There is something about getting to forty years of marriage that has the quiet confidence of accomplishment. No, it doesn’t do away with the arguments and disagreements over the years, but it does put them in perspective. Marital arguments are immediate and intense. They are a psychological train wreck that leave both with bad feelings and thoughts about the other. One can’t help but ask, ‘Why are we still arguing about these things after all these years?’ But reaching forty years together takes the focus off the ‘arguing about these things’ and puts the emphasis on the ‘all these years.’ It happens so slowly and subtly. Each day is infinitesimally small, and the passage of the days just go incrementally by. Then you get to forty years and suddenly you recognize that together you have accomplished something remarkable.

As a Christian I know in my heart of hearts that this is not something we have done. We came into this marriage hurting and broken people, both of us. Everyone has baggage; the self-aware merely feel it more keenly. Without the other who knows what would have happened to us. In my case my own natal family is a salutary example of the person I might have become. Perhaps worse. On occasion I have felt that Pam has nagged me far more than I have been comfortable with and perhaps even on occasion far more than I deserved. However, she has been my moral compass far more often than she has been a stumbling block. When I consider where the Lord might be leading us, I always stop to consider how the Lord is speaking to her and it helps to guide my way.

But these are just the details, the individual trees in the forest of our relationship. That forest began as a small grove of shared experience that now encompasses forty years of our lives. The branches of these experiences intertwine through the lives of all those we have known and touched, and all those who have entered our lives over the years. These shared experiences enrich our lives and deepen the connections between us. We have done far more than endure; we have grown deeper and more connected to all we have known. We have learned the lessons of love.

The modern notion of living together until you are no longer interested in the other troubles me. Not because I am a judgmental prude. Far from it. Rather I have seen how a marital commitment – in the presence of God, family and friends – provides the shelter under which the frail shoots of a nascent love can become a forest of blessing and refuge in a word that is filled with rancor and strife. So many people misunderstand just how considerate and caring, how reassuring and comforting that marital commitment can be. For us, at forty years and counting, it has been an immeasurable blessing.