Ride on to live.
-Twenty eight years ago today (Feb 27) I married my best friend. I know this sounds cliché, it’s what you see printed on napkins at the wedding receptions; “Today I marry my best friend” but it’s true and it’s vital. It’s true that I married my best friend and it has been vital that she remain so. I want you to ask yourself right now, in your head, not out loud; “Is my wife, is my husband, is my fiancé, my best friend?” If they are not than you have a problem and you probably need an attitude adjustment and you need to work on renewing your friendship.
When we got married back in the eighties I had never heard this concept before; marriage was all about finding the one who stirred your heart and your passions and making them yours. Thanks to the teachings of a church that taught the full gospel Donna and I had learned and believed that love was more than just a feeling, it was also a choice, this was a major eye opener for both of us, and so we decided— as I told you when this series started— that we would love each other for life.
Love is grand, love is powerful, love is to be held on to and nurtured and we were all in love and it was grand. Let’s do this thing!
So when we went through the mandatory marriage counseling at Faith Chapel in Billings so we could git hitched there, I was a little surprised that one of the first questions that the Pastor who did the counseling (Pastor Rich Trees) asked us: “How long have you been friends?” How long have we been friends? Donna and I looked at each other and replied; “Oh, a couple of years I suppose.”
Donna and I really had started out our relationship as friends. She was the sister of my new best friend Charlie. I had started hanging around with Charlie and his wife Barb shortly after I was miraculously delivered from my former best friend, Mary Jane, without whom I could not get through a single day. Charlie and Barb would invite me to lunch with them after church, and then camping, prayer groups, I guess I was kind of like a lost puppy— I followed them everywhere. I was starving for more and more of the Lord and they and their friends were living in his power and I wanted to be with them.
Most of their friends were married and had kids— but that was okay, I loved all these kids and they loved me, in fact most of them were in my Sunday school class. Ironically it was Charlie’s sister, Donna, who decided that I needed to be “Uncle Dan.” She had started hanging around with this bunch also and after a year or so we discovered that we had become pretty good friends.
To keep a long story short, the Lord had showed me in a vision— well, I might as well share the vision with you: I was lying in bed one night just praying before I drifted off to sleep when I saw a picture in my mind of the Lord and I, Jesus, riding horses together, running across a green field just laughing and having fun when we came to the edge of a cliff and as we stopped I looked out and saw the clouds below us part to reveal a beautiful city in the valley below; the Holy City, the new Jerusalem.
As I was enjoying the moment and reveling in the beauty of it all— our horses reared in the pure delight as we laughed for joy— I turned to see another rider coming across the field towards us. A beautiful young lady on a white horse with her brown hair flowing behind her from beneath her beige cowboy hat. As she got close I saw that it was Donna. I turned to the Lord both puzzled and a little incredulous at this invasion of our time together and asked; “What is she doing here?” The Lord simply said; “That is your wife”
That was the end of the vision. I of course did some serious thinking on all of that. My wife? Yes Donna and I had become good friends, we really hit it off. But it just seemed too handy— and I found out later that she had thought the same thing— that whenever we gathered with friends we were usually the only single people in the bunch. So we were both fighting it, we didn’t want to get together simply because it was convenient. But after my vision I had to take a serious look at making this woman my wife.
Of course I couldn’t just run up and say—“God says you’re my wife!” What I did was nurture our friendship, turning it into courting— friends with a purpose— and within a year or so we were married. Still friends but now husband and wife.
So Rich’s question, right on the heels of my having conquered and captured the heart of the one whom the Lord directed me to love and marry, kind of caught me off guard— “How long have you been friends?” We had been and were friends but I had failed to see the significance of that; What’s friends got to do with it? I’m on a God given mission to marry this woman!
But, as it turns out, there was a lot of wisdom behind that question. My barbarian, “Woo the girl and make her yours” mindset was focused more on the conquest than on the marriage, the relationship beyond the “Till death do we part’s”. Rich’s point, as he went on to explain was, that if your spouse was not already your best friend and you weren’t committed to keeping it that way you would have trouble.
Kids will come and go, jobs will come and go, but you and your wife will still be together. If you are not nurturing that friendship you will be looking at each other one day and realize that your entire relationship was centered around and based on raising your kids— when they are gone will you still be friends?
That really stuck in my mind. It was hard to imagine at that point anything coming between us but as I contemplated having kids I knew that it would be a long term and potentially all-consuming aspect of life. As indeed it turned out to be. But like everything, there comes a time when that season is over and— in the case of a lifelong marriage— there comes a time where you are back where you started, when the kids are raised and, if raised right, finding their own way in the world, you will find yourselves alone again— husband and wife.
At this point will you still be friends?- able to have a life and a relationship apart from and aside from your children?
If you committed to your friendship, treated one another with love and respect, guarded your tongues and made time for one another, yes— you will be. Our kids have come and gone, they demanded a lot from us as they were growing up and are still a huge and important part of our lives but for the most part, at the end of the day, it is just Donna and I again; my wife, my first and only lover, my partner, and still my friend.
And I don’t plan on that changing anytime soon. We are still looking ahead- together, in his strength, we ride on to live.
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Prov 18:24b