"If you are not changing you are dying." I don't know who said that, but it's generally true. Life is a series of changes complete with a spouse who gets older, kids who get older, go to college, meet people, fall in love and move away. We get it. Lots of changing.
But the corollary statement is not necessarily true: "If you are changing, you are really living." Some change is unnecessary, unhealthy or just plain wrong. For instance, giving up on your wife or your family to embrace a season of new excitement and change is not living. It's change, but it is death.
With these thoughts in mind, I spent some time reflecting on things that changed in my life over the past 23 years because of my lovely best friend. You can read my top seven below if you desire.
1. Attend church together every week. Since the first months of our marriage, Nikki and I have almost never missed church on Sundays. In 1994 Nikki missed a Sunday or two (first child born). This pattern repeated itself in 1996 and again in 1999. Sometimes when we are on vacation we miss church, but we usually find a place to worship. Sometimes we had a beef with someone, or something going on. We went anyways. Sometimes people had a beef with us. I believe attending church (or #2 below) contributed to me growing up in Jesus (hearing the Bible taught by someone who was good at teaching it) more than any other factor in my life).
2. Let your spouse change you. My wife has changed me a ton! Her conscience is sweet, and sensitive. She is way classier than I. She is more careful with money than me. She knows how to put people at ease to give opportunities for the gospel to be taught. Oh and she is a way smarter parent than I am. She understood the kids wills when they were little (and broke them) and I try to understand her heart as they grow up. If I had stayed the same guy I was when we got married (my conscience, my crudeness, my money habits, my social graces or my parenting) we would be in a world of hurt. My wife has changed me more than any other person on this planet.
3. Faithfully give money at church. This teaches you that you have less than you think, and God owns it all. It also reminds you regularly that life is not about how much you can keep for yourself. Eventually, it teaches you that you have more than you think, because when you give money faithfully, you do other healthy things with money that are wise. We have a long way to go, but this has been an unchanging conviction.
4. "Decision" means "a cutting off." When you decide something, you say, "Yes" to it, and just as importantly, you say, "No" to everything else. The implications of this for my 23 years of marriage has meant that we have said "Yes" to each other, our children, the city we live in, the neighbors we live near, my profession and our church family. Necessarily, we have said "No" to other opportunities, other cities, other people and other local churches. I am okay with that. Of course, there are sometimes new seasons of life which require us to re-visit old decisions.
5. Distinguish between melody and harmony. On some topics, it's not okay to sing different notes. On other topics, different notes provide beauty and interest that make two better than one. I believe husbands and wives need to sing the same note, regardless of their tendencies in the area of raising the kids and spending/saving money. I believe that we should embrace different ways of doing things when it comes to the way we relate to people, serve at church and think. The best singers in the world learn how to lead, and when to harmonize. I've learned a lot about this, but I hope to keep growing.
6. "Speaking the truth in love." When you grow up, you get both of these traits. Usually until we grow up, we emphasize one over the other, and when we emphasize one over the other for long enough, we become irrelevant. "Love without truth is sentimentality. Truth without love is brutality." -Gary Hylander
7. When to say nothing. I'm terrible at this! But in marriage, it is often really smart to keep your mouth shut. This doesn't mean you're not real. Sometimes it means that you are covering over shortcomings with love. That's smart. I'm trying to remember that God does not my words. I need His Word.
Nikki, happy anniversary! I have loved going to church with you, the way God has used you to change me, learning to give, saying yes to you (and no to everyone else), singing some melody, and some harmony, starting to learn to say it with love and also that the world would often be a better place if I kept my mouth shut. I LOVE YOU!