By Rick Hamlin
The Secret to a Good Marriage
My colleague Adam Hunter got married last week and I was trying to find the perfect piece of advice I could give him and his radiant bride, Nicole, on how to have a long, happy marriage. There would have to be something about prayer in it, but I wasn’t sure what it would be.
Figuring that a couple who had been married a long time would know, I called my friends the editors/writers John and Tib Sherrill at their retirement home in Massachusetts last week. After all, they’ve been wed for nearly 65 years. Tib answered on the first ring and sounded weak on the phone. “What’s wrong?” I asked her.
“It seems that I have pneumonia,” she sighed. “I’ve been taking medication but I can’t sleep at all. I toss and turn and am drenched. I’m waiting for someone from the nursing wing at the home here to take me over there.”
“But where’s John?” I asked.
“You must pray for him,” she said, urgency in her voice. “He’s got a terrible case of diverticulitis. He’s just doubled over in pain, crying out. They took him to the hospital and he’s been there for a couple of days. I can’t even visit him in the state I’m in. Please pray that he won’t have to have surgery.”
Ouch. What a crisis moment. “Can I call John?”
“Please do. Let me give you his number at the hospital. He’ll be glad to hear from you.” I got John on the phone and he sounded subdued. He’d been on an IV drip and was up walking around. The pain was easing but he wasn’t out of the woods.
“Is there anything I can do?” I asked, not certain what it might be. After all, I live hundreds of miles away.
“Rick,” he said, “you know how it helps to be able to be very specific in prayer. I want you to pray for Tib. She hasn’t been able to eat very well and she needs to get her strength up. Would you pray for her that she’ll be able to eat without getting nauseous?”
I hung up the phone, knowing I had just the right piece of advice for Adam. Neither John nor Tibby had asked me to pray for them. Instead they’d thought first of the other one. Marriage flourishes on selflessness. So does the spiritual life. “Pray for Tib.” “Pray for John.”
“Pray for Nicole first,” I’d tell Adam. “That’s all.”
As for the Sherrills, I just called them today. John’s out of the hospital and Tibby is doing better. Still, I’m keeping them on my list.