20 Gifts of Grace That Have Made 20 Years of Marriage
“They’ll never make it,” we overheard my dad say at our wedding reception.
An aunt nodded knowingly, “Yeah, it’s a shame.”
We danced on, cut the cake, raised our glasses to toast, and headed into marriage.
It’s not like they didn’t have their reasons. I was 20, Mark was 23. I was in the middle of college, he was in seminary. We had only been engaged for two and half months.
Some asked if I was pregnant. Others, confused by our faith, asked if we had joined a cult. The multiple divorces piled up behind us made many assume we would end up there too.
And it’s by God’s grace alone that we didn’t.
But God. I’ve said before they’re my favorite words in the Bible. Ephesians 2:4-5 says:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.
But God changes everything. We were dead, but we came alive. We were lost, but then were found. We were enemies of God, but then co-heirs with Christ.
Mark and I come from much brokenness, but God has enabled us to stay unified for 20 years today. Why are we still together? What in the world has allowed us to beat the odds and stand here happily, joyously still married?
The number one reason that undergirds all the rest is that we have been rescued and redeemed by God. His grace has flooded us and covered us and led us these 20 years. But I wanted to write down what that grace has looked like.
What are the tangible things God has given us or done for us—what are the vehicles of his grace, the means of his grace—that have allowed us to thrive for two decades?
Well, here’s 20 God-given reasons we’ve been together for 20 years, in no particular order.
We both fully believe that God is sovereign and good. We are both convinced that God is in control of all things and we both trust him wholeheartedly with our lives, marriage, history, future, children, everything (this doesn’t mean we don’t have seasons of discouragement and even doubt, but God is our refuge and foundation, at the end of the day—by his grace alone!).
We have a common desire to be on mission together. We both want to serve the Lord and we seek to do that together as often as possible. Our eyes are not fixed on each other, but rather on Jesus, and we spur one another on toward him.
We trust each other. We don’t keep secrets. We’re transparent.
We have a sense of adventure in our lives—we like to go, do, run, see!
We have a desire that most of our time and energy and finances and any other resources that God gives us be dedicated to eternal purposes (obviously we don’t do this perfectly, but we try to apply an eternal lens frequently, and especially to big decisions).
We both routinely seek out mentors to lead us in having a Christ-centered marriage and how to be Christ-centered parents. This is huge! Mentors have led us in tremendous ways.
We are both willing to compromise.
We are committed to regular physical intimacy.
We are both lifelong learners. We push each other to think hard, to read, and to engage in dialogue about hard things.
We talk a lot every day—about silly things, deep things, practical things. This one might be my favorite on the list. I really enjoy and depend on meaningful conversation with Mark every day.
We value humor and laugh a lot. A lot, a lot!
We like each other! We enjoy being together.
We get some of our needs met elsewhere—such as needs for friendship and hobbies and certain conversations—we don’t depend on one another for everything (as global nomads, I had to figure this one out the hard way in the early years. I learned that I needed good girlfriends and couldn’t depend on Mark to meet all those relational needs.).
We pray for one another and we pray together—this is not a rigid habit for us, but it’s a regular occurrence. In other words, we don’t pray together every night, for example. But we pray together often and for one another often.
We’re quick to forgive one another (admittedly, this was pretty hard for me in the early years).
We’ve always been a part of the local church, as well as small groups or accountability groups or Bible studies, or other things like that. This one probably seems obvious because we’re in ministry. But I really do think the fact that we have been totally invested in a local church every week for 20 years has shaped us deeply. There’s no replacement for the body of Christ—it’s a slow and constant shaping of our values, of what’s possible, of who God is, of what his Word says, of what goody couples farther along have seen and done.
We are committed to living on a budget. We’ve always lived on one modest income and anything extra has gone into savings for a future need. We have always tithed, saved for major purchases, and documented just about every cent spent in our budget spreadsheet or phone app. (Thanks, Dave Ramsey!)
We champion one another when it comes to our families/in-laws. See my recent blog about that.
We serve one another and make sacrifices for one another. I remember our pastor preaching, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21) during our wedding ceremony and it made a lasting, applicable impression.
When we’ve faced an impasse, we’ve asked mediators to help us talk it through.
As Psalm 118:23 says, “This is the Lord’s doing and it’s marvelous in our eyes.” Thank you, Father, for 20 years. By your grace, would you give us at least 20 more? Amen.