The Core Secret of Our Marriage

My wife and I have been married for almost 33 years. I’m often asked, “What’s your secret?” Typically my answer is about being realistic, accepting highs & lows, or about a sense of humor. The core secret is about the covenant we made with one another on a sweltering midwest summer day.

About Covenant

The term covenant has a strong association with the Judeo-Christian tradition as a model for relationship. If you read the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament), you are privy to a love story between God and the Israelites. 

Even when the people are unworthy of God’s love, and God has every reason to abandon them, God ultimately honors covenant. For example, in Judges 10, after years of idol worship, the Israelites seek God’s help when under threat from the Ammonites. God is rightfully angry with their newfound faith: “Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress” (Judges 10:14 NRSV). 

Despite rightful frustration, God “could no longer bear to see Israel suffer” (Judges 10: 16b NRSV). God responds in compassion and honors covenant. It is this covenantal relationship that serves as a model for our human relationships, including marriage.

The core success of our marriage, then, is that we stood before family, friends, and clergy on that day, publicly entering covenant. We invoked the Divine blessing and covenanted to work at our relationship. Our marriage covenant is with one another and with God.

Divine Presence

Created as physical and spiritual beings, to live into the image of God requires that we open ourselves to the spiritual. Life is an arduous, challenging experience. It is evidence of divinity when any of us are able to connect with other human beings.

A UCC minister and his wife, friends of my parents from their days at seminary, gave us a simple but powerful wedding gift thirty-three years ago. The physical gift was a golden cross with two rings. 

This is the first in a series about living in
covenant with another person.

The physical cross, however, was not the gift. The gift was the comment from Uncle Harold that our love and marriage are a gift from God. The implication being that we must treat our love and marriage with reverence.

My beloved Maggie and I have both sought to remember that our marriage is a sacred covenant. We seek to afford one another the respect that we afford God. For example, I know that Maggie doesn’t rake me through the coals with co-workers. Likewise, her most sensitive secrets will never appear in one of my blogs. 

We have both made mistakes. (God knows I have!) But to have slept with another woman or man, would be no more a failure to keep covenant with my beloved than if I betrayed our private conversations. As such, neither of us -regardless of temptations – have strayed or long-avoided the hard work of living as a married couple.

Keeper of Covenants,

Thank you for your love,
   that flows within all of creation.
Thank you for the forgiveness,
   even when it is undeserved.

Flow through my relationships with others:
   with Maggie,
   with those whom I meet at the market,
      at the gas station,
         or who are begging on the street.

When I fail to be who you,
   created me to be,
      forgive me,
         and empower me to confess,
             and make amends.

For it is in following your loving lure,
   that the world reflects you.
It is in your love,
   that I am who you desire me to be.


This is the first of several blog posts about what it means to live in covenant with another human being. The next will be about dealing with change and growth in one another. 


  1. With our upcoming wedding, I found this so intriguing, Tim! Up until a few years ago, I was fearful of and outright negative toward the concept of marriage until I actually gained a better understanding of what the term commitment meant. To me now, it isn't a bail and chain, it is sharing yourself equally with another person and loving unconditionally. A always knew this though-I was just a decade or so behind :o) It seems though that in modern society, especially in my generation's age group the meaning of marriage and commitment has lost some of its sanctity. I hope through your ministries, you can help to rebuild that definition in the minds of others.I really enjoyed your post and look forward to more!

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