Literally. This morning I was jogging on the beach and came across four people: (1) a minister, (2)  photographer, (3) a young man in a tux, and (4) a young lady in a wedding dress. I think the ceremony had just ended, because they were signing the marriage license as I ran by. What was sad was that there was not another person in sight.

Now maybe what I saw was just a photo-shoot. Or perhaps the guests had all left already. I hope so, at any rate. But the sad scene, as I observed it, led me to ask myself:

  • Where is this couple’s community (i.e., family, friends, etc.)?
  • Who do they have in their lives who will support the commitment they are making today?
  • Who will hold them accountable to their vows? Who will model for them what a healthy marriage is all about?

Then I began to reflect upon the “marriage support network” that Joann and I have in our lives, and I was immediately humbled and awestruck, once again, by God’s generous grace in our relationship.

It occurred to me that I am surrounded by eight other pastor-elders at Oceanside Christian Fellowship, and not one person on the team has ever been divorced. All have healthy relationships with their spouses and their children.

At my other job, at Talbot, I have @ 70 faculty colleagues in the School of Theology. Not a single divorce among them either, to my knowledge.

So, altogether, between OCF and Talbot, I associate with @ 150 people are enjoying life-long marriages. I suspect I’d have to look long and hard to find two groups like these in society-at-large.

God has placed numbers of precious people in Joann’s life and in my life who know us and who know our marriage. These folks inspire us to cultivate our relationship by the ways in which they cultivate theirs. For this I am profoundly grateful.

I wanted to stop and talk to that young couple on the beach today, but it was not my place to do so at that moment. If I had done so, however, here is what I would have said:

Hey, congratulations on your wedding! I’m happy for you! But guess what? You don’t know squat about what you’re getting yourself into today. Oh, you think you do, ‘cause you’ve watched your share of romantic comedies and you listen to a lot of love songs on your iPod. But you really won’t know much of anything about true love and genuine commitment until you’ve been married five or ten years—if you last that long. So here’s some advice from someone who has been married more than thirty years, and who hangs around with @ 80 other people, some of whom have been married for over fifty years!:

  • Don’t do marriage alone. You won’t stand a chance. A healthy marriage takes a healthy village. Always has. Always will. This American drivel about “me and my soul-mate” is just that: drivel. Marriage is hard work. Hard work is best done in community with others—especially the marriage kind of hard work.
  • Find yourselves a happy couple who’ve been married for several decades. Better yet, find a handful of couples like that. Watch them. Learn from them. Share life with them.

Become part of a community of like-minded people who value the marriage commitment you are making with one another today and you will save yourself a lot of grief. You might save your marriage, too.

There's a lot of wisdom out there among you Good Book Blog readers. What would you add by way of advice to the couple on the beach?