ONAWAY, MI – August 21, 2017 will mark our 46th wedding anniversary. 46 years… seems like 46 days at times. Honestly, sometimes it does seem longer.
We are flattered that we were asked to write a short article about marriage, and specifically, about our Christian marriage, one that has endured. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint; and couples looking to “tie the knot” this summer would do well to seriously contemplate the sanctity of marriage, the solemnness of their vows, and the seriousness of their promise. For us, marriage is a combination of three key factors – all under our control. We avoid the blame game, and particularly avoid looking at circumstances as being the controlling factors to our joy and happiness.
First of the factors is Commitment. The promises we made to each other, before God, to stay together in “sickness and in health” and until “death do us part” were important and we meant them. Genesis 2:24 describes marriage as a “leave and cleave” arrangement. We understood the “leave” admonition quite well; by August 1971 we were both living independently of our parents. So, the “cleave” portion was what we focused on. We understood that the old Hebrew word “cleave” literally means “stick-like-glue”. We, still today, when counseling a prospective bride and groom, ask them to glue two paper dolls together and set them aside while we talk. After a few minutes, we ask them about their thoughts on divorce and then ask them to pull the two paper dolls apart. Of course, it makes a mess. The one paper doll “sticks-like-glue” to the other, and the dolls tear and parts of the boy doll are even stuck to the girl doll and vice versa. This picture of divorce is telling and sobering. We agreed, even before our wedding ceremony, that divorce was not only off the table, but banned from our vocabulary and thus, divorce was never a factor in our decision making.
Our second marriage focus was on Compromise. By compromise, we mean that we see marriage as a holy union of two souls that God loves without measure, and our interaction in that marriage should mirror the love of God. Of all the issues, arguments, and disagreements we have weathered; each and every one was resolved by love – given and received in humility. The Bible tells women to submit; yet warns the husband against being harsh and arbitrary. The Bible requires that husbands love their wives (Ephesians 5:25) and that wives love their husbands (Titus 2:4). Wives are to honor their man as we treat our wives as a fragile and precious people (I Peter 3:7).
The last point in our three-pronged view of marriage is Christ. Christ is the head of the church and the head of the family. Early in our marriage we discovered the benefit of worshipping, studying, and praying together. Proverbs 3:6 (NKJV) says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths”. We can give testimony that God is faithful and His Word is sure. God has directed our paths.
Immediately after we were married, we applied to two different missions’ agencies, volunteering our services in foreign fields. As house parents, teachers, or administrative helpers; we were open to God’s call. Our applications were summarily rejected. Yet our hearts burned to “do God’s will”. Over the next 10 years God grew us, moved us, and prepared us; we believe He directed our paths. In January 1981, we were accepted to full-time employment in Europe… with the US Government! During the next 26 years, we lived and served in England and Germany for the Lord. We taught, counseled, ministered, and even pastored bi-vocationally in our own God-ordained mission; including being involved in a mission/church-plant in eastern Poland.
Commitment, compromise, and Christ are still the key factors to our Christian marriage.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jim and Cozee Warner are now retired from US Civil Service and have been serving as Pastor and wife at Onaway Baptist Chapel, Onaway, Michigan since January 2012. They have two grown and married children and eight grandchildren.