When my wife, Ramona, and I were first married, she worked at a pharmacy for five dollars an hour and I was a stay-at-home mooch. Jobless for almost a month, I learned to play the drums. I found my calling there and decided to enter the recording industry so that others might be touched by this gift that had taken me completely by surprise.
One night when Ramona came home from work exhausted, she hollered, "What's that noise? Are you killing chickens in there?" I decided then to look around for other hobbies and before long, I found one. On weekends I began videotaping weddings, a hobby that bore handsome financial rewards. Usually the bride's father, who looked extremely exhausted, would hand me a check and say, "Here, you fill in the amount—it doesn't much matter now."
All in all, I watched the start of more than 100 marriages, and thankfully the majority of those marriages are still intact. But every once in a while I hear of another one that has failed, and I feel nothing but sadness. It's not easy to watch high fidelity go the way of the 8-track, particularly in religious homes where they could have consulted a Third Party.
I myself come from a long line of married people who must have decided at some point to stick together even when the spark was gone. My parents, for instance, have been married 57 years despite the fact that my father still clips his toenails in the living room. Not long ago, I asked Mom and Dad what made their marriage last, and without skipping a beat on his pacemaker, Dad said, "Senility. I wake up each morning and I can't remember who this old girl is. So each day is a new adventure."
"No, I'm serious," I said. "Give us five good reasons you're still together." It was an unusual pop quiz, complicated somewhat by three grandchildren who were clamoring for their grand parents' attention.
"I'll tell you what," said Mom, removing our youngest son's index finger from her ear, "give us a little time. I'll write them out for you."
The next morning she dropped by and handed me a note. "You wouldn't show this to anyone, would you?" she asked. "I don't want people to think it's the final word on marriage."
I smiled. "You know me, Mom. I wouldn't dream of it."
At the top of her note, Mom had written: Five Reasons We're Still Together, by Victor and Bernice Callaway. Turns out my parents' wisdom is just too good to keep to myself, so here is a summary of their 57 years of marital experience.
1. Example. When we were married, we hardly knew about divorce. I guess everyone at our wedding, including us, fully expected the knot to stay tied. We had watched their marriages. We had seen their faithfulness. We would stay faithful too.
We realize you won't have that advantage, Son. Some of your closest friends may pack it in. But no matter how dark the road gets, you will find bright examples of faithfulness. And when you can't find examples, you can still be one.
2. Commitment. Sometimes I felt like walking out on Dad. And a few times I did. Early in our marriage I occasionally took long walks to get away from him. But I always returned to his loving arms. We made a pledge before God that we would stay committed to each other for life.
3. Devotions. Through reading God's Word and praying together almost every night, we learned what God planned and expected for our marriage. We memorized verses that encouraged us to be loving, kind and honest and to keep on forgiving. We asked God for guidance and he provided it. We prayed for children and embraced each one of them as gifts from God.
4. Togetherness. As a Christian family we stuck together, warts and all. Though we often failed, we are learning to admit wrong and ask for forgiveness. We laughed lots. We cried lots. We talked lots. We worked together and we played together.
5. Goals. Since the day we said our vows, our goal has been to walk worthy of the Lord and to keep on walking until we see his face. Some times we've fallen flat on our faces. But when that has happened, we've been given grace to get up and claim God's promise: "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (Ex. 33:14).
Aging brings with it a whole new challenge. It is no flat plateau; sometimes the hills seem steeper and the cliffs more precarious, but we are learning to trust God for what's ahead and to thank him for the abundant and undeserved mercies of the past.
Not long after I read my mom's note, someone informed me that another of my wedding-day videotapes had become obsolete. I thought about my parents standing at the altar on a day when the temperature dipped to 45 below in Toronto. They knew that ten days later Dad would go back to war, leaving his tearful bride waving from a train station platform. So they joined hands and promised to be faithful. They had no idea that their first child would die in their arms or that they would spend their entire lives below the poverty line. But they vowed to comfort each other, no matter what came their way.
By today's standards Mom and Dad didn't have much. Just 75 dollars, a solitary wedding ring and a suitcase full of dreams. More than half a century later, they still don't have much. Just an antique clock and a Ford Tempo that sometimes runs. But their dreams were never about good fortune. Instead they dreamed of children who would follow God—and they got five of them. They dreamed of years of faithfulness—and they got 57 of them. You can travel the world, but I'll guarantee you one thing: you'll never meet two wealthier people.
By the way, Mom did give me permission to reprint her note. And as she did, she reminded me: "It's never over till it's over." Then she said with a twinkle, "I think we're pretty safe, though. Dad may be senile, but I've grown too old to run away from him."
Phil Callaway is the author of five books, including Making Life Rich without Any Money (Harvest House) and Who Put the Skunk in the Trunk? (Multnomah). He and Ramona live in Alberta, Canada, with their three children. His latest book, I Used to Have Answers, Now I Have Kids (Harvest House), from which this article was adapted, is due out soon. Used by permission.
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