When Mary Ann and I said those five words 36 years ago we said them with great conviction, hope and optimism but knowing nothing about their true implications - because we had no idea what the better or worse would entail. The better has been better than we could have imagined and the worse has been worse than we ever anticipated. It has simply been 36 years of real life not understood or anticipated at the tender age of 20.
For better or for worse are powerful words because it is in the better and the worse that two individuals forge the most powerful partnership and abiding mature love. I think of every day of marriage as a brick in a wall. After one year we had 365 bricks laid. Today we have 13,140. After year one we had a small fragile wall. Today we are on our way to a strong fortress. Some of those bricks were laid easily and some with great cost. But each one, sealed with the mortar of commitment builds a stronger wall: one brick at a time.
This is why we honor people who have been married for many years. We know that it was not an easy journey and we celebrate those who have been able to make the long journey together.
It is easy for our marriages to go on auto pilot. But stop and think of the fortress you are building together one day at a time. Every day, every brick, strengthens the marriage and ironically while we love the great times, it is the hard times that bring the strongest bond. Fighting battles together builds a bond that is hard to break - if we fight them together and not alone.
Grace, forgiveness and patience figure prominently into those bricks and mortar. Cracks in the wall if ignored will eventually cause its failure and collapse. Ignore the cracks and they get worse. Fix them and the wall is again strong. It takes attention, remedial action and sometimes the rebuilding of sections of the wall. Sections rebuilt are particularly precious because someone took the time to fix what was broken and make it whole. Rebuilding can be some of the hardest work but when finished some of the most satisfying.
The strongest walls are made between three people, not two - by inviting the Holy Spirit into our relationships. Through His transformation our sin is not only dealt with in forgiveness but our very character is changed over time into His. His presence makes all the difference in the health and growth of our relationships.
I intend to build a fortress with Mary Ann. What are you building?