I never guessed that on our 25th anniversary we would be in a desert. But we are. And I never guessed that after 10 moves, we would spend our 25th anniversary in someone’s borrowed basement. But we are. Life rarely turns out the way couples expect it to when they say “I do.” And you may think it sounds like we aren’t happy or content on this, our 25th anniversary in our new desert home. But we are. So to celebrate, we drove north out of the desert. To our delight, less than 3 hours out of sand and sage, we found ourselves in an evergreen-framed Bavarian-style town. While temperatures crept past 110 back “home,” we sat in a snow-melt stream, chatted with a yodeler, and ate Bratwursts smothered in mustard. I thought my Google search had landed a great “Pension House” as our accommodations, but as we discovered, it wasn’t luck at all. Which makes sense, because marriage isn’t about luck at all.
Over breakfast our first morning, the lederhosen-clad host introduced himself as he poured coffee. While munching on muselix, we got acquainted, sharing that we were celebrating our 25th anniversary. His eyes twinkled when he leaned over to say he and his wife just celebrated their 50th. “What’s the secret to staying married 50 years?” we asked.
Without pause, he sat down and leaned in to give away the secret learned in a half century: “Every day, every time, every way, do every thing you can to help your mate.” His eyes filled with tears and he smiled, as if the decades rushed back in a flood of memories as he backed away from our table.
I couldn’t wait to meet the woman who had been loved by her husband with a heart to help. On the second morning, she joined her husband to serve. Her hair was the color of silverware, and her eyes sparkled like one well-loved. Though advanced in years, she moved gracefully, her Bavarian skirts swirling below her lace sleeves. As she delivered boiled eggs, she greeted us and made conversation. Jeff told her about our question to her groom the morning before, asking her what she would say is the secret to being married 50 years. She wanted to know what her husband said, but we made her give up her secret first.
She paused. She paused long. And then she sat down and leaned in. She talked about her mother and the tip her mama gave that served her well on the journey through her own 5 children and 20 moves over 50 years. “Communicate. You can’t know what the other is thinking. You have to communicate.”
Once her secret was delivered, she begged to know her beloved’s reply. I repeated his words, watching her eyes fill with tears, followed by a gentle smile, as if the decades rushed back in a flood of memories as she glided away from our table.
Both individuals have lived out the truth of Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.“ Perhaps the real secret to staying married and staying married well is to humbly treat our mate as more important than our self.
What’s more rare than a Bavarian town two hours from the desert?
A couple married 50 years, committed to love and help and communicate and last, still serving together and serving each other after a half of a century of living. Our world desperately needs to see what marriage is between a man and woman, a husband and wife, over long years and many changes. I’m grateful for our divinely directed reservation at the Pension House and God’s anniversary gift of wisdom to us, delivered by two plaid-clad hosts.
Tomorrow the temperature will be well over 100 here. The two of us will spend the night in our new house at the edge of the sage desert. To some, it may not look like we’re living a wonderful life. But we are.