May 21, 2023
Today at approximately 3:00 pm will mark 40 YEARS of marriage to Carol. That’s a long time! Over the last few weeks, I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on the joys and struggles of marriage. I asked myself, “Given my experience, what wisdom would I offer to a naïve 23-year-old Rick as he prepared to marry young Carol Lyons?”
In no particular order, I came up with these twelve points:
1. The words of your marriage vows – “for better or for worse…for richer or for poorer…in sickness and in health…” – are REAL. You will experience everything in those vows (although I am still waiting for the “richer” part). You will have good times and bad times; you will struggle to make ends meet; you will experience sickness. Get ready for a roller coaster ride; marriage is full of twists and turns.
2. Love is a decision. As corny as it sounds, it is true. Each morning you wake up, you need to commit to loving her that day. It will make you more intentional. Remembering to “love Carol today” will make you hesitate before saying something hurtful, something you can’t take back.
3. What does it mean to love? To love is “to will the good of the other.” (St. Augustine) That means you want the best for her. That may very well mean sacrificing something you want. Love is selfless, directed outward.
4. There will be conflict in marriage. It can manifest itself in many ways. Human nature tends to make us defensive or set our sights immediately on the faults of the other. In the midst of conflict, there are two good questions to ask yourself while looking in the mirror. One, “What have I learned about myself through this conflict?” and two, “How can I grow from this?” We love outwardly by reflecting inwardly.
5. It is important to remember: You don’t always have to be right.
6. Be present to one another. When the two of you are together, each should be focused on the needs of the other. Listen, be attentive, have an open mind and heart.
7. In the same vein, the two of you should stay present in the moment. If you carry too much baggage from the past or are constantly yearning for what’s in the future, you will miss out on the beauty present in the here and now. Take time to smell the roses.
8. Be Carol’s biggest and loudest cheerleader. Tell not only her, but the whole world how proud you are of her.
9. Protect her. If you can keep others from hurting her, do it. If you can run interference for her, do it. If you can take the blows for her to minimize the damage, do it.
10. Pray together. Start early in your marriage and make it a daily habit. It is great for each of you to have a strong individual faith, but critical that you have a strong shared faith. It will serve as a constant reminder that God is present in your marriage and walks with you on your journey.
11. Your marriage will reveal Christ to the world. Others will see Christ in how you love one another and in how you, as a couple, interact with them. Your marriage will be a lamp on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house.
12. Finally, if you and Carol are lucky enough to have children (and I happen to know you will have 4 children and at least 10 grandchildren), the love you have together will multiply. While still learning to be married, you’ll need to learn how to be parents as well.
AND – responsibility will multiply. You will need to love your children and grandchildren for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, and in sickness and in health. You will need to make the decision to love them every day and “will their good.” You’ll have conflict with them and will need to listen, and have an open mind and heart. You will have to be attentive to their needs, be their biggest cheerleader, and protect them. You and Carol will need to pray with them and reveal Christ to them.
You’ll be doing “on the job training” for both at the same time. Looking back now I can tell you: All the sleepless nights and constant worrying will be worth it. You will end up with an incredible family that loves one another completely.
I did not know all of these things when I married Carol 40 years ago, but I knew some of them and have learned the others along the way. The beauty in the reflection I have shared with you is that my love for Carol has only grown stronger.
I am blessed. We are blessed. I love you, Carol…and I have made the decision to keep loving you every day.
Happy 40th Anniversary Carol & Deacon Rick!! The light of your love shines ever so brightly for all to see. Celebrate your very special day.