17 Lessons from 17 Years of Marriage (Lessons 9 – ­12)

Love is a Fruit, by Leland Francisco, Flickr

Love is a Fruit, by Leland Francisco, Flickr

Tasha and I recently celebrated 17 Years of Marriage! Part of this year’s anniversary celebration included some time for Tasha and I to reflect on lessons from our first 17 years of marriage.

I provided an overview of the first 8 lessons in the past two posts (Part 1; Part 2). I’ll take a look at lessons 9-12 in this reflection. Before I do so, here is a quick overview of our 17 Lessons again:

  1. Prioritize Time Together
  2. Keep Short Accounts
  3. Laugh Often
  4. Learn and Speak One Another’s Love Language
  5. Appreciate, Don’t Expect
  6. Celebrate One Another, Including the Differences
  7. The Kids Are #2
  8. Ride the Waves like a Pro with the Ups and Downs of Life
  9. Keep the Friendship, and the Romance, Alive
  10. Give Tech a Timeout
  11. The Grass is Greenest Here
  12. Enjoy the Mountaintops and the Mundane
  13. Dream and Grow Together
  14. Change Yourself, Not Each Other
  15. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
  16. Listen and Learn
  17. Stay Connected to the Vine

Here we go: Lessons 9 – 12 with a bit more detail.

9. Keep the Friendship, and the Romance, Alive

Just before our wedding, Tasha had the following engraved on the inside of my wedding ring: Song of Solomon 5:16. The phrase to which Tasha was referring is this: “This is my beloved and this is my friend.” When I look at my ring, I am regularly reminded of this precious and unique beloved-friend relationship Tasha and I share.

Our marriage is the only relationship in our lives that embodies this unique combination of both friendship and romance. Although I have many friends, only Tasha occupies the position as my closest friend. Although I have many friends, Tasha alone is my lover.

With five children, our marriage relationship is not 24-7 roses and candles. But in the midst of “mundane” living, we daily have the opportunity to nurture both the friendship and romance in our relationship. Although this sometimes finds its expression in an intentional romantic evening out on a date, the friendship and romance is more often found in the small gestures—gestures like checking in with one another throughout a busy day, serving one another with a task the other finds burdensome, or the lingering hug and kiss as we pass in the kitchen.

Keeping both the friendship and romance alive is vital for a healthy and thriving marriage.

10. Give Tech a Timeout

While it is true that there is no one other than Tasha I would rather be next to as we are on our phones, tablets, or computers, better than this is to just be with each other as we “give tech a timeout.”

The point is not to demonize technology, but rather to prioritize technology as it should be—behind and subordinate to our relationship.

One of the things I appreciate most about technology is its capacity to facilitate communication with people through pathways like email and Facebook. As a married couple, however, these other forms of communication must not take priority over our marriage and friendship.

One of the keys for Tasha and me is to be proactive in communicating when we want to set aside technology so we can focus on one another. At times this means leaving our phones in another room as we enjoy conversation and time together. Other times, this means we mutually decide we want to catch up on emails together.

Whether utilizing technology, or giving tech a timeout, the key is to be proactive in seeing that technology serves your marriage and friendship and does not take away from it.

11. The Grass is Greenest Here

In the book of Exodus (20:17) and Deuteronomy (5:21), we find the following command: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.” The New Testament also reaffirms these cautions around coveting (e.g., Luke 12:15 and James 4:2). What is behind these commands? How does this relate to marriage?

The concept of coveting is about desiring after something that does not belong to you. Here’s one formal definition: “to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others.”

In marriage, it is right, fitting, and beautiful for Tasha and I to desire one another, fantasize about one another, and enjoy one another through physical intimacy. This is the relationship in which these desires are to find their expression for us.

In contrast to these healthy and beautiful expressions in marriage, sin also promises to fulfill desires. The problem is these desires are counterfeit and rob couples of true and lasting pleasure. Here are a few counterfeits that compete with marital love in our day: pornography in all its expressions (from visual images to fantasy novels); looking longingly to the romance of others through film and other story book forms; or, looking to other individuals outside of marriage to find physical or emotional fulfillment of desires.

Often times, such outlets are motivated by comparison. We think that the “grass is greener” somewhere else. The problem with this line of thinking is that it is comparing the real to the counterfeit. While the counterfeit entices with fleeting pleasure, the real offers stable and lasting pleasure. In other words, the grass really is greenest right here. For Tasha and I, the grass is greenest and the pleasure is the best right here in our marriage.

The Bible’s wise cautions against coveting are not about killing joy, but rather fulfilling joy. Treasure the gift God has given to you; enjoy the real and set aside the counterfeit.

12. Enjoy the Mountaintops and the Mundane

In the Movie “Good Will Hunting,” the character named Sean (played by Robin Williams) shares life lessons with the young Will (played by Matt Damon). As Sean remembers his wife who passed away two years earlier, he recounts for Will “the good stuff” from their relationship:

“Wonderful stuff, you know, little things like that. Ah, but, those are the things I miss the most. The little idiosyncrasies that only I knew about. That’s what made her my wife. Oh, and she had the goods on me, too, she knew all my little peccadillos. People call these things imperfections, but they’re not, aw, that’s the good stuff. And then we get to choose who we let in to our weird little worlds. You’re not perfect, sport. And let me save you the suspense. This girl you met, she isn’t perfect either. But the question is: whether or not you’re perfect for each other. That’s the whole deal. That’s what intimacy is all about.”

