Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day of your precarious life. [Ecclesiastes 9:9 (MSG)]
When getting out a chip n’ dip bowl for some Super Bowl noshing, I noticed the heavy tarnish on the silver candle holders. Because COVID and social distancing have kept us from entertaining, they’ve been ignored in the back of the cupboard for nearly a year. Feeling guilty about letting them get so black, I started polishing off the tarnish. They were a wedding gift to my parents more than 80 years ago and my thoughts turned to marriage as I worked. It’s easy it is to allow our marriages to grow as dull as those candlesticks had. Marriages, like silver, shouldn’t be ignored or neglected.
A pastor friend once remarked that the relationship we have with our spouse is probably the one thing in our lives about which we truly care but which we regularly neglect. We care about our houses, so we paint, repair, renovate, remodel, vacuum, dust, mop, and mow the lawn to maintain them. When we value our health, we take vitamins, get vaccinated, eat healthy food, and exercise. If our children’s education is important to us, we volunteer at school, help with homework, drill them on their spelling, and shuffle them to assorted activities. When we care about our community, we vote, attend meetings, volunteer, or even run for office. If church is important, we tithe, regularly worship, attend Bible study, and serve on committees. Although we usually work at preserving or bettering anything we hold precious, we tend to take the relationship with our spouse for granted.
Marriage is the second most important relationship we have (God, of course, being first) and yet it’s often neglected. Unless we’re experiencing serious marital difficulties, most of us do little to consciously improve it. In fact, we probably spend more time perusing the catalogues and magazines that fill our mailboxes, watching our favorite television programs, or browsing the internet than we do on consciously bettering our marriages. Just because we’re secure in a relationship doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put a little shine on it.
It isn’t that we’re not spending time with one another! Because of this pandemic, couples probably spend more time together than they ever expected. Instead of kissing each other before leaving for work, they just clear off the kitchen counter or move to the dinner table and open their computers. The lines between jobs, home, school, family, entertainment, and leisure have become blurred. Yet, in spite of all the time we’re spending with our loved one (or perhaps because of it), we may have settled into a routine where we’ve stopped noticing one another. We don’t have to ask how their day went or what they did because we already know! Even though we’re together all day in the same house, our lives are more parallel than intersecting.
Sunday is Valentine’s Day—a day we traditionally celebrate romance and love. Even a marriage of more than 50 years needs some tweaking occasionally. Candlelight dinners aren’t just for newlyweds or guests and celebrating pandemic style doesn’t have to be fancy. Like shining silver, it just takes a little effort to shine up a relationship. It can be as simple as grocery store flowers, playing a game together, an unexpected kindness, changing out of the sweat pants, a love note, shaving or putting on make-up, skipping Netflix for a night, taking a walk together while holding hands, having a picnic in the park (or in front of the fireplace), or dancing to slow music (even if it’s in the kitchen and the kids are there). It’s noticing, listening, caring, encouraging, sharing and praying together and often takes less effort than polishing silver. Marriages may be made in heaven but their maintenance work is done here on earth!
Rather than put those now polished candlesticks back into the cupboard, I put them out on the table. They’ve gotten a few dents over the years, just as marriages do, but the dents remind me that marriage is beautiful even when it’s less than perfect. Any tarnish that appears on them will remind me that a good marriage takes effort. While God should be our first priority, our spouse needs to be our second one and not just on Valentine’s Day! Our significant others should be of significance every day; let us be sure to let them know it!
Remember that children, marriages and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get. [H. Jackson Brown, Jr.]