RICK & BETTY NATIONS
SOME THINGS TWO OLD FOLKS HAVE LEARNED ABOUT MARRIAGE
Fifty-seven years ago, I married my high school prom date. Yes, we have been living with the same “wonderful” mate for fifty-seven years! And we can truly say, “This was the happiest year yet!” With Covid rearing its ugly head, it meant staying home and being “isolated” for a year. So why was this still the happiest year yet?
Throughout the years of our marriage, we have learned some Biblical truths and been able to put them into practice.
1. We have learned to adjust to those things our mate isn’t going to change anyway! (Philippians 2:3-4)
2. Our mate will not become perfect! (Romans 3:10) And it is not our job to make them perfect. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit – more on that later.
3. In marriage the two become one, but they do not become the same. (Mark 10:8)
Do you own a pair of shoes or sandals? Of course, you do and Rick bets you have a right and a left in that pair. You do NOT have two of the same, but two different, complementary shoes/sandals that work together to be a pair. So, it is in marriage -- Two different but complementary folks forming a pair in marriage.
4. We have learned to choose our words to each other more carefully and lovingly. (Colossians 4:6)
5. We also have learned to seek God first – His Will, His Timing, His Way. (Matthew 6:33)
Sometimes these five truths will make for some “interesting” discussions and reactions as you travel the road of marriage together. (This has been true for us, but we will save you from reading a hundred pages of details. 😊) Here are some experiences we have had.
Over the years we have been a part of a number of discipleship/spiritual growth courses. One of the best ones was called “Making Marriage Last Forever." We learned that in each relationship there is usually a “babbling brook” and a “dead sea”! Well, it wasn’t hard to figure out which of us was which -- Rick being the “babbling brook” and Betty being the “dead sea”! That isn’t a negative: if each were a “babbling brook” they could be competing for someone to listen or if each were a “dead sea”, it would be a very quiet relationship indeed. So, we have learned to cherish the other’s conversational style and to use it in our daily life. For example, because Betty doesn’t like a lot of talking with stranger-type of activities, Rick takes over everything from scheduling appointments, to checking on bank accounts, to asking for directions and Betty happily knows that this is in good hands.
We have never had money problems despite the fact that we married right out of college, had no money, and had our first baby 11 months later. AND we never have had a budget. (We do NOT recommend this for the vast majority of couples.) Why no budget? Rick says Betty is “fiscally conservative” but Betty just says that she is “cheap”. If there was not money for something, we did not buy it! And we did not feel deprived; we just felt free of debt -- and that is a good feeling.
We have seen and continue to see many marriages around us having problems because of debt. Many marriages have been helped by such courses as “Financial Peace University” (usually taught at churches).
Each phase in our lives/marriage had its challenges, but the closer we came to the Lord, the closer we came to each other. As part of marriage ceremonies, and as a teaching, Rick talks about “The Triumphant Triangle”:
Pretend we have a triangle with equal sides. Each of you is at one corner of that triangle along the bottom edge. Jesus is the top corner. Here’s what's important about that triangle. As you face Jesus, and move closer to Him, you will move closer to each other!
Here’s another fact: A triangle is the strongest shape in physics. A marriage built on three – Jesus being the third party – is stronger than any trial or tribulation you can face – as a couple. So, we urge you to continue moving closer to Jesus as you also continue to grow in your relationship with each other.
THE BIBLE SAYS...
The Bible says there is wisdom in the abundance of wise counselors --those who are wise in the ways of the Lord. Your parent(s) or your best friend(s) may not be the counselor(s) who God wants to use with you. They may like you too much to confront you if necessary with something you need to be aware of. A pastor or trained professional usually is reliable at being lovingly blunt when necessary. An experience we had might help illustrate this.
We had been spending some time at a street ministry under a Pastor who was called because of his heart not because of his formal education. He pretty well sized us up and said he wanted to come to our house and talk with us. Rick had several things that he thought should be changed in Betty. But this Pastor told him simply to pray for the next 30 days for God to make him the husband that God wanted Betty to have. Nothing more. Rick had a “teachable spirit” and took to heart what the Pastor shared with him and prayed that prayer for the next 30 days and at the end Rick shared that it was amazing how much Betty had shaped up during those 30 days! Some things just are not as important as we sometimes make them. (BTW – Rick has told this true story from the pulpit during several sermons he has preached over the years at several churches. It elicits silence, then giggles, then laughter, and finally questions after the service. Rick finishes the story by pointing out he was the “issue” that had to be addressed, not Betty, and that he had much to learn (and did learn). BUT such learning comes only from the Holy Spirit!
