This year my wife, Teresa, and I will celebrate 40 years of marriage. Forty years! Add to that five years of friendship before we married, and I’ve had a soul mate for 45 years.
Over those years, we’ve supported U-Haul on 17 occasions. We’ve raised two sons, tolerated three cats, and experienced three careers.
Looking back, only God could have scripted the story of us so beautifully. No one can claim to have the perfect marriage—we certainly don’t. But we can claim to strive daily to walk closely with God to have a marriage that’s not perfect, but God glorifying.
Here are some of the ways we’ve sought to glorify God and say, “I still do,” in our 40 years together.
10 ways to say ‘I still do’
1. Say yes to daily worship and no to indifference toward God.
We’ve agreed to make knowing Christ and personal transformation our daily agenda. We’ve discovered a deep connection with the living God makes for a more authentic connection with each other. We lovingly hold each other accountable by establishing daily rhythms that allow time for reading and memorizing Scripture and worshipping our beautiful Creator.
2. Choose oneness over isolation.
The study of Genesis 2:24 reveals how much God longs for us to experience oneness in our marriages. And rightly so.
Oneness is establishing a vision for our marriage, it’s connecting deeply and regularly, and being all-in with our covenant relationship. If oneness is not pursued, isolation results, leading to dark roads that we’re unwilling to travel.
3. Tenderly point out blind spots.
Let’s admit it, we’re defensive and fragile people.
We embrace the truth that God wants to use our spouse to help shape us to look more Christlike, but we’ll only hear about those blind spots if the suggestion door is gently cracked open.
4. Prioritize weekly date night.
When our children were little, date night was established and became essential. It was so refreshing we’ve never stopped.
Friday nights are reserved for trying new eateries, entertaining fun questions, and dreaming together. Difficult conversations are off limits.
5. Fight the war but not your spouse.
In our marriage, it’s not that I don’t love Teresa enough, it’s that I don’t love God enough. There’s a war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of me.
There’s a mental picture we use amidst conflict. I imagine a sticky note on Teresa’s forehead that reads, “I AM NOT YOUR ENEMY.” Try it. If you don’t want to imagine it, post a real one on her forehead (or not).
6. Hold regular budget meetings.
We look forward to budget meetings like conversations around identity theft. They somehow raise our heart rate. But we press on.
Incredible peace happens in our home when we both agree on how to give, save, and spend. We’ve learned it’s the secret of limiting debt and identifying needs above wants. Simplifying our finances and holding a weekly budget meeting slams another door to isolation and promotes celebration.
7. Get physical.
Working out together boosts our friendship quotient. We’ve enjoyed tennis, hiking, cycling, skiing, and simply exploring nature together. Even tried ‘80s aerobics together.
I’d say our workouts are about so much more than burning calories. It’s about how we can shift our minds and bodies away from stress and toward feeling good about life and body movement. It’s become another form of worship.
8. Recognize your heart is a fixer-upper.
This is an advanced marriage move. We’re learners here. Society tells us to follow our hearts, but God warns that the heart is desperately sick, wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).
We’re working on renovating our hearts—restoring, fixing, refurbishing to a better condition. It takes deep soul searching and honesty. What wife wouldn’t want a husband with a Christlike heart made new daily?
If we only change on the outside, Jesus calls that hypocrisy. Inner transformation doesn’t happen through a formula. It’s slow progress, but we’re committed to it. It reminds me of the words on Ruth Graham’s gravestone: End of construction, thank you for your patience.
9. Make intimacy a calendar event.
We’re serious. Don’t criticize it if you haven’t tried it. Every other “important meeting” gets put on our calendars.
Beware if you share Google calendars with co-workers. This important meeting must be coded. Enter a code like, “Heaven & Back” or “Family Meeting.”
10. Propel your marriage missionally.
A couple in the early church who won Paul’s heart and the heart of churches everywhere is always mentioned together. Aquilla and Priscilla served together and taught together and even risked their lives for Paul himself (see Acts 18).
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Rob and Teresa Hernandez serve as missionaries with FamilyLife’s Local Movements team in Little Rock, Arkansas. They have been married for 40 years and have two sons. They have served on staff with FamilyLife for over 20 years. The Hernandezes enjoy mentoring engaged couples, one-on-one discipleship, as well as leading small groups in the marriage and family space. They enjoy power walking, hiking, tandem cycling, mountain biking, and pilates. One of their greatest joys is practicing hospitality. Teresa is an accomplished cook and they love to use their home and healthy nutritious meals for intimate conversations.