We were on one of our many treks up and down the I-75 corridor. Living in Cleveland, Tenn. but hailing from central Michigan was the impetus that lead to many miles of familiar highway being traversed once again. We had one great advantage – my wife’s grandparents lived in Muncie, Ind., which was just slightly more than the halfway point of our 12-hour journey to the homeland, if we made a slight detour.
Her grandparents were incredibly loving, generous and kind people. Even if we could not stay long we always tried to map out our trip in such a way that warranted a visit. This halfway stop provided a much needed reprieve from the road as well as a fun break for our kids. No matter how short the visit, we still managed to squeeze in a game of croquet or a couple hands of euchre. Grandpa could always make the kids giggle by allowing them to yank on his earlobe so that his hearing aid would emit an extended beep. And I think Grandma always planned for our visits by stocking up on fresh grapes before our arrival knowing our kids would devour every one of them.
There was always something special about their home. Each visit was full of laughter, playful picking on each other, and a lot of love. One visit in particular I saw something that was a little shocking to me. Her grandparents were in their late 70’s at the time. I remember Grandma went into the living room where Grandpa was relaxing in his favorite chair. She promptly sat on Grandpa’s lap and threw her arms around his neck. Now, this type of behavior may be normal for others. But for me, it was a poignant moment. It’s not simply that my wife’s grandparents were still affectionate after nearly 60 years of marriage. Somehow, through all those years, with all of the inherent difficulties normally associated with marriage, these two lived out a deep and abiding love for one another for all to see.
With this image still fresh in my mind, the next morning I asked Grandma and Grandpa a simple question,
“What would you say is the secret to your long-lasting, loving marriage?”
Grandma immediately responded with some sage advice, “You have to remember, marriage is a 50/50 relationship. There has to be give and take and compromise.” I remember thinking to myself, “that makes a lot of sense.”
With his continual half grin, Grandpa interrupted her discourse by saying in his mildly raspy voice, “no, no it’s not.”
Everyone in the room was a little surprised, including Grandma. It seems Grandpa had a philosophy even Grandma didn’t know about. He continued,
“It’s 100/0. Give 100% and demand nothing in return, and you will have a happy marriage.”
I have to tell you – this may be some of the most profound wisdom I have ever received. At first glance this principle doesn’t seem to make sense. Surely, a marriage involves give and take, right? Isn’t a marriage about mutual fulfillment and meeting each other’s needs? Of course it is. It’s not that Grandma was wrong. It’s simply that Grandpa had tapped into a deeper principle.
It is true that Jesus made the well-known statement, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38 NASV). But, three short verses prior he made a difficult statement that brings some clarity to this verse. Jesus declared,
“But … do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35 NASV).
At their core, our attitudes, actions and responses toward our spouses are an issue between us and God. If our motivation moves from pleasing God to expecting something from our mate, we will probably end up disappointed. At some point our spouse will not respond in the way we had hoped, leaving us hurt or frustrated in the process. In that moment we place in our spouse’s hands the power to determine how we feel about what we are doing. What Jesus is saying is, “interact with others in a way that pleases me regardless of what they say or do. Do good, expecting nothing in return. When you do, you reveal who you belong to.” The great invitation of scripture is to –
Give All of yourself and make no demands in return
When my head hits the pillow at night I want to know that regardless of how others acted or reacted, I lived my day in a way that pleased Him. I want to live in a Christ-like manner regardless of the behavior of others. I’m not always successful but, this is my goal. Realizing my reward comes from God and not man takes the pressure off of my relationship with my wife. It is liberating, for both of us. It frees my wife up to love me back in her own way.
When both partners are giving and serving and expecting nothing in return is when God pours out His blessing and gives back to us “a good measure, pressed down, and shaken together.”
Thank you, Grandpa, for incredible godly insight that has forever changed my marriage and my family.
In Loving memory of Charles & Cleota Reece