My wife Michelle and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. "You get longer for murder", some people joked - including Michelle!
Through our 25 years - like most couples, I'm sure - we've encountered our share of difficulties. Life has sometimes been hard. We endured a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy in quick succession, and were told we'd never have a second child. We had numerous times of uncertainty about where we'd live and what I in particular would do to contribute to our income. We've moved house more than 20 times and moved city 7 times, not including sojourns in Wellington, Sydney and Melbourne while I was training for the ministry. There have been plenty of difficult circumstances that could have contributed to separation and divorce.
But we have also been greatly blessed during that time. We had our son Alisdair naturally, and ten years later our family expanded again with a daughter - Irene - through IVF. It was expensive and difficult, but it was worth every cent. We've made numerous friends in every city in which we've lived. We don't keep up with them all, but the majority of them are Christians, so we look forward to the joy of seeing them again in heaven. Through all the uncertainty about work and income, we've never gone hungry. We've always had a roof over our heads and we've learned not to take money in the bank for granted.
It's not just the circumstances that we've been through though. Michelle and I are both imperfect creatures. We sometimes rub each other up the wrong way. We've had our share of arguments and unhappiness. There are ways in which our plans and desires and priorities differ, leading us to pull in different directions and creating conflict.
Through it all though, we've both remembered the promises we made to each other on our wedding day. We didn't promise to stay together until we found someone better, or until feelings faded. We promised to stay together until death - in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad.
We could do that because we understand that love is not merely a feeling. Above all else, it's an act of your will; a decision that you make. Feelings follow the decisions we make.
Just as importantly, though, in my mind at least: I've learned firsthand some of the things the Bible teaches. "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her" has taught me to think about what I'm doing and why. Am I being selfish? Am I prioritising Michelle's concerns and welfare above my own? Far too often (of course) the answer is that I'm not doing what I should. But that doesn't negate the Biblical injunction.
25 years of marriage. I look forward to 30 and 40 and perhaps even 50!