When I think about marriage, my metaphor is that of the Mississippi river which runs through my city of St. Paul. Its source is Lake Itasca in Minnesota where you can literally walk across it as a small stream, stepping on a few stones. From that humble and small beginning it meanders slowly southward for 2,320 miles to the Mississippi River delta.

On its long journey, it is a watershed for nearly 40% of the United States as rivlets run into streams and streams run into rivers and those rivers run into the mighty Mississippi. By the time it reaches its termination, it is discharging between 200 and 700 thousand cubic feet of water per second into the gulf. Its start is inconspicuous to the massive force of its end where its width spans as far as the eye can see and its strength pushes fresh water far out into the gulf with enough force that for miles its contents don’t even mix with the salt water of the ocean.

While marriage is exciting and exhilarating at its start, it is but a small trickle of what it can become if its partners are willing to share the long journey of a life together. The width and depth of a marriage well lived can be seen in the relationships and influence of those who have withstood the numerous bends in the journey, some joyful, some hard and some where they simply had to hang on together in faith - not knowing what was around the next bend. Marriages that have withstood the journey carry with them the weight of thousands of accumulated streams and rivers that have added to their strength widening and deepening a relationship that seemed so strong but was but a tiny stream in comparison at its inception.

And what are those streams and rivers that flow into the marriage over the years that add to its depth and width? Every time a partner serves the other, a stream flows into their relationship. Every time forgiveness is extended a stream flows into their relationship. When they walk through tough times in faith and commitment, rivers flow into their relationship. Every act of love, service, forgiveness, and commitment adds to the flow of their marriage which over the years and around bends too numerous to count cause it to flow with strength, depth and amazing power – having influenced many along the way.

Any captain will tell you that the Mississippi is a challenging river to navigate with its constantly changing sandbars and shifting channels. Marriage is no different. What did Mary Ann and I really know when we made vows at twenty about “in sickness and in health” and for “richer or for poorer?” It is in facing those unknowns that will unexpectedly appear together and with faith in a loving God that adds strength to our marriages.

When you see a couple in their eighties with wizened faces, unsteady legs and holding arthritic hands, don’t be fooled. They may look frail but if they have taken this journey called marriage together, they have depth and wisdom and a kind of commitment that nothing can break. Like the mighty Mississippi that flows into the gulf with great strength and force, their marriage has grown exponentially from that initial trickle of a stream so many years before. And they will tell you if you ask that it was worth the effort and that their love and commitment is great and there is a deep satisfaction that they weathered the challenges that marriage inevitably brings. Their small stream of love has turned into a river, wide and deep.
  • Sep 24, 2011
  • Category: News
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