I celebrated our anniversary like so many other events in our lives by traveling to a gig in another state. We did celebrate a night early and she has learned to flow with my bizarre schedule. It hasn’t always been that way. The change has happened not so much with her but with me. I have gotten better at affirming my wife and learned how to make it a little less about me.
I did the American guy thing for many years. I worked too much. I took my young bride for granted. I craved success and praise for my accomplishments. And too often I left her chasing rambunctious boys and wondering if her husband valued her. I failed to lead her well spiritually for too many years. Yet today I am happier in my marriage than I have even been. And I believe she would say the same thing.
We have endured some really hard things. The death of a daughter. An armed invasion robbery in our home. Cancer. Yet we are happier than we have ever been. How can that be possible?
We have learned one important lesson that is communicated so well by my friends at Leadership Catalyst.
“The abundant life is comparing God's character, faithfulness and ability with my particular circumstances and believing that God's character trumps my circumstance.”
And that statement is absolutely true. I have heard so much stinkin’ bad teaching that the abundant life means financial blessing, perfect health and relational bliss. My experience has been financial ups and downs, health problems and seasons of marital joy and despair. For many years I thought I was doing something wrong. Where is this abundant life? And I finally figured it out. The abundant life is all around me. A wife who stayed with me until God could begin to get my attention. Three honest, bright and Godly sons (more good work by Joni). Great friends who have my back and love me even though they actually know me. More stuff than I will ever need and enough left over to give to others. And trusting a God who is trustworthy.
Joni’s breast cancer journey has also changed me. I know intellectually that there are never any guarantees that we see the next birthday or anniversary. Her cancer made that sink in. Now I pray to have the wisdom to live in the moment and enjoy each day.
My friend Mike lost his dear wife a couple of years ago. Recently over coffee he shared with three married guys how much he still misses her. He said these words that both convicted and inspired me.
“Guys, let me tell you something. Don’t take your wife for granted. You are probably thinking that you don’t. But you do and you are. Do not take her for granted because you never know if you have tomorrow.”
Mike speaks from the pain of experience. I know I still take my bride for granted. I know I still do not love her well all of the time. But I also know I am improving. And she sees it and she feels it and most importantly, she believes it. I know that not every marriage can work. I once wondered if my marriage would work. Thank God we didn’t give up.
Through all of the tough times and bad moments God proved faithful and trustworthy. He redeemed every heartache and every trial. God refined me through the storms and His love did trump my circumstances. There are the TV commercials about living the “high life”. I am not living the high life but I am living the abundant life with a woman that I love with all of my heart. I’ve gotta be honest with you. I’m good with that.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.