What first comes to mind when you think about a rock? There is, for me, something about the stability, constancy and reliability of a rock that suitably describes the durability of a 60-year long marriage.
No doubt, some of that requires that both husband and wife can stand their own ground, from time to time.
A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment. Suddenly, the man realized that the next day, he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00 AM for an early morning business flight.
Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and LOSE), he wrote on a piece of paper, “Please wake me at 5:00 AM.” He left it where he knew she would find it.
The next morning, the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00 AM and he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn’t wakened him, when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed.
The paper said, “It is 5:00 AM. Wake up.”
But ultimately that kind of inflexibility wont help the marriage succeed. A win-lose mentality will wreck any relationship over the long haul, I believe. Eventuality, for marriage to work, there is this subtle, instinctive but sure balance that is achieved between stability and flexibility, between constancy and fluidity — in various roles we take, in responding to crises over the years, in dealing with the ups and downs of life. In other words, what we want is a win-win mentality. Both of you are winners here today!
Clara and Ian, for sixty years you have danced this dance of maintaining your integrity, individually, but also of learning how to bend, compromise and yield. The rest of the world can learn so much from your witness as you stand here today.
Biblical images abound of this kind of paradox — rocks yielding water (Exodus 17), the foundations of the earth being shaken (Psalm 18:7), and hearts of stone melting (Isaiah 36:24-28).
To be a rock, in other words, is not synonymous with stubbornness, unyielding intransigence, digging your heals in. Of course, this dynamic is fluid — there are times together when one partner will get his or her way. But, you know, it can’t always be the one partner always getting his or her way.
God is a fortress and a rock for us (Deuteronomy 32:4, 2 Samuel 22:32, Psalm 18:31). This biblical image for God has been a comfort for those who seek protection, safety and comfort. It has also, unfortunately, led some to believe God is this cold, distant, impenetrable being. Not so.
We say, God is the third partner of a faithful couple relationship. God is the anchor, the corner stone in Christ (Matthew 21:42), upon which to lean in hard times, and upon which to build an enduring house. But Jesus is our friend who loves us. And who are our friends? Our friends are those who are true, who will take our venting, who will listen to our cries, who will sometimes sacrifice for our sake.
I believe today stands as a testimony to both the enduring, grounding and stabilizing values of relationships in a life of faith, as well as those tender aspects of divine love, grace and mercy which bends a listening year and yields much compassion, grace, forgiveness and mercy. And this, my friends, is a love and presence which lasts forever.