On February 9, 2013, the national winners of the ‘2013 Longest Married Couple Project’, John and Ann Betar of Fairfield, CT received gifts and acknowledgments from Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a Christian marriage enrichment group based in San Bernardino, CA.
This project is a yearly search Worldwide Marriage Encounter conducts with the purpose to promote the virtues of lasting marriages and to inspire young couples. Family and friends send their nominees from every State in the US to them so that they can select the winning couple.
John and Ann lived across the street from each other. Ann was supposed to marry someone else in an arranged marriage according to her family tradition. But their love was stronger and they eloped to get married in Harrison, NY in 1932. Today, John is 101 years old and Ann is 97. They have been married for 80 years and have five children, 14 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. The secret of their successful marriage is: "It is unconditional love and understanding. We have had that. We consider it a blessing."
Marriages like this are an inspiration to all of us. They can only be achieved by lasting commitment and by applying biblical principles like forgiveness, kindness, patience, and grace in the relationship every single day.
Mark 10:6-9 (HCSB) says: "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
The marriage union and two becoming one is a mystery that goes beyond the physical realm. We don’t have to do much in order to start it. But because of our human flaws, our selfishness, our insecurities and other things we carried from our past into our marriage, keeping it, is one of the most difficult things in life. Just looking around us we can see that many marriages don’t last much these days. There are several reasons that can cause a marriage to fail. According to the Bible though, the main reason that causes divorce is hidden in the human heart. It is the hardness of heart.
Jesus said: "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning".Matthew 19:8 (HCSB)
What then can be done in the human heart to avoid hardness or to soften what is already hard? There are several things we can do but the most important one is applying forgiveness to any hurt arising in the relationship. “Be angry and do not sin. Don't let the sun go down on your anger”. Eph. 4:26 (HCSB)
We all know we are going to be hurt at some point by the person we love the most. But if we practice forgiveness daily, this will help in not accumulating resentment. This way every day we will have a clean page to start with.
Another very important thing a marriage must have to survive is commitment. If the couple starts marriage committed to one another and to the fact that divorce is not an option to resolve their differences. Then when a difference arises they will find a way to resolve it, they will put time and effort and work at it until they resolve it. It is like having the “back door” closed or better yet, not having one at all. Going into marriage thinking:”If it doesn’t work I’ll just get a divorce”, is setting that marriage up for failure from the beginning. It’s leaving the “back door” opened to escape. Let’s all be like John and Anna and close every back door, commit to our marriage and aim to be winners of an award in coming years.