“The race is not always to the swift, but also to those who can keep running.”
When we think of a race, we almost always think about speed. But the fastest sprinter usually won’t win the marathon. It takes a different mentality to be “in it for the long haul.”
When I train for long distance running, I have one rule—don’t stop. There are times I go faster, there are times I go slower, and there are even times that I limp along wondering if my legs are going to quit on me. But no matter where I am in training, where I am along the course, whatever I am doing, I have conditioned myself to always repeat the mantra, “Keep moving. No matter what, do not stop.” Because my mind is fully immersed in that thought, when the pain comes there is no room for anything else—no room for excuses, no room for rationalizations, no room for quitting because, frankly, sometimes it would just be easier to quit. There is only the rule…don’t stop.
Christian marriage is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Whether you have been married for less than five weeks or for more than fifty years, “till death do we part” is the covenant promise you make as you commit yourself to the marathon. There will be hills and valleys, times when you are joyfully running together at full speed, and times when you are agonizingly crawling along feeling all alone. But wherever you are at, don’t give up on your marriage and don’t stop moving forward.*
Now don’t misunderstand my analogy. I hate when people talk negatively about marriage and they use the phrase “in it for the long haul” as if marriage is a dreadful thing that you must endure until you’re lucky enough for one of you to die. It is a joyful covenant relationship between two people that is rooted in Christ. But I am also a realist. Couples have conflict, trust is sometimes broken, disappointments come, selfishness and pride have a way of showing themselves, things occur that are beyond your control as an individual or as a couple—in short, life happens. But if you stay centered in Christ, if you continue to humble and submit yourself to Him and to your mate, leaning on and encouraging each other as you run, then “till death do we part” will be a joyful journey with your covenant lover.
Keep running. There is an amazing victory at the end for those who persevere. And if you follow the rule, even in the most difficult of times, you just might be surprised how much you and your spouse enjoy the race together—both in the moment and in retrospect.
*This post is meant to address normal difficulties that occur within a marriage relationship. It is not meant to address extreme addictions, abuse, or other forms of marital conflict that require professional clinical counseling. If there is conflict in your relationship that presents danger to your well-being—physically, mentally, emotionally, or in any way—or if you live in a state of fear due to conflict, seek immediate professional and protective help.