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Sixty-five years ago Stella Fels and Valden White were married in Manson, Washington,
part of that state's famous apple-producing area. During those years of recovery from the
Great Depression, which had begun in 1929, people in the U.S. Northwest were fortunate
to find stable work in orchards. Times were tough, but most families managed to make
enough money to keep themselves in food and clothing.
Even though as children they lived only eight miles apart, they didn't meet until 1931,
after Val had graduated from high school in Chelan and Stella was in her last year at
Manson. One day Val was driving along the highway between the two towns when he
spotted three girls walking along the highway. Stopping to give them a ride, Val first met
Stella and her two cousins. From the moment Val saw her, he thought Stella was one of
the most attractive girls he had ever seen.
This was the beginning of many automobile rides and a lifelong love that sustained them
while raising two children and working at four occupations. This same love now graces
the golden years of their lives.
Some people believe marriages like the Whites' are anomalies and virtually impossible in the postmodern world. Based on current divorce rates, that view seems sadly accurate. But where does that leave us? Do happy marriages have to be a thing of the past, or can we hope for a life-long relationship with our mate that grows deeper with the passing of years?
Marriage is a natural union between man and woman, but it's also a divine relationship instituted by God at the foundation of the world. As the Creator of marriage, God knows what makes marriage work, and He reveals this knowledge to us through His Word, the Bible.
We find the earliest biblical writings on marriage in the first two chapters of Genesis.
There we learn that God created humans male and female and instructed them to
populate the earth and exercise dominion over it (Genesis 1:26-31). God said marital
partners were to leave their parents, be joined together and have a sexual relationship
(Genesis 2:24-25). Noting that "it is not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18),
God gave humans the wonderful gift of marriage.
Some 2,500 years ago ancient Israel wallowed in moral decay. Its leaders were not
teaching God's values (Malachi 1:6; 2:7-8). Just as today, marriages were falling apart as
people selfishly sought only their own gratification. In this setting God sent the prophet
Malachi to identify the Israelites' mistakes and explain what they should do to secure
God's blessings again. In doing so, God revealed another purpose of marriage. What had
the Israelites done wrong?
"Judah has broken faith," Malachi explained under divine inspiration. "A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god" (Malachi 2:11, New International Version).
Many Israelite men had married women from other nations who enticed them to worship
their gods rather than the true God. When some of these men decided to worship God in
addition to these foreign deities, they found that He would not accept their offerings
(verses 12-13). But there was more.
"You ask, 'Why?' " proclaimed the prophet. "It is because the Lord is acting as the witness
between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though
she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them
one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly
Besides paying homage to other gods, the men of Israel also sinned by breaking their
marriage covenants and divorcing their wives. These actions thwarted one of God's great
purposes for marriage, the development of "godly offspring" (verse 15); that is, children
who accept God's values as their own. One reason God hates divorce is that it hinders
such children. Instead of witnessing a successful marriage, children of divorce experience
the negative effects of a failed relationship.
Divorce brings additional problems, from financial hardship to the scars of emotional
trauma. One of the greatest fears of young people today is that their parents will
Because not everyone accepts or practices God's ideals for marriage, some conclude that
divorce is sometimes the only answer. Jesus Christ addressed the problem of divorce by
first affirming God's values as stated in Genesis and then by saying, "So then, they are
no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man
separate" (Matthew 19:4-6). Jesus was not in favor of divorce.
When pressed, however, Jesus said divorce was allowed for "sexual immorality" (verse 9).
Jesus' perspective was that divorce should be legal but rare. If everyone would refrain
from sexual intercourse before marriage and experience it only within marriage, many
divorces could be avoided. Tragically, sexual permissiveness is rampant in our society.
Few couples today enter marriage as virgins and sadly, many will not remain faithful to
their marriage partner.
The apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians explains how husbands and wives are to treat each other in marriage. After giving specific instruction to husbands to love their wives, Paul wrote: "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as
Here Paul teaches us that the marriage relationship is similar to our relationship with
Jesus Christ. Physical marriage is modeled after a godly relationship. A proper
relationship between a husband and wife gives insight into the spiritual relationship God
wants to have with each of us. This spiritual aspect of marriage sets it apart and puts it
on a higher plane. Marriage is aGod-plane relationship.
Just as marriages produce families, God is buildingHis family. God provides for the right spiritual relationship between a husband and wife to teach us about Himself and His great purpose.
Throughout the book of Ephesians, Paul speaks repeatedly of the family God is
developing. He begins by speaking of our "adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself"
(Ephesians 1:5). Then he calls us "members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).
Later he writes, "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
when Paul speaks of godly marriage as similar to "Christ and the church" in Ephesians
5:32, he is explaining howhuma n families, on a physical level, can be like God'sspiritual
As the head of His spiritual family, God promises never to break His relationship with His people (Revelation 3:21; 21:7). He makes a covenant with them and writes His laws in their hearts (Hebrews 8:10), and promises never to forsake them (Hebrews 13:5). Just as God honors His commitments, so should we honor our marriage vows.
The most wonderful marriages human beings can parallel a proper spiritual relationship with our Creator. Understanding this higher spiritual purpose for the marital relationship should give us added respect and appreciation for happy, fulfilling marriages now.
When Stella and Valden White were wed 65 years ago, people expected marriages to last
a lifetime. Though formal sexual education was virtually nonexistent, many marriages of
that era proved stronger than those of today. What made the difference? The Whites
believe part of the answer lies in attitude.
According to Stella and Valden, too many people fail to show loving respect for their
marriage partner. If couples encounter a serious problem, the simple solution is to get a
divorce and start over with someone else. The Whites say they experienced tough times
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