What does the 'American Dream' look like for marriage?
Growing up, my family made a yearly pilgrimage to the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri every 4th of July weekend. Last year, my family decided to go again. This time with a different purpose--to celebrate 103 years of marriage. My parents’ decided to renew their vows of 40 years at the chapel located near their favorite resort. While plans were being made, invitations sent, cars rented and flights booked by distant family members, my grandparents also decided to renew their vows. My grandparents have been married 63 years.
During the vow renewal ceremony, as my sister and I stood on the stage honoring Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma and their collective 103 years of marriage, I wasn't able to get a word out. Just tears. The weight of the moment really got me. To make it a bit easier, my sister was also crying. (She mentioned later that as soon as she could tell I was going to spew the tears, she lost it.)
That is the dream I have for my marriage. Not the tears part. Rather, I wan to celebrate my marriage with my beautiful wife and family at our 40-year anniversary and again on our 60th anniversary as husband and wife.
My parents and grandparents celebrating their marriages on the 4th of July isn't coincidental. For me, a good marriage is part of the American Dream. When most people think about the American Dream they see images of pioneers conquering the Wild West and unknown uncharted territories. Rough rugged people who didn't know what to expect when they came over a mountain or through a clearing of trees. As our country developed, the American Dream didn't include as much adventure or Manifest Destiny, but a desire to own a home and live a better life, pursuing happiness with our spouse and family.
It seems that all too often Americans overlook part of the American Dream: The adventure of a great marriage – the building of a strong relationship, the adventure of exploring uncharted terrain in your marriage. As soon as modern marriages hit a rough patch the easiest thing to do is cut and run. With all of the crappy examples we are given from celebrities and politicians, it’s no wonder that marriage gets such a bad rap. Today, many people reject the idea of marriage and others jump from one marriage to another like a game of hopscotch, but I want that American Dream. I want to celebrate 40 years of love and life with the woman I married. I want my grandchildren to show up at my 63rd anniversary with their kids and tears in their eyes.
I believe its possible. I believe marriage is worth it.
No, I don't think that my parents always got their marriage and their relationship right. I don't think they've had it easy. But they didn't cut and run. They leaned into the adventure, they stood beside one another when the times grew tough and the skies were dark. They believed, somewhere deep down, that the marriage was worth it. They were worth it.
I believe it too. Even if it's tough. Even if there are hard times.
But in order to really chase after the dream, we have to pay attention to our marriages. We have to nurture them and each other. We have to remember why we got married in the first place. When the adventure of marriage wanes, we need to go back to the day we stood before the altar and said those vows. They weren’t just words. And a marriage license isn't just a contract it's an adventure. Maybe the biggest and best one that we will ever live. Our marriage has the potential to change our life, and the lives of our family members and, dare I say, the country we live in.
After 63 years, I want to look back at the adventure of my marriage and say, "Yeah, that's what the American Dream is all about." Not just owning stuff and making money, but really loving, knowing and enjoying the one woman that God has allowed me to marry.
That's my American Dream. Are you with me?