Tag Archives: perseverance

Today’s Wedding Anniversary

Carolyn and I at our son’s wedding in 2011.

Today is the 35th anniversary of my marriage to Carolyn McCrary Keller. We met in college, at the Haverford-Bryn Mawr Christian Fellowship, near Philadelphia. I always joked that she came from “Tea” with the President of Bryn Mawr, dressed to the nines, and I showed up in overalls and a backwards baseball cap. I was a senior bouncing around in my manic way greeting all the newcomers. Carolyn was with four or five other first year women from Bryn Mawr.

When Carolyn said that she was from Kansas City, MO, I told her a story about a prayer experience I had traveling through Kansas City. The story was short and not particularly profound, but Carolyn later wrote about it in her journal. The story had given her spiritual comfort as she was missing her Bible study group in Kansas City and wrote that my way of praying was similar to hers. The friendship and then the romance grew from there.

We were married by Carolyn’s father, a Presbyterian minister. His only premarital advice to us was, “You can walk down the aisle on your wedding day, fall flat on your face, and still pick yourself up and have a good marriage.” However he made sure Carolyn did not fall by proudly walking his oldest daughter doing the aisle of his Kansas City church and then turning around to preformed the wedding. It was all a blur to me, except for gazing at his beautiful daughter.

Robert C. Roberts thinks the best example of the spiritual virtue called perseverance or steadfastness is marriage:

When two people marry, they make an extraordinary commitment, a promise not just to stick together until death do them part (that in itself would be bold enough) but to love one another than long.

The marriage service warns that some of the bumps this love may encounter along the way: for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others . . . . But these words are only slender indicatory beams of light pricking the darkness of the future. When we commit ourselves to married love, we have only the dimmest intimations of what will threaten to break commitment down—boredom, disappointment, inattention, work, sick children, changes in personality and interests of one or both parties—and the list could go on.

Like every married couple, Carolyn and I have our list. I have never embraced her love of opera; she has never backpacked in the mountains with me. We disagree on where to live in our metropolitan area. Still we remain steadfast in our love for one another, trusting in God’s grace and power to keep us together.

Last night we celebrated by going to the Guthrie Theater for the production of Roman Holiday. It is a romantic story of a princess who escapes her royal confines for 24 hours to experience Rome as a private citizen. She meets an American reporter who first tries to turn their budding friendship into an exclusive news story. As the day progresses the friendship turns towards romance, but the duties and obligations of the princess pulls them apart. It is a bitter-sweet ending.

What a contrast to decades of marriage. Yes, there can be many moments of Holiday bliss, but marriages persevere because husbands and wives stick to the duties and obligations of marriage even when bliss is hard to find. I am thankful that Carolyn has persevered in her love for me and pray that together we will experience many more years of marital joy.  I still like holding her hand when we pray together in our own way.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of marriage and for your steadfast love.

Persevering on Valentine’s Day

Holding on to the love you share

I confess that I am not a great fan of Valentine’s Day.  I sense that it is more about momentary commerce (cards, candy, gifts) than lasting love.  I do believe in love and romance and want to share a mental/spiritual exercise that might enhance it for yourself.  It comes from a small book that continues to shape my spirituality, The Strengths of a Christian, by Robert C. Roberts.   It’s an exercise that helps build perseverance and attachment in a marriage.  Roberts writes to a wife about her husband named Henry.

Take a memory that endears Henry to you, a memory of happy common life or of some special affection shown you, and use it as the grid through which to contemplate that aging person across the table.  See him in the eyes of that pleasant memory.  Do not do anything yet, or say anything, but just take some time to look at your partner in this complimentary light. . . .  You may have to shed some grudges (as Christians say, “die to yourself”) just to admit to yourself that this is the person of whom those happy memories are memories.  But if you succeed in seeing him this way, you will find that some affection will come over you. You will love Henry because he looks more lovable to you.  . .  I think you will find that when you explicitly share with each other the happy memories of your past love, those memories will have an even stronger tendency to arouse present affection in you both.  

This technique for persevering in love is just the reversal of what happens in grudge bearing. The grudge bearer also dwells on memories of a relationship with another person and sees the other person through those memories.  But instead of dwelling on happy experiences . . . he or she dwells on offenses (many imaginary, no doubt).   Thus the grudge bearer descends into a confirmed disposition of seeing the other in an uncomplimentary light, which we call hostility.  When we become aware of the dynamic of grudge bearing, we can turn it to the service of love by practicing the contemplation of happy memories of our relationship and the praiseworthy actions of our partner.  When this practice becomes an ingrained habit and skill of self-management, then we have one of the powers of perseverance in marriage. (p. 95-96)

What habits of the heart keeps your love alive?