My wife, Ann, and I have been speaking around the country for 30 years on marriage, and the stories we hear are all too typical. What once started as a vibrant relationship can often grow stale and cold.
At first we give marriage everything we have, but after disappointments, hurts, and unmet expectations, we stop trying because it just hurts too much.
We’ve been there ourselves, but we’ve learned the hard way to keep running after love and marriage.
Years ago we were reminded to keep fighting for our marriage in a most unusual way...
Our 25th wedding anniversary was coming up and I wanted to surprise my wife Ann with an amazing trip in May. So I got on my knees every day and asked God for a free trip to a resort in Mexico. Yes – I said free!
God can do anything, right?
And I never told Ann about any of it. This was a special arrangement between God and me. The fall months turned into the holidays, but no free Mexico trip materialized.
And then the miracle happened.
I had just walked off the stage after preaching on a Sunday morning when a young couple came up and asked if I might be able to officiate their upcoming wedding. They said they needed an answer from me immediately. When I asked why I heard these precious words...
“Well, our wedding is this May at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. We will fly you and your wife down there free for a week if you can do our wedding.”
This was nothing short of a God-sized miracle.
Ann and I had never been to an all-inclusive resort before. “All-inclusive” is Spanish for “tightwad’s dream” – I’m no linguist, but I’m pretty sure that’s right.
On one particular evening at the resort, Ann and I joined the wedding party for a dinner show. The next thing I know, Ann and I were on stage as part of a dance competition. We’re terrible dancers, but somehow we ended up as one of the final three couples dancing for the grand prize.
The emcee revealed that the dance-off was to “Sixties music, acrobatic.” I asked him what he meant by acrobatic, and he simply replied, “The more acrobatic you are, the better your chance of winning the grand prize.”
My wife Ann has been a gymnast for most of her life, so I knew she would crush the acrobatic part.
When the music started, I migrated to the back of the stage and proceeded to do my little dance moves – picture an awkward fusion of John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever" with Kevin James in Hitch.
Meanwhile, Ann was bringing the house down. She gracefully darted back and forth across the stage, nailing a series of death-defying gymnastics stunts through the air. The crowd was going nuts!
As the music was coming to a close, I moved to one end of the stage, while Ann had flipped her way to the other to set up our much-needed grand finale. As we locked eyes, I came up with a stellar idea. I bent forward and formed a circle with my arms and motioned for her to come and jump through them. She looked perplexed. I couldn’t fathom what was so hard to understand about this! My arms were in a perfect circle, just like a hula hoop.
I was envisioning our own version of the show at Sea World, where Shamu the whale jumps out of the water through that huge hula hoop, perfectly executing his little flip back into the water at the end. In my visions of grandeur, I could visualize Ann leaping through my arms and landing a perfect flip.
The next thing I saw was Ann sprinting toward me – like in an Olympic vault competition. There was a look of determination in her eyes.
This is why I married this woman!
I could tell she was going all-out to win the grand prize and another free trip back to this exotic resort. For a split second, all was right with the world.
As she approached me, she launched into the air with inconceivable height and skill, far above my hula hoop arms. I quickly moved out of her way to let her land unencumbered. It was going to be an amazing ending, so I spun around and continued doing my own little jig for the finale – I never even saw the landing!
But I did hear it.
The loud thud could be heard even above the blaring music. It sounded like someone had crashed hard to the ground – perhaps someone who had been expecting someone else to catch her.
Somehow, Ann thought I was going to catch her in midair and spin her around like Patrick Swayze and Baby in "Dirty Dancing." She was thinking about Patrick Swayze; I was thinking about Shamu.
As she crashed to the stage, the audience let out a collective gasp. I didn’t know if she was okay, but I knew that I was a dead man.
When I turned around, Ann was lying facedown . . . and thankfully she was laughing hysterically.
The good news is we won first place.
And the grand prize?
Brace yourself . . .
It was two T-shirts!
The thing I love about Ann is that she does nothing halfway.
She goes ALL IN...ALL THE TIME!
Years ago, Ann and I adopted a life Bible verse for us as a couple:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men...” (Colossians 3:23 ESV).
Believe it or not, that verse applies to marriage.
Marriage is hard. Really hard.
It’s easy for us to begin with an “all-in” attitude, but when we are disappointed by our spouse, we pull back. That’s pretty normal for any marriage.
Let me encourage you to go all in and take a leap...one more time.
You want to do something right now to save your marriage?
Here is my advice...Go Vertical!
If you have tried for months or years in your own strength and it hasn't worked, then give God a chance.
Get down on your knees today and surrender your full self to Jesus – even if you have done so a thousand times before.
You can’t control your spouse; you can only change yourself.
Well, you can’t even do that, but Jesus sure can.
I promise you that if you take a running leap into the air today, God will catch you.
Your spouse may not (just ask Ann), but God certainly will.
But you’ll never really know until you leap.
Adapted from "Vertical Marriage by Dave and Ann Wilson." Copyright © 2019 by Dave and Ann Wilson. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.