Today we celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary! It is sweet to pause in the quiet and let my heart sift back through “snap shots” and “video clips” of treasured moments on that clear October day. … The huge maple tree bursting with golden yellow leaves that canopied our wedding photos at the arboretum. The whispers just between the two of us, lost in our own bubble of joy. The words of truth and encouragement in our ceremony. The sweet hugs and smiles from so many loved ones. And stealing away in our rented Buick Park Avenue sedan to dinner and dessert for two in our fancy hotel room!
To this day, there is no warmer, cozier, more surrounded place than curled up in each other’s arms. Sharing whispers just between the two of us. The memories of our special day – and so many moments in the two decades since – are truly happy! And we are grateful to feel abundantly blessed with the gift of our marriage!
But, did we walk down that aisle, blissfully believing in “happily ever after?” Married at age 30, we both had lived through enough “blood, sweat and tears” to understand that life is hard. There are no guarantees. The enemy of our souls is always working to undermine and destroy the beautiful picture marriage holds of Christ’s love for His own. As frail humans, our promises to one another are only as powerful as our commitment to them, and ever dependent on the One who gives us the ability to keep them.
Knowing the dangers, we have fiercely guarded our marriage from the start. We look to the Lord again and again for wisdom and guidance as we encounter new seasons of life side by side. How are we able to look back over 20 years and stretch an over-arching banner that simply yet poignantly says “happily married?” And where can we best commit our hearts, going forward, to position ourselves to draw the same conclusion if the Lord grants us another 20 years together?
These are some of the questions presented in Kevin A. Thompson’s new book, “Happily: 8 Commitments of Couples Who Laugh, Love & Last.” I was grateful to receive of copy of this book just a few weeks before this milestone anniversary, and to share much of its wisdom with my husband as we reflect and rejoice together.
In his years of experience counseling couples, Kevin Thompson has concluded there are a few basic longings for marriage – that it will be fun (inspire joy), that it will be a place where genuine love is expressed, and that it will endure. He has written a previous book “Friends, Partners, and Lovers” that describes what a happy couple can do to build their friendship, partnership, and intimacy. In this second book, he delves deeper into how those commitments should be carried out.
Kevin lists various verbs that are associated with a good marriage: love, care, listen, learn, forgive, trust, encourage, submit, cheer, embrace, and so on. He believes that the powerful adverb “happily” makes all the difference in how those verbs are lived out and the impact each will have on the strength of a marriage.
As a basis for his challenge to married couples, Kevin walks his readers through the Beatitudes from Matthew 5. These are the principles the Lord Jesus taught when He walked this earth. Heart postures that lead to God-honoring attitudes and actions are applicable in so many facets of life. Kevin suggests one of the greatest places to enjoy the fruit of Godly choices is in our marriage relationships. Blessed (happy!) are those who choose God’s way.
Rather than pride, humility.
Rather than avoiding pain and failure, confronting it and processing through it.
Rather than apathy or aggression, meekness (strength with vulnerability).
Rather than self-centered perspective, reaching for a higher goal (glorifying God).
Rather than selfishness, compassion and mercy.
Rather than hypocrisy, truth and honesty.
Rather than division and strife, pursuit of peace.
Rather than giving up too easily, working through challenges to grow stronger.
I believe this book will touch each couple personally and uniquely. I also believe it is a book worth revisiting at each new milestone or when walking through different experiences. Reading it for the first time, these are the few quotes that really stand out to me:
“Marriage at its best is meek. When someone acts in a meek manner, they quickly act on behalf of another but are never self-serving… they are a person restrained by love and grace.” (p76)
“Love restrains us. It keeps us from using our strength as a disservice to our spouse. Our strength is best used for the benefit of our spouse, not for their detriment. Meekness keeps our strength under control.” (p82)
“Mercy requires toughness to restrain any desire for revenge … and tenderness to have empathy and compassion for another person. The best marriages are defined by both toughness and tenderness. … When thinking of the qualities that lead to a lasting relationship, few people would ever consider mercy. Yet anyone who has ever experienced a truly meaningful relationship can reflect on and realize the influence mercy had on their union.” (p125)
“More than anything, marriage is an avenue through which a couple can know God and express Him to others. … Marriage is about a joint pursuit of the heart of God.” (p100-101)
In conclusion, Kevin makes the point that through the whole of Scripture, God reveals a pattern of working from the inside out – in human hearts and in relationships. He draws a very interesting and helpful correlation between the Lord Jesus’ teachings in the Beatitudes with our best choices in marriage. He concedes that these choices are neither easy nor natural – but that they can lead us to a different way of life – a little bit of heaven on earth!
I am so thankful for this fresh look at the Beatitudes and the very practical applications to marriage presented in “Happily.” Kevin’s insights encourage me (causing me to be grateful for the ways the Lord has already guided, grown and preserved our marriage through these principles), but also challenge me to look more closely for ways I may have slipped from God’s standards. Do I love like He does – faithfully, sacrificially, tenderly, kindly, and intentionally?
As my husband and I celebrate 20 years together and trust the Lord for the future, there is no better way to refocus my heart than to ponder our Savior’s teachings and apply them to our marriage. I firmly believe that these commitments will not only honor God, but will bless our marriage with deepening love, infectious joy, and a relationship that will endure!
“A good marriage is built through a thousand small acts.
As a husband and wife lay down their lives for one another, the marriage thrives.”
– Kevin A. Thompson –
. . .
Blessed (happy!) are the poor in spirit (humble),
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
– Matthew 5:3-10 –
. . .
“HAPPILY: 8 Commitments of Couples Who Laugh, Love & Last”
by Kevin A. Thompson is published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.