On October 8, 1977, way back in the last century, Dayna Vanderpool became Dayna McCallum, I and became a blessed man. Two children and seven grandchildren later, I’m still a blessed man. Forty years is a long time—a lot of joy, plenty of sorrow, victories, defeats, seasons when the love is strong, seasons when it’s not. But 40 years later, we’re still making a life together.
If a person is paying attention, he or she can learn some things in 40 years. Here is some of what I’ve learned …
A large part of a long-term marriage is just showing up every day—good days, bad days, hard days, fun days. Just keep showing up bringing whatever you can of yourself to your marriage that day.
Keeping Christ at the center of the marriage is the rock that never crumbles, the glue that never loses its stick, the peace that finds a way to prevail, and the promise that our entwined lives have a kingdom impact far beyond our address and our years.
Having a lot in common helps but it is not necessary. Dayna and I don’t have a lot of common interests. We don’t have much in common recreationally or even when it comes to the kinds of TV shows and movies we prefer. She’s a night owl. I’m an early bird. Lots of differences. But what we do hold in common is strong: faith in God, love for one another and our family, love for the church, and dogged commitment that marriage is for a lifetime.
Love grows. Married love looks different 40 years later than it did on that October day in 1977. There’s a maturity and a comfort to it that can only be shaped by years of living together. Love grows wider and higher and deeper over time.
Marriage will make a Christian out of you. You can’t have a 40-year marriage without practicing patience, forgiveness, compassion, service, mercy, perseverance, and sacrificial love.
Sometimes it only takes one. Ideally, marriages take two to make them work—ideally. But in the whirlwind that is a sinner married to a sinner trying to make a marriage in a broken, sinful world, sometimes it only takes one—one to hold the rope, one to keep the faith, one to stay emotionally invested. Two is always better. But sometimes it only takes one. Dayna has usually been that one in those seasons of our marriage.
Words matter. Words carry the power of life and death. Hurtful words stick with the recipient a long time, corroding the soul like a slow-working acid. Life words renew, build confidence, and bring joy. Words matter. Season them with grace.
Actions matter maybe a little bit more. Over time, words without actions ring hollow. They lose their meaning. A spouse quits listening. Actions matter. Do for the other.
Promises are worth keeping. Because of childhood issues, I brought more baggage into our marriage than a diva on a two-week trip to the South of France. I had no dad to provide a model. I had to make it up as we went along. Dayna could have done better. Certainly, she could have had it easier. But she hung in there with patience and mercy. She was determined to keep her promise. So was I. By keeping our promises in a Christian marriage we bear witness to a faithful Savior who keeps his promises to the church. We bring him glory in spite of our imperfect marriage. Promises are worth keeping.
There you go—some of what I’ve learned in 40 years of marriage. I wish I had learned these things sooner. I wish I had learned them better. But I couldn’t wish for a better partner in the process than my wife Dayna.
In his poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Robert Frost wrote these memorable lines:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
I don’t know how many miles or years we have to go in our marriage—certainly way less than we did 40 years ago—but this I know, we will continue to keep our promises for the glory of the one who keeps all his promises to us. Happy Anniversary, Dayna. I love you.