I love that longest married couple’s dance at weddings. I love when the years creep north of 20 and the couples get fewer and fewer on the dance floor. It’s always incredible when the last couple put there has been married for more than 50 years. It’s beautiful to witness a love that has lasted.
Unfortunately we see so few marriages that make it that long. Thanks to modern medicine, its not due to death that the number of couples fade out once you hit 20 or more years together. Divorce and remarriage has kept so many marriages in their infancy. Many couples fade out before they ever reach their glory years together.
So what’s the key to a love that lasts? I think we, myself included, need to look back instead of around us in order to have a well matured marriage. We need to look back at the Bible and what God says about marriage and love in order to stay on the dance floor at weddings a little bit longer.
A better wife works at her marriage.
Young, naive couples think they’re different. They believe that they aren’t like the rest. These couples that fail or have to work at it don’t love each other like they do. In a sense, they’re right. They don’t love each other like this young couple. This mature love that has been shaped by tiffs and valleys which requires much work to overcome is much different than young love. It is better.
I’m not harping on any young newlyweds. I myself am still in that category and once verbatim said that “our love is different” when I was 17. Yet I was so wrong. This boy I “loved” at 17 and married at barely 19, I never truly loved in the sense God called wives to love and respect their husbands. I am graced to be forgiven from divorce and remarriage and now can step forward in truly loving the man I am now married to. But I’ve never once said “our love is different.” From the beginning, I realized I was going to have to dig my heels in and work at this love thing in order to not repeat my previous mistakes.
In the blogpost on intimacy, we mentioned the passage of Song of Solomon 7:10-13. This is where she planned a steamy getaway. To recap, verses 11-12 state, “come, my love, let us go out to the fields and spend the night amoung the wildflowers. Let us get up early and go to the vineyards to see if the grapevines have budded, if the blossoms have opened, and if the pomegranates have bloomed. There I will give you my love.” Just as this is an example of intimacy, it also is a case for work.
Maybe planning and going on a vacation is fun for you, but for me, it’s fingernails on a chalkboard. I loathe situations that remove me from my stability and routine. To me, planning a vacation is work. Perhaps it was similar for the wife in the Song. While she made it sound blissful, it may have been difficult for her to leave her to-do list or her children behind. Yet, she put the work in anyway.
It is probably rarely that work in our marriage us as glamorous as vacationing to a garden B&B. More likely it’s compromising to do what your husband wants when you’d rather demand your way. Or perhaps it involves you peeling back layers to be vulnerable and dependent on him. Or maybe it’s forgiving and letting go of small offenses that truly don’t matter yet you still want to cling tightly to. Regardless of what the work looks like, it is present in every successful marriage.
Repeatedly in the Bible, God calls us to love one another as we love ourselves. And for wives specifically, we are to respect our husbands. You’re only fooling yourself if you think you can do this effortlessly. Love and respect take work.
A great athlete doesn’t become great without work. They spend countless hours putting reps in at the gym, striking the pavement, or gliding through the pool. We look in awe at these impressive bodies and phenomenal feats wishing to be just like them, but we never will achieve such greatness without putting in the work. Similarly, we will never be the last couple on the dance floor, hand in hand with our wrinkled spouse, if we don’t put in the work.
A better wife works at her marriage. She doesn’t believe her relationship is an anomaly, rather, it is her husband and her work ethic that stands out in their marriage. She is willing to put the reps in. She knows the pain of working through the trenches is what makes the glory of the mountaintops even more magnificent. A wife that survives a long-term marriage is a wife that works for a long-term marriage.
A better wife serves her husband.
We walk into marriage with the expectation that it will make us happy. But God’s intent for it is that we will leave it when we die more holy than we entered into it. To be holy is to be sacred and set apart. In order to have a sacred marriage that lasts, we need to have a servant marriage.
The wife in the Song served her husband. We see this later in chapter 8 when she exclaims her service to her husband in the submission of her body. Song of Solomon 8:10-12 states, ” I was a virgin, like a wall; now my breasts are like towers. When my lover looks at me, he is delighted with what he sees. Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon, which he leases out go tenant farmer. Each of them pays a thousand pieces of silver for harvesting its fruit. But my vineyard is mine to give, and Solomon need not pay a thousand pieces of silver. But I will give two hundred pieces to those who care for its vines.”
We see all throughout the Song that the vineyard is a euphemism for rhe woman’s body. In this passage, she is saying that her body belongs solely to her husband. It is unadulterated by others and given completely in service to her husband. This displays what Paul would say centuries later when he said to the couples at the church in Corinth that our bodies are not our own, instead they belong to our spouse (1 Corinthians 7:3-4). Therefore, if this body of ours belongs to our husbands, we are to serve them with it.
Paul takes it a step further than simply serving with our physical bodies when he writes to the church in Ephesus. In Ephesians 5:21 he instructed couples saying, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We are to submit, respect, serve one another in the spirit of Jesus Christ who live in us.
Jesus lived out the perfect example of service. Approaching his most gruesome moment, he didn’t hide away to himself. He didn’t plead for his friends to wait on him. He, insisted, positioned himself as a servant, wrapping himself in a towel. He bent down on knees that would soon support him in carrying the sins of the world. With these hands that would soon be pierced for these rowdy disciples, he washed the sand, mud, and manure off his friends calloused feet. He didn’t complain or make sure these smelly fishermen and despised tax collectors knew the service they were receiving. He rubbed each bit of grime and grit off with love and wiped dry these feet with tender care. This story of washing feet is captured in John 13:2-17, but I want to quote verse 1: “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that hour had come for him to leave the world and go to the Father. Having loved those who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (Emphasis mine.)
To have a love that last is to have a love that serves. We may think we’re getting ahead by stepping on our spouse to reach higher, but in reality we are only dragging both ourselves and them down. The best leaders in jobs, life, and marriage are servants. It’s getting up earlier than necessary to make our husband’s moring quicker and smoother. It’s cheerleading victories and comforting losses. It’s saying yes to intimacy when we’re exhausted from children clamoring for our attention all day. It’s pulling socks up over limp legs as time and disease eats away at our spouse. It’s daily getting on our knees and washing the proverbial dirt and grime off our spouse. We love our spouse through our service to them.
A better wife serves her husband. She isn’t expectant of him to meet her every whim; instead she works to meet his daily needs. She realizes the longevity of their marriage pends of mutual service. She strives to become more christlike in this intimate relationship. She knows to grasp at the sacred she must get on her knees and serve more intentionally than what is common.
All relationships require a level of work and service to last, but marriage demands these things be taken to a higher level. Marriage won’t work unless we do. We have to be willing to to put in the long, mundane, daily effort to have our marriage survive in a world where all odds seem stacked against it. Similarly, we need to daily seek out ways to serve our spouse. The only other being out there that should be meeting our spouse’s needs more than us is God himself. A sacred marriage is a marriage that is set apart by it reflecting the relationship between the Bridegroom, Jesus, and his bride, the church. Just as God works daily for his people’s good and Jesus served people in his earthly ministry, we are to mimic him in work and service towards our spouse. We all want to embrace our spouse as we are the last wrinkled couple on the dance floor. In order to make it to such a feat, we need to embrace the painful reps we put in and the moments we are on our knees scrubbing dirt.