I am blessed to have been married to the same person for 37 years. There have been trials, but our marriage has been a source of incredible joy and blessing. Although we were believers when we married, we didn’t fully understand the work it would take to build our marriage, and we have learned a few lessons along the way that we want to share.
“Mary and Joseph of the Bible definitely inspire me with their cooperation with God and each other.”
This quote is really the key point of Mary’s preceding blog post. Our 37 years of marriage are a testament to God’s faithfulness in spite of our weaknesses. Like Mary, I believe that cooperation has been one of the keys to our growing and remaining together as a couple.
The Oxford dictionary defines cooperation as “the process of working together to the same end.” There are three key points to this definition.
- Same End
As couples we must agree on the ultimate goal or destination. Hopefully you do so as a couple before you’re married, but the conversation needs to be revisited. In this age of navigation software, many of us may have forgotten what it is like to get directions using a map. A map requires you to constantly and actively check to be sure you aren’t off course. Identifying the “same end” isn’t enough. You need to revisit that idea and check to be sure you both are still headed in that direction.
- Working Together
Working together involves a willingness to sacrifice. Working together always involves some compromise. It doesn’t involve compromising core principles but often involves letting go of preferences. Everyone on the same team has different roles, and a team only wins if each person tries to be the best he can be in his role, acknowledge the talents of teammates, and be willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole. When I played football, I was a receiver and wanted us to throw the football all the time, but we also had some talented running backs. Calling plays for both of us led to the team’s success. A successful team has players who are willing to work together.
A process involves a series of actions and doesn’t involve just thoughts and intentions. Too often Mary and I have identified an issue, developed a plan of how to tackle that issue, and then I haven’t followed through with the corresponding action. When that happened we stopped progressing. Why didn’t I act? I had become distracted by other demands or concerns like a project at work. Maybe the required action called for me to change or to do something uncomfortable; so, I would just put it off. We can’t remain married on good intentions. As Jesus said, we prove our love by action.
I demand that you love each other as much as I love you. And here is how to measure it – the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends.
John 15:12,13 (TLB)