So at that point we agreed to have a trial period of 75 years. Then we can decide if we still want to stay together. That's right, 75 years. God willing, I will be 100 years old. And we will know for sure if this marriage thing is for us.
It's a joke, of course, but there is a bit of seriousness in seeing a vision of where we want our relationship to be in the long term. I'm no relationship guru, but it is easy to see that many young couples think in terms of being married "forever," but without a real vision of what growing old together means or looks like.
Renee and I are both fortunate to have parents who model deeply committed and long lasting marriages, but even for us, finding role models and mentors for married life is important. I can't imagine trying to piece that together for those of you who come from more contentious home environments, divorced parents or any number of situations that make up the modern family.
My advice? Surround yourself with people who have run that race already, and find the absolute beauty in what you see. Plot the end of your marriage out to where the true selfless love has outlasted everything else.
Working on our church directory brought this back to me, as I have had the joy of photographing some of my favorite older folks. Our church is full of these stories, but here are a few that Renee and I latch onto.
David and Betty Ann.
If ever two halves made a whole, David and Betty Ann are it. There aren't enough superlatives to describe them. They spent more than 30 years doing missions work in Africa, and a lifetime of transforming the lives of people through a tremendous amount of hard work, love and joy. The love they share now is absolutely what I want to see in my marriage when I get to their age.
Bill and Becky.
Bill and Becky were fixtures in FBC Kaufman for as long as I can remember. Bill had the firmest and most sincere handshake I know of. Becky is harder to describe. I'll just say that you could not have a conversation with her without becoming more wise. She imparted love, wisdom, and genuine care for others that is hard to put into words.
And now there is just Bill, his handshake slightly softened by age and missing his Becky. But still he soldiers on, serving at the church and welcoming people every Sunday as they come in. His body may be less able than before, but his heart is as big as ever. Statistically, Renee should outlive me. Realistically we don't get to pick how that works out. Bill helps me see that a lifetime of love is not hindered by an unforeseen ending.
Bud and Betty.
I don't remember meeting Betty's beloved Navy man before he was gone, but by the look in her eyes when she talks about him, he must have been quite a catch. I won't tell her age, but Betty vividly remembers her youth during World War II and has some great stories of traveling the country and raising kids as a military wife. You can detect a hint of sadness from time to time when she talks about Bud, but it is always quickly overshadowed by the her inner joy.
They may be a couple of generations apart, but Renee loves Mrs. Betty more like a sister than a grandmother. Put them in a room together and they will be laughing like teenagers within a minute. Betty is the vision of what I want Renee to be long after I have gone. Like the Brad Paisley song… "You can take your time, 'cause I don't mind… waiting on a woman…"
OK, so I'm not plotting TO end my marriage, I'm plotting what the end should look like, regardless of how life twists and turns. For those of you in committed long-term marriages I hope you take a minute to do the same. There are some great models of what that looks like for us to follow if we take the time to look.
Have a great weekend!