is powerful.
The Bible speaks about the prayer/sex combination in I Corinthians 7:3-5
"The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” NIV
So with all that said, I wanted to take time today to encourage those of you who might be struggling in your marriage, thinking you would be better off giving up. Please consider all this and think again! For those of you preparing for marriage – think about these things carefully. Be much more concerned about your marriage than your wedding, and you’ll be in good stead. Twenty years from now you will be much happier that you prepared more for daily married life than selecting what kind of favors you intend to have at the reception.
I'm in one of the most beautiful places on earth for three days with Larry all to myself. Could things be any better right now? Ta ta for now…it’s time to play and pray!