In August 1977, my wife and children joined me on a trip to Kansas City, Missouri, for a short visit with my parents. We enjoyed several days of family togetherness before it was time to leave. As we drove to the airport where we would say good-bye, I asked my father to pray for us. I will never forget his words. He closed with this thought:
And Lord, we want to thank You for the fellowship and love that we feel for each other today. This has been such a special time for us with Jim and Shirley and their children. But Heavenly Father, we are keenly aware that the joy that is ours today is a temporal pleasure. Our lives will not always be this stable and secure. Change is inevitable and it will come to us, too. We will accept it when it comes, of course, but we give You praise for the happiness and warmth that has been ours these past few days. We have had more than our share of the good things, and we thank You for Your love. Amen.
Shortly thereafter, we hugged and said goodbye and my family boarded the plane. A week later, my father suddenly grabbed his chest and told my mother to call the paramedics. He left us on December 4 of that year. Shortly after, my mother joined him in Heaven. How quickly life changes!
Even today, so many years later, my dad's final prayer echoes in my mind. An entire philosophy is contained in that simple idea. "Thank You, God, for what we have, which we know we cannot keep." I wish every couple could capture that incredible concept. If we only realized how brief is our time on this earth, then most of the irritants and frustrations which drive us apart would seem terribly insignificant and petty. We have but one short life to live, yet we contaminate it with bickering and insults and angry words. If we fully comprehended the brevity of life, our greatest desire would be to please God and to serve one another. Instead, the illusion of permanence leads us to scrap and claw for power and demand the best for ourselves.
If we retained an eternal perspective, we would surely order our choices by eternal values. Would a husband pursue an adulterous affair? Would a wife belittle her mate for his failings? Would both devote their lives to the pursuit of power and wealth? I think not.
Time is an embezzler, juggling the books at night when no one is looking. So remember to use each day for the Lord as though it could be your last. All too quickly, it will be.
I hope you can bring your attitudes into harmony with this eternal perspective. Try not to care so much about every minute detail that separates you and your loved ones. It's all vanity, anyway. Solomon told us that. Have you ever tried to recall a major fight you had with a friend or a family member approximately six months earlier? It's very difficult to remember the details even a week later. The fiery intensity of one moment is the hazy memory of another. Hold loosely to life and keep yourself free of willful and deliberate sin. That's the key to happiness.
Great beginnings are not as important as the way one finishes. We have all seen men and women quickly dazzle the world and then fade in dishonor and ruin. Most of life, you see, is a marathon and not a sprint. It just goes on and on, and the pressure to give up seems to increase with the passage of time.
That is certainly true in the Christian life. It is what the apostle Paul referred to when he said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). By these words, Paul was expressing satisfaction at having crossed the finish line without yielding to the pressure to cave in.
Alas, married life is a marathon, too. It is not enough to make a great start toward long-term marriage. You will need the determination to keep plugging. Only then will you make it to the end. Hang in there. Shirley and I will be waiting for you at the finish line.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10).
From Dr. Dobson’s book, Love For A Lifetime