Tasha and I enjoy the mountaintops of life together. Some of these are memorable times away on vacation when it is just the two of us lingering together in the beauty of nature. Other mountaintops have come on days we will never forget, like our wedding day and the days our children were born.

But it is important to remember that most of life is not lived in the mountains. It is lived in the mundane day-to-day life in the valley. Along with Sean in Good Will Hunting, Tasha and I want to treasure “the good stuff” that comes along with daily life together. This daily life often includes casual conversations about our days and how the kids are doing and a daily cup of coffee together in the morning.

The key for us is to enjoy both the big and little parts of life—learning to treasure both the mountaintops and the mundane.


What is your biggest takeaway from this week’s lessons? How have you seen them at work in your life?

I’ll pick up with lesson #13 in the next post.


Here Are the Links for The Entire Series:

The Web of Work: Serving and Being Served through Work

Web, david reid, Flickr

Web, david reid, Flickr

Have you paused recently to reflect on how interdependent we are in our work and within an economy? For those with independent streaks, this question might be received as insulting. But I mean this in the best sense of interdependence. No-one truly is independent. We rely upon countless others throughout our day, and others rely upon us.

Work, at its core, is the means by which we serve one another in a society and an economy. Through my work I contribute to society and make myself useful to others. And through the work of others, I am served countless times throughout my day. And lest we miss this, work has both paid and unpaid expressions. From a parent working at home to care for children, to those serving in paid positions, our work—paid and unpaid—is most often the primary way we serve others.

Work becomes a beautiful web or network of service.

My Work of Serving Others Today

My work today happens to involve traveling to a conference. Because of this, my work for the day is fairly straightforward. First, I’m using time on the plane to (hopefully) serve you the reader of this blog through my work of reflecting on the meaning of work. Second, I’m going to a conference that will allow me to gain insights for my role as an academic administrator so that I may better understand how I to serve the students enrolled in the doctoral program I lead.

So this particular day, I hope that the recipients of my work are you and my doctoral students. Through my work (some of it paid and some of it unpaid), I am serving others today.

The Work of Others Serving Me Today

But the web of work does not end there by a long shot. It is barely lunchtime as I write this, and I have been served by innumerable individuals who have served me through their work.  Though I will certainly miss countless categories, consider with me the multitude of individuals who have already served me today through their work before I have even reached the lunch hour.

Waking Up

  • The furniture makers who made the bed I slept in
  • The home builders who made the home in which I live and woke up
  • The inventors and manufacturers who developed the alarm clock used to wake me

Preparing for the Day

  • The workers who made the modern conveniences of a shower, toilet, and sink
  • The product developers and distributors who make simple toiletries available so I may shave and brush my teeth
  • The clothing designers, manufactures, and laborers involved in the creation and distribution of the clothing I am wearing today

Traveling to, from, within, and in between Airports

  • The countless individuals from Henry Ford on involved in providing a reliable Ford vehicle for me to drive to the airport this morning
  • The massive number of individuals who participated in the planning, construction, and maintenance of the roadway and traffic network facilitating a smooth drive to the airport
  • The countless number of engineers, builders, and beyond involved with constructing and maintaining the parking ramp, elevator, trams, escalator, restaurants, concourses, restrooms, jet ways, tarmacs, runways, and airplanes I have encountered and relied upon today
  • The technology experts involved in bringing smartphones, computers, monitors, and avionics involved in my work and transportation today
  • The many airport and airline employees who helped with scheduling, checking in, loading bags, fueling planes, boarding, serving passengers on the plane, flying, navigating, and those attending to safety through air traffic control

Brightening the Day — Back to the Individual

And while I’m missing an endless number of categories and individuals who have served me today through products and services provided and used—even though I have never met most of them—sometimes we have the chance to get to see the person serving us and greet them by name.

One of those individuals was Gwen. Gwen served me through her work today by brewing and handing me my coffee this morning at the airport. Though a small act, Gwen brightened the early morning at the start of my travel with kindness and caffeine. While she is just one individual, Gwen reminds me that the countless number of others who served me today through their work also have names and faces.

Work and Economy is about People

At the end of the day, economy and work are not just about money, labor, and exchange. Economy and work are ultimately about people and how these people contribute to the well-being and flourishing of others. In a modest way, I’m serving people through my particular work today. In exchange for this modest commitment to serve others, in return I have been served by thousands, if not millions, through the products and services that have facilitated my work and travel today.

In light of this, I am grateful. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve others through my work. I’m grateful for other people who likewise serve me through their work. Work provides a network of service. Work, in a very real way, becomes the glue that holds us together as a society.

An Invitation to Recognize and Value People in Their Work

So, I invite you to pause in the midst of your day.

Pause and recognize how you are serving others in your work today, both the paid or unpaid dimensions of your work. Pause and recognize how others are serving you through their work (again, paid or unpaid). Be grateful for these observations. Be grateful for these people. And, allow this thankfulness to spill over into expressions of grace and gratitude as you interact with others in your day. We live in a delightful Web of Work.