This past week LaVerne and I spent four days away celebrating our forty-first wedding anniversary. We are so grateful to the Lord for His grace on our marriage relationship. It has been quite a journey.  Although we have both come to the conclusion that at this point in our lives, we not only love each other, but we actually like each other—it wasn’t always like that.

We married young, when I was only twenty and she nineteen. In our first year of marriage, we served as missionaries, which caused adjustments to a different culture and area. Looking back, I realize that I was a lousy communicator, and LaVerne believes she over-communicated. I remember thinking that if LaVerne would only be like me, everything would be fine. Consequently, we grew apart emotionally. After six years of marriage, we ended up in a marriage counselor’s office.

That was the beginning of learning how to really love each other—like Jesus loved us—unconditionally. I stopped trying to fix LaVerne. Slowly I began to learn to listen to her and not spat out answers based on my favorite scripture verses. Together we began to learn how to experience true intimacy, an intimacy that goes way beyond sexual intimacy—although emotional intimacy improved our sex life also! We entered a lifetime of learning how to become one flesh, as the Bible calls it. We continue this wonderful journey of living out the reality that we really are one in God’s eyes.

After observing me serve as a pastor and watching me relate to LaVerne, Paul Johannson, who served for many years as the president of Elim Bible College, said, “Larry, Jesus already died for the church, you do not need to. You need to learn to die for your wife.”  These words continue to resound in my spirit, although they were spoken more than thirty years ago.

The Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … this is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:25, 32).

Marriage in Christ is an amazing mystery. As husbands and wives, may we never forget we model in our marriage on earth what our relationship with Jesus is really like—loving unconditionally.