Colossians 3:18: Lessons on Marriage, A Personal Introduction

March 2, 2015

In the months leading up to our 40th wedding anniversary, my husband and I occasionally look back to our experiences together since we met as Stanford freshmen in 1971. Of course, our nation has observed a huge cultural shift in the practice of marriage; but Andy and I have also experienced phases and seasons in a relationship that has evolved and strengthened through the years.

At Stanford, we were assigned to Rinconada House within the Wilbur Hall complex during the days of the famous “Stanford ratio,” two men for every one woman. The first and third floors of Rinc were men, and the women’s floor was sandwiched between. Quaint, I know. Andy, from southern California, had declared an engineering major; and I, from the Seattle area, entered as a mathematics major. Consequently, we had the same academic advisor who invited a handful of freshmen to his campus home for a barbecue a few days before classes began. This is where Andy and I met.

It wasn’t until the Spring of freshman year that our dating focus turned to each other. By this time, Andy had given his life to Christ, which put him on the eligibility list as far as I was concerned. We had been through the rigors of freshman calculus and introductory physics together. He was brilliant and took to the disciplines like a duck to water. I was in over my head and would never have passed that first physics course if it had not been for Andy’s tutoring. Perhaps you know the feeling: everything you learned in high school on the subject was covered in the first three weeks of class.

By the end of my four years, I had shifted majors first to mathematical sciences (with courses in computer programming and algorithms) and finally, as my blood pressure skyrocketed from the stress, to music (majoring in vocal performance). Andy remained in the school of engineering throughout, earning a BS in Electrical Engineering. Through thick and thin, our relationship was a steadying force, and we became engaged the summer before our senior year.

We started out thinking we were quite a lot alike, but over the years discovered that our gift-mixes were quite different indeed. The beauty of our pairing was that we had complementary ways of processing thought (the engineer had an active right brain and the musician had an active left). We were both intelligent in our own ways, were hard workers, and came from long-married middle-class parents. We were a very good match.

At the time, the Christian fellowship on campus was nothing short of spectacular. Hundreds of students gathered weekly, on Sunday morning through the ministry of “Seminar 70” (a ministry of Peninsula Bible Church) and on weekday evenings (Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship). It was the height of “the Jesus movement,” and though the university itself was challenging to people of faith, being a Christian was cool, and discipleship was taken seriously.

With the possible exception of InterVarsity, in which I did not get involved until senior year, the general mindset on the issue of marriage promoted a hierarchical view of the relationship between husbands and wives. Through Bible teaching and the mentoring of older couples, we were taught about the loving headship of the husband to which the wife submitted in all things. We soaked it all in and adopted the concepts as our own.

We owned the hierarchical model, though it was not reinforced in our premarital counseling (done by a Presbyterian pastor). Two weeks after graduation from Stanford, we were married in Memorial Church; my marriage vows included a promise to obey Andy. There was an audible gasp from one section of the congregation, people who knew me well.

I share this story because it is important to be open about where I have been on the subject.  Having said that, forty years of experience as a married person and twenty-eight as a pastor have taught me a lot:

  1. While general teaching about marriage is indispensable for preparing couples for life-long relationships, the fact remains that every marriage is unique because the two individuals bring their unique personalities and gifts into the union.

  2. Couples have to work things out between themselves. “It takes two to tango.” Help is available, but husband and wife are primarily responsible to engage in the life-long process of “two becoming one flesh.”

  3. The Bible’s teaching on marriage is rich, true, challenging and applicable, even today.

In my next post, we will tackle Paul’s teaching on marriage, beginning with his instruction to wives in Colossians 3:18.



One Response to “Colossians 3:18: Lessons on Marriage, A Personal Introduction”

  1. Says:

    Great timing!!! Still in the great fight… Talk with you soon. Thank you for these thoughts and in advance for the ones that are still coming.

    Love, cindy

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