Cupid’s arrows are flying through the mail again and I’m somewhat of an authority on the subject of the season. I’ve been in love with the same woman since we were teenagers and we’re heading toward our sixty-fourth wedding anniversary. Add to that the many weddings at which I’ve officiated and you’ll see there’s a case for my claim.
One of the tenderest times in the sequence of events leading to marriage is the first appointment with the minister. Two young lovers enter the pastor’s study, hand in hand, with stars in their eyes, to talk about getting married. For this important occasion, I settled on a plan that I thought would help them throughout their life together.
First, I asked the prospective groom why he wanted to marry this woman. His answer was always essentially the same: because he loved her.
“Why do you love her?” I then asked.
An awkward period of silence often followed that question, during which I felt sorry for the bride-to-be whose future husband couldn’t think of anything to say.
One answered, “Well, it’s not because of her looks!”
I’ve often wondered why we didn’t lose that one.
Finally, after time to think about his answer, this man who was soon to pledge his love for life would come up with some reasons for doing so. Then I asked the same question of the intended bride, who often quickly volunteered several reasons for her love. Following this, I asked both of them to enlarge on their love lists and bring them to our next appointment.
At our second meeting, I carefully went over both lists and returned them, saying, “You are each marrying an imperfect person. You both have faults that will begin to show up after you’re married and that will be the time to review your lists again.
What was I trying to do?
I was making an effort to teach these who were soon to be married how to build a lasting relationship by focusing on their strong points, the positive characteristics that had brought them together.
Ruining a marriage is easy. All you have to do is accentuate the negative.
Those who build on faults shouldn’t be surprised when earthquakes come.
An unhappy woman thought there was no way to save her marriage. Sitting across the desk from me, she told the reasons for her pessimism and unfolded a bitter story about her husband’s faults. He was neglectful, unloving and unspiritual.
“Is there anything good about him?” I asked.
She hadn’t thought about that in a long time. After a few moments of silence, she started naming a few redeeming qualities in this scoundrel and before she left my office her attitude had changed. He wasn’t so bad after all.
Looking for the best in others is not a denial of their shortcomings. On the contrary, it simply recognizes their faults and then acts in love.
This is exactly how the Lord responds to our failures. In spite of our blunders and mistakes along the way, He loves us, meets us where we are and offers us forgiveness. That’s why grace is so amazing: it’s extended to the undeserving.
There are no perfect people and therefore no perfect marriages.
But there is hope: those who respond in faith to God’s love will discover the secret that makes love and marriage last.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.