August 18, 1999

What makes marriage work?
___A friend asked Alison and me to speak in the newlywed Sunday School onlineonlydepartment at our church last Sunday. We were enlisted to do a sort of "He Said/She Said Live," drawing upon our all-too-humorous experiences in marriage.
___The director of our own department, upon discovering why we would be absent, suggested that surely this was intended to be a precautionary witness.
"Pay attention to what we say, or you’ll end up looking like us," was his advice for an opening line.
___There’s probably more truth in that than we’d like to admit. My first thought upon walking into the roomful of couples 10 to 15 years our junior was, "We both used to be as thin as these people."
___Let’s just say we’ve both been broadened by our life experiences.
___ What’s scary, though, is that I often still think of myself as being 10 to 15 years younger than I am. In some ways, those early marriage days seem like yesterday. Yet, in other ways they seem like a lifetime ago.
___ One of the bits of sage advice we gave our new friends in the newlywed class was that change happens, whether you want it to or not. Indeed, we could be a poster-couple for that.
___ Having lived in eight houses or apartments in four cities over the last 14 years, I’m sometimes surprised I remember my own phone number. Add to that the stress we all experience through changes in our work environments, families, churches and communities--not to mention the big events like deaths and marriages–and you’ve got a whirlwind for sure.
___ The reality is, though, that I wouldn’t want to be the person I was 10 or 15 years ago. Sure, there are certain disciplines I had then that I wish I still did as well--like Bible-reading and prayer, for example. But on the whole, I realize now that God has used the experiences of the past--both good and bad--to shape us into something different and better than we ever dreamed we could be.
___Well. Mark just dashed my day by putting a figure on the number of years older we probably are than the couples we talked with. Twentysomething doesn’t seem that long ago.
___ And fortysomething couldn’t possibly be so close. But it is.
___Sometimes I feel like I’ve changed tremendously and for the better in many areas of my life. But other parts seem to have
gone down the toilet.
___ The potter and the clay metaphor comes to mind. God constantly molds us through life’s experiences, smoothing off the lumps and jagged edges.
___I just wish he’d smooth off a few pounds while he was at it. And there are times when I won’t let God take care of that stubborn blemish, no matter how ugly it has become.
___Mark is right (take note, it doesn’t happen often). On the whole, we’ve come a long way from those innocent days of our early 20s and are better people for all the adventures and difficulties. I wouldn’t want to go back, except perhaps to change those things I regret.
___The loss of innocence, not believing the best of everybody, is a toughy. I used to be more of an optimist, but now I have to constantly struggle with cynicism. That struggle is most difficult concerning some fellow Christians, because of all the things I’ve witnessed over the years. I know, I know, Jesus loves them and died for them. And I make mistakes just like they do. But boy, is it tough to learn to trust again.
___So, even though we’ve changed and come through a lot, we’ve still got a long way to go. Thank goodness God isn’t through with us. I’d be a funky looking pot if this was the finished product.

___He Said/She Said is a new regular feature of the Baptist Standard's on-line edition. Mark Wingfield is managing editor of the Standard. Alison Wingfield is a freelance writer. The Wingfields moved to Texas in January from Louisville, Ky., where Mark had been editor of the Western Recorder, in which this column appeared weekly.

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