Hope For Those Who Hurt, by Howard and Jeanne Tomlinson

Chapter 5 -

How can you be sure your marriage will last in a world of disposable relationships?  Most people think a successful marriage is falling in love with someone who will meet all our needs. Hollywood has led us to believe that finding a good looking partner with sex appeal, a neat personality and money will truly make us happy.  Even though these qualities appear desirable, none of them are the essential building blocks to build a strong marriage that will survive the storms.  What, then, are they?  You’ll find them in most traditional wedding vows.

On February 14, 1988, I found out firsthand that Howie is an incurable romantic.  Since August, I had been living on Long Island and Howie and I were spending much time together, exploring the northeast and growing in our love for each other.  On that cold winter afternoon in February, we stopped at Hecksher Park in Huntington on our way home from church.  We walked together beside the lovely pond, stopping at a park bench.  Howie suddenly dropped down on his knees, held my hand and asked in anticipation, “Jeanne, would you marry me?”  With joy I accepted his proposal, “Oh yes!”  He surprised me later in the day with a dozen long-stemmed red roses, starting a tradition for each Valentine’s Day thereafter.

That night, we attended our local Baptist church where I worked with the children’s ministry and Howie played trumpet.  Our faces were glowing and someone asked, “What happened?”  Howie responded with, “I got dirty knees today!”  Word got around and many congratulated us.

We received good premarital counseling from Pastor Peter Mason, who stressed the importance of unselfishness and commitment for better or for worse.  We made plans to get married in California on our vacation in the fall.

On October 15, 1988, Howie and I were married in Chatsworth, California, in a beautiful church garden ceremony.  Our friends and family joined in this celebration of our lifelong commitment.  Howie’s mentor Tom Nelson flew out from Denton to marry us, and Howie’s best friend Ken Story was our best man.  During the ceremony, we recited our vows and read romantic poems to each other that our friend Mary helped us write.  When Tom announced, “You may kiss your bride,” Howie surprised everyone by literally sweeping me off my feet.

We took a train up the coast of California where we spent a romantic honeymoon in beautiful Monterey and Carmel, celebrating our love and commitment to each other.  Following our honeymoon, we flew back to Long Island to begin our new life together as husband and wife.

Our marriage got off to a great start because we took our vows seriously and committed ourselves to making each other happy.  Howie often quotes Howard Hendricks who said, “You know you’ve married the right woman when you can’t live without her!”  He often looked for ways to make me feel special, like holding the car door open, giving me love notes and gifts, and taking me out to eat.  We celebrated each wedding anniversary by spending the night in a romantic inn.  And Howie worked hard to be the provider and spiritual leader of our family.  He also prayed with me every night.

I felt blessed to have such a godly, loving husband, and my desire was to be his loving partner and suitable helpmate.  Knowing Howie had physical problems from his accident, I promised on our wedding day to commit myself to him “in sickness and in health.”  I had no idea how severely that commitment would be tested in the next couple of years.

(song by Jeanne for Howie)

You love me, you really love me; you show it in so many ways.
You love me, you really love me; your love shines bright and warm each day.
You love me, you really love me; you’re kind and gentle, good and true.
You love me, you really love me; and honey, I will always love you.

Marriages that survive the intense pressures of modern life need more than attraction and romance to hold them together.  The key to success is an unselfish commitment to love each other “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, as long as you both shall live.”  When the storms of life hit, only marriages founded on the rock of love and commitment will stand.

FOR THOSE WHO HURT: You may be struggling with your marriage right now, wondering why things are not working out as you dreamed.  You may even be questioning whether it’s worth it to stay together, because you don’t feel “in love” anymore.  Realize that every couple experiences times of doubt and difficulty and many marriages are hit by traumatic events.  The only foundation stones for lasting success are sacrificial love and commitment.  “Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).  Put the Lord first in your marriage, keeping in mind that “the family that prays together, stays together.”  Commit yourself to be faithful to your vows and choose to love your partner, even when it’s hard.  Unselfishly decide to put his/her needs ahead of your own.  Begin today to seek for ways to make your sweetheart happy.  You may end up feeling like newlyweds forever!

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