Years ago our family gathered around a large, circular table in an elegant restaurant, the place that has served as the backdrop for many of our most meaningful celebrations. For decades, our family has come here from around the country to mark holidays, birthdays, graduations, promotions and farewells. But this time was different. We were gathered to honor Les's parents on their 50th wedding anniversary.
The food, as always, was exquisite. The anniversary cake was lovely. The presents were nice, but not worthy of such a noble occasion. What impressed us most, however, wasn't the gifts, the food or the festivities. It was something my father said. We had just offered grace and thanked God for the family and the many years my parents had been together. Then before picking up his fork, Dad looked around the table and said: "I can't believe it has been 50 years! The time is so short!"
The rest of the meal was devoted to reminiscing. Mom talked about the times when each of her three sons was born. She could describe in detail the various homes we lived in. There was the first pastorate they took during the Korean War, and Dad's transition to being a college president during the Mid-East oil crisis. They reminisced about their first trip to London and many other journeys around the globe. They've had hard times, of course, but what they remember are the things they have enjoyed together.
My parents' celebration of 50 years together stands in marked contrast to our culture's obsession with time. We develop elaborate strategies to make the hours we spend at work more productive. We're conscientious about running errands on the way home to make more efficient use of our commuting time. We plan ahead to maximize the benefit of our leisure time. This compulsion might result in more things getting done, but it also underscores what we are missing. In our quest to maximize the value of time, we have forgotten how to treasure it.
By focusing too intently on making every minute count, we run the risk of squeezing the enjoyment out of the time we have together. Marriage doesn't operate on a 40-hour week; it's a daily, long-term, dawn-past-dusk partnership. That's one reason anniversaries are so important. They give us a chance, once a year, to take stock of where we've been, how we've gotten to this point, and where we're headed next as a couple.
What will your marriage look like in 50 years? Can you imagine your long-term future together? Proverbs 24:3-4 says: "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." After half a century, what memorable treasures will you find in your house of love?
My parents' anniversary got Leslie and me thinking about our own marriage. We have started marking time more carefully, taking the opportunity to reminisce about the good gifts we've enjoyed as a couple. Mom and Dad's major marriage milestone helped us mark our own progress. We were reminded that the memories we treasure tomorrow will be the ones we create today.
Something else struck us about Mom and Dad's golden anniversary—their utter dependence on God. They are living proof that no single factor does more to cultivate oneness and a meaningful sense of purpose in marriage than a shared commitment to spiritual discovery.
Spirituality is to your marriage as yeast is to a loaf of bread. We have said to hundreds of couples: Ultimately, your spiritual commitment will determine whether your marriage rises successfully or falls disappointingly flat. Will you look back while celebrating 50 years together and say, "I can't believe the time is so short"?
1998 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine.