In three more weeks, we'll celebrate our 36th anniversary.
I'll (Eileen) never forget our wedding day when we turned to face the audience and my dad who conducted the ceremony said those exciting, yet sobering words, "I now present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rife!"
Exciting, because we'd finally get to live, sleep, eat, and share together under one roof. Sobering, because we could imagine (at least in part) what "two becoming one" might mean. In reality, we had no clue as to the struggles we would face as God used the marital relationship to refine and polish us. He's used everything from the humorous to the gut-wrenching to teach us many lessons over the years.
I remember our journey to the altar.
It all began Freshman year. Southeastern Bible College, 1973. I sat in a wingback chair during a Welcome New Student Tea. The young man sitting on the floor began to ask me one question after another. I'd never been asked so many questions. Turned out that young man was Chuck Rife. The last question he asked me that day was, "Do you have a ride to church tonight?" It was Wednesday. I didn't have a car; he didn't have a car. But he knew a married couple on campus who did and were willing to give us a ride.
Thus, a friendship began which deepened into a love relationship. Three years later, I was walking down the aisle toward my valiant prince who had ridden up on his noble steed and swept me off my feet into everlasting bliss.
It wasn't long into our marriage when I realized my valiant prince had a few chinks in his armor and his helmet was a bit askew. Even more disconcerting was the fact that his lovely princess had a few flaws of her own, and marriage only seemed to accentuate them.
We moved into our first apartment--campus housing--for $75 month, furnished with Rescue Mission finds and family/friend wedding gifts. Life was sweet. We would come home at night and flip on the kitchen lights. Chuck would grab one of my brand new kitchen towels and smack roaches on the walls and counters. Enter one of our first marital conflicts--I detest bug guts all over my counters.
But it gets better--Chuck told me he would do the bills for a year, then he would like for me to do them, which meant for the rest of my life. Needless to say, in those first few years, there were many bounced checks. Again, marital conflict.
Reflecting on our years together, I sat down, pulled out my journal and began to note some of the things I've learned over 36 years of marriage.
1) If I want to have any covers, I have to nail the sheets to my side of the bed.
2) That a raised toilet seat is not a personal affront.
3) That we actually do have several things in common, like which way the toilet paper rolls.
4) That silence means "I'm thinking" about that.
5) That when my husband walks into the kitchen wearing goggles and with jackhammer in hand, I'd better call 911.
6) That when I can't find Chuck, he's either playing golf or hidden in a hole out front (he'll have to tell you about that some time).
7) I've also learned that marriage really is like a three-ring circus--first comes the engagement ring, then comes the wedding ring, and then comes the suffeRING. But that God intends to use the suffering to make me more like Jesus.
8) I've learned that marriage will test every fiber in my spiritual fabric.
9) I've learned that the NO.1 problem in marriage is selfishness.
10) That the chief end of marriage is not my happiness, but my holiness.
11) That the greater the difficulties, the more opportunity I have to become like Him.
12) I've learned that marriage can last a lifetime, 'cause I saw it modeled by our parents.
13) I've learned that Chuck can't be "God" to me. The LORD must be God--my number one Husband, Provider, and Protector--my security. This has been a growing process and still is. And God has used sexual difficulties, children's issues, family background differences, and financial stressors to consistently bump my focus back to Him.
14) I've learned that the closer we grow to God, the closer we grow to one another.
15) I've learned that words can wound or heal.
16) I've learned that marriage is a primary forum for practicing forgiveness.
17) I've learned that the 7 hardest words in the English language are "I was wrong, will you forgive me?"
18) I've learned that marriage is my NO.1 Ministry, because a strong marriage makes a strong family. Strong families make strong churches; strong churches make strong communities; and strong communities make a strong world.
19) For this reason, I've learned that marriage is on Satan's number one hit list.
20 I've learned that our marriage is a reflection of Jesus and His Bride, the Church.
So I ask myself? What kind of picture am I offering to those around me?
My son-in-law, Nathan, surprised me one day with mounted pics he had taken of Sri Lanka and Washington State. He enjoys photography and these shots showed it! He knows just the right way to angle the camera, the right light exposure, and the right equipment to use to capture the desired effect. All with clear, sharp focus.
That's our aim: to grow a godly marriage with clear, sharp focus--intent on one purpose: becoming like Christ and offering the world a picture of His relationship with us. As we approach our 36th anniversary, I know God has many more lessons for me to learn! That's both exciting, and sobering.