Bonnie and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary last month and our children gave a surprise wedding anniversary party last Sunday. It was an amazing time with family and friends.
Our son, Ryan, and our daughter-in-law, Reka, asked me a rather significant question over the weekend that really impressed me. They asked me for the secret for 40 years of marriage. I first responded to the question by stating that family must come first over anything else. I definitely know that God has worked on my heart in that area over the 40 years of being married to Bonnie.
After thinking about the question for a while, I gave them a more specific answer. The success of our marriage, or any marriage, is selflessness. Our natural tendency is to be selfish. I believe that many people think that the purpose of marriage is to make us happy. I really think that God’s purpose of marriage is to make us holy.
We live in a “happy” driven culture. “Do what makes you happy” is the bottom line for many people. Forget about responsibility. Forget about commitment. Forget about doing what is right. Forget about honoring God.
Randy Gariss is a friend of mine. Randy preaches at College Heights Christian Church in Joplin, Missouri. I thoroughly enjoy his insight on marriage. He states that we typically enter marriage with one of three definitions of love connected with the three Greek words for love:
1. phileo: I love you because of who you are. The problem with this foundation for marriage is that we change after entering marriage and we soon become someone other than the person our mate married. These marriages last a few years and they are done.
2. eros: I love you because of what you do for me. The problem with this foundation for marriage is that life gets busy, we become occupied with careers, children come along, and we stop making our mate our number one priority. When my mate stops doing everything for me, my love wanes. These marriages last even less time than phileo marriages.
3. agape: I love you and I always will. This love says that I will love you regardless of what life brings along and I will model God’s love for me with you. These marriages last a lifetime.
When I first heard of this truth, I realized that Bonnie and I had started out with an eros or phileo love. Through God’s grace, He has led us into an agape love over the course of our marriage. We are in this marriage for life. An agape-based marriage is a God-based marriage. His marriages work. That requires selflessness. I am still learning how to apply selflessness to our marriage. It helps me when I am regularly reminded that I married up…way up.