Be supportive of your spouse as they try to grow spiritually and serve as God would have them both inside and outside the church. We each tried to let the other know we were in that experience with them. When Rick was a deacon, and the church had a deacon family ministry, there was plenty of work to do for both of us. When I became a discipleship training director at a church, Rick was right there with me — he even took the Disciple’s Prayer Life course when I was teaching it! And ended up doing a skit with me for a Southwest Florida Baptist Association Training event! Because we have a good many years on us, there have been numerous opportunities to encourage and help one another with whatever God was leading us to do.
Oh yes, that reminds us of something else to share with you. Be prepared for unexpected changes over the course of your marriage! Rick was a teacher/educator/researcher/evaluation specialist for 30 years in our local school system. He also taught courses on these technical topics at the college graduate level. After 30 years a person could retire and receive retirement income. He did that at age 55. But that is not the point of this story. God had been working on Rick about something. I had been observing as God was doing a special work in Rick. So had our adult children and their wives, but I did not know this. One evening, Rick answered an altar call at church. This was at a service he had just preached! He came to me and said he had just told God he would go into full-time ministry whenever God wanted. I told him “What took you so long?” The next day he called our two sons and spoke to them and their wives separately. Each one answered with the same words: “What took you so long?” About 3 years later he took an option to retire early so he could become an Interim/Transitional Pastor, as well as someone who helped churches resolve conflicts. When you decide to follow Jesus, you will not know what changes will take place over the course of your marriage but always seek the Lord’s will in your lives. The journey will be challenging, but also rewarding!
What can you take from our experiences which might help your marriage to be all that it can be as you travel through this thing called Biblical or Covenant marriage?
1. There are some things about your spouse that probably will never change. Learn to accept and even use these differences in your marriage.
2. Watch how you speak to your spouse. The Bible puts it this way: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
3. Remember in marriage the two become one, but they do not become the same.
4. Be aware of, and sometimes become a part of, a marriage retreat or seminar or discipleship course. Caution: Some years ago, we ended up teaching one for the Florida Baptist Convention. 😊
5. Take steps to individually be closer to Jesus. Remember the triangle: the closer you get to Jesus, the closer you will be to one another. James 4:8a (ESV) puts it this way: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
6. Watch your finances closely! Many marital fights are over money! If you are having any difficulty at all, enroll in Financial Peace University or a similar program. God’s word says: ““Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV).
7. When there is a problem, seek “wise counsel”.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, so that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:20-21, ESV)
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15, ESV)
8. Be prepared for changes throughout your marriage as God leads and as circumstances change. But always seek God’s will in these changes!
9. Husbands set the tone for your marriage.
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)
10. Support your spouse as they grow spiritually and in serving others both inside and outside of the church.
A CLOSING PRAYER
We want to leave you with The Aaronic Blessing (Numbers 6:22-27, ESV)
The Lord Bless you… (the word bless means to provide favor or benefit)
And keep you (the Hebrew word “keep” means to “watch, guard, defend”)
The Lord make His face to shine upon you (This is a request for God’s presence)
And be gracious to you (Grace is God’s undeserved favor)
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you (Here is a request for God’s fellowship)
And give you peace. (The Hebrew word for peace used here is “shalom”. It means “completeness, wholeness, contentment.)
It is way too easy to let unkind words and a critical spirit enter a marriage. It especially happens when one or both partners are tired and/or stressed. This is the time to remind yourself of God’s directive and to pray “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14, ESV)
What Did You Expect?
Somehow, someway, every marriage becomes a struggle.
Everyone’s marriage morphs into something they didn’t intend it to be. At some point you need something sturdier than romance. You need something deeper than shared interests and mutual attraction. You need changed expectations, you need radical commitments, and, most importantly, you need grace.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
RICK & BETTY NATIONS
We are Pastor Rick & Betty Nations. We are former public school educators and have years of ministry behind us (Betty as a Discipleship Trainer & Rick as Interim Senior Pastor 7 times). But our main “Claim to Fame” is we are the Grandparents of Matt Nations AND the Great Grandparents of Kai Brave, World’s Best Great Grandson!