I recall sitting in our kitchen and listening to Arthur tell us how their (then) thirty-something year marriage had now become “effortless”. I can still remember my mouth dropping open in surprise. After all, everybody talks about how you have to work at marriage. Effortless?
What he and Jenny were illuminating was that when you’ve spent years working at a marriage, consistently doing all the little things that make your spouse feel loved, saying I love you regularly, making time for one another, listening to what’s going on rather than defending or pursuing your own agenda, doing these things because your loved one deserves it and not because you feel like it or not, this is what builds a marriage that eventually becomes natural. Effortless. What a goal to reach.
However, ever since that kitchen conversation, I have always slightly wondered whether Arthur and Jenny were just particularly lucky. But what I know beyond doubt is that they were, and are, also incredibly wise. So I’ve held on to that comment from Arthur in the hope that one day we too might be able to say the same thing. “Our marriage is effortless”.
Well, quite frankly, our own marriage has been more hard work than effortless! Over the years, we’ve had more than our fair share of ups and downs, great times and not so much fun. Three children turned into six. How we coped with our own nursery of children is anybody’s guess. We still have no idea how we managed. ‘Amazing friends’ is the best answer we have. Throughout, we have continued to draw on the illuminating wisdom and encouragement and love from Jenny and Arthur, who have been there for us in some especially bad moments. Therein lies a host of other stories!
But as we now begin to emerge from the long haul of looking after young children, all those years of little habits and little considerations and little appreciations and little things, that are sometimes noticed and sometimes not, have done their own work. Even if I’m not sure I can yet say my marriage is “effortless”, it certainly feels a lot less “effort-full”!
Their inspiration was why it was so important for us to spend seven hours in the car to attend their 50th anniversary celebration. They are worth it.
Anyway, the celebration itself.
The invitation suggested a church service of some kind and then something afterwards at their house. We were thinking cup of tea then drive back to our own home.
Instead, we found ourselves part of the most fabulous and joyful celebration of an amazing couple. Two hundred of us listened and sang and laughed and clapped our way through the kind of church service you’ve never seen. One after the other, their children and grandchildren read poems or sang songs or told stories or played a comedy skit. And then, far from the simple cup of tea we expected, we found ourselves at what was more like a wedding party, complete with tent and tables and speeches and buffet dinner and dancing.
As ever, with the way they celebrated their fifty years together, Arthur and Jenny point the way to something bigger and better than just a party. More than anything, it was a celebration of their legacy. They have never glossed over the reality that their marriage, any marriage, is not all wine and roses. But fifty years of marriage means fifty years of influence, on each other, on their children and grandchildren, on their friends, and all those who have come into contact with them. Marriages don’t exist in isolation. Marriages profoundly effect the people around them. Marriages also begin with a clear starting point for building family life together that allow regular celebration in the first place.
So I think we should have far more anniversary celebrations! All of which has given us an idea. Next year, Kate and I will be thirty. So you know what we’re now planning …
With our deep love and thanks to Arthur and Jenny for being such an inspiration.