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50 Lessons from 50 Years of Marriage (Part 3): Still Learning After All These Years

By Barbara Rainey

First posted on

As we approach our 50th anniversary, you might think we’re now in cruise control with our marriage. If so, you are mistaken! We’re still learning … often from our errors … and still growing in our relationship with God and with each other.

As a result, we decided to create a book, Our Story, for our six children and their spouses and our soon-to-be 27 grandchildren.

Our Story tells about our backgrounds, how we came to faith in Christ, how we met in college, our dating, engagement and marriage. The second half of Our Story contains 50 lessons from 50 years of marriage. We printed enough for our family and a small quantity to offer to you our friends. This limited print run is available for a donation to Ever Thine Home. To find out more click here.

This is the third in a four-part series presenting some of these 50 lessons. This week we’re featuring some practical ways to build oneness in marriage—lessons we’ve often learned the hard way! And if you’re interested in seeing the entire list, be sure to get Our Story, which will be available in September.

Here are a few lessons we’ve learned during what we call “Prime Time”—the years after our kids left home.

Lesson #33: Understanding my wife is not a “one and done.”

The mystery of every woman is she continues to change through the years. He who made woman made her to be complex with multiple facets like a brilliant diamond. Hence the command from God to husbands to “live with your wives in an understanding way…” (1 Peter 3:7).

I (Dennis) have watched Barbara grow, develop, and change over the years, blossoming in many ways. She is not the same woman she was when we married. But she has also experienced a long list of challenges and hardships that have drained her even as they have, in the long run, deepened her. In those seasons of hardship, she needed a different kind and level of understanding than in our early, care-free years.

As I am called to be like Christ in our marriage, I’m called to seek to know and understand Barbara as He does … her relationships, aspirations, disappointments, and what nourishes her soul. That’s an impossible task, but with the Holy Spirit helping and guiding I can continue to grow in understanding. In some cases, I’ve even looked back over situations over the last 20 years and have understood more fully how Barbara had been hurt and overlooked in the crush of family and ministry needs.

As I pursue Barbara in love and seek to know her, I find myself living with her in an understanding way—thinking of her, of her well being … instead of thinking about myself.

Dennis, Barbara, Ashley Rainey Escue and Ben Rainey

Lesson #41: Losses are a part of life and multiply with age.

Over the course of our marriage we’ve experienced many losses together. Not just the loss of parents, family, and friends through death, estrangement or moves. But we have friends who have lost jobs, economic stability, or their health. Others have watched their houses burn to the ground, have been robbed, had their identity stolen, had their innocence taken by force or have lost mobility and independence.

The longer we live, the greater the accumulation of losses.

Losses have tested our faith and our bond in marriage, too. Losses prove the endurance of every marriage promise. A book that has helped us both immensely in dealing with losses of every kind is A Grace Disguised by our friend Dr. Jerry Sittser. It’s a compelling story of how one man dealt with the loss of his wife, mother and daughter in a car wreck. Buy it. You’ll need it someday. It’s one of our top 10 books we’ve read in our lifetimes.

Lesson #42. We aren’t focused on leaving a legacy, but on living our legacy.

The word “legacy” isn’t found anywhere in the Scriptures, but the concept is woven through the fabric of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. Our legacy isn’t what we leave. It’s the memory of how we have lived.

Our mentor, Dr. Howard Hendricks said, “My fear is not that you will fail, but that you will succeed in doing the wrong things.”

We’ve concluded that our legacy is the sum total of all the decisions we make in our lifetimes. It’s determined by our worldview, which is seen in our choices. A legacy is the example of our lives. A model of our love for God and others, His Word, and His work for future generations and a time we will not see. We hope and pray our children and grandchildren will remember and want to imitate our faith and obedience to Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Christian martyr said with “20-20” insight, “It is the righteous man who lives for the next generation.”

Once upon a time we thought we would arrive at a place that was smoother sailing in marriage but we’ve learned that was fairy tale thinking. We are both learning to understand one another in new ways in this prime-time season as we face more losses than in our early years. And we are more focused than ever on passing on a faith-example to our grandkids that we hope they will want to continue in their lives. Living a legacy is indeed very different than leaving one.

May these thoughts challenge yours as you too live for the King!

Love this snippet from the Rainey's new book, Our Story? Get your copy here!


My Heart, Ever His: Prayers for Women (NEW from Barbara Rainey)

As we search for meaning in our world of shallow online relationships and glamorized selfies, many are returning to traditional and liturgical churches. The repeated words, benedictions, and historic hymns connect us to saints who have gone before, giving us a sense of belonging, richness, and transcendence. Written prayers, once cast off as archaic, are now welcomed as guides to tune our hearts to the heart of God.

In My Heart, Ever His Barbara Rainey shares 40 prayers for women. Readers can read and meditate on one prayer throughout the week or read a prayer a day for 40 days as a way to express the longing of our hearts to our Father who loves us even as he sees who we truly are. Like the psalms of David, these prayers are honest, sometimes raw. Barbara uses these transparent expressions of common female experiences to encourage us to surrender to Christ and help us see God as he is, not as we assume him to be. My Heart, Ever His provides a stepping-stone to help you become more transparent with God and discover his welcoming embrace.


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