Saturday, January 31, 2009
This is an interview with Bill and Anabel Gillham - founders of Lifetime Guarantee. My wife and I receive their newsletter and I'm going to publish this interview with permission from Lifetime.org. The interview was done by Andy Knight, the president of Lifetime Guarantee Ministries.
To use the word "veterans" to describe Bill and Anabel's marriage adventure is an understatement. They're both in their golden years yet still work hard at helping men and women understand what it is to have a Christ centered marriage.
I hope you find some pearls of wisdom here.
As you are probably aware, Bill and Anabel Gillham have spoken all over the country, written numerous articles, and recorded several audio series on how to have a successful marriage. More importantly, they've been married longer than most of us have been alive. Not too long ago, I sat down with these marriage veterans and asked them a few hard questions.
After offering me a Dr. Pepper (which I never refuse), Bill and Anabel snuggled up on their living room love seat. Like young newlyweds, Bill draped his left arm over Anabel's shoulder, and she rested her right hand on his knee. They look so comfortable and...together. I jumped right in with my first question.
AK: What would you say is one of the biggest struggles that couples face in marriage?
Bill (B): The single life is very different. Singles make their own decisions and don't have to explain their feelings. The most difficult thing in marriage is realizing that you are not operating independently anymore. You have to learn to work around and with each other.
What do you know now about marriage that you didn't know before you were married?
B: About 98% [laughter]
AK: You both have obviously learned to work around each other. Couples are getting divorced left and right these days and here you are at 50+ years of marriage. You obviously know something about having a great marriage.
Anabel (A): Couples today don't have expectations that their marriage will last a lifetime, but when we were married, we believed marriage was to be a lifelong commitment. We just didn't know how to make it enjoyable.
AK: You mentioned "lifelong commitment". Is that how your marriage survived?
B: When we were married, divorce was disgraceful, so we simply endured each other. Had we married today, it surely would not have lasted. Part of the reason for failed marriages today is that we think it's our love for one another that will hold the marriage together and the couple will say, "We just don't love each other any longer." Love does not hold the marriage together. The marriage holds the love together. The "feelings" of love can fade over time, but commitment to Christ through us in the marriage will enable a couple to stay the course.
B&A: By the grace of God, we later discovered that the answer to having a successful marriage was allowing Christ to love one another through us. Before we learned that, it was sheer commitment, not happiness, that kept us together.
AK: It sounds like your marriage has passed through different states?
B: The first stage is where the husband is mentally retarded.
A: Yes, for us the first stage was a husband who was indulged in childhood and carried that into the marriage. That stage could be called "survive to please Bill" and lasted even into Bill's Christian years. The second stage was learning what we needed to do to solidify our relationship, and that was the "Coming to Know Christ as Life" stage. In the stage that we're in now, we have accepted that we are going to be together. We don't want out. In fact, getting out was never an option. We have begun to allow Christ to live through us and are coming to understand what marriage is all about. It is learning to trust Christ to express His life through us to each other.
AK: So now that you're in this good stage, are there differences for you both in how you express love to each other?
A: I often "loved" Bill by doing instead of being. My pattern for being loved was to work very hard to please people so I tried to show Bill my diligent efforts - the things I did for him - that I loved him. He doesn't need that. He needs me to be his wife - not his maid or cook.
B: Commitment must be spelled with time and effort. This is how I love Anabel, giving her security in our marriage.
AK: If you could do you marriage over again what would you do differently?
G: It would be fun to have known Christ as my new life before we got married. But I also believe that an integral part of our pilgrimage were the bad days we went through. It was the negatives as well as the positives that produced the current stage of our marriage. yes, it was painful and ugly, but I can see that it took that to put me where I am today. Believe me, I have not arrived! I have a long way to go.
AK: Do you have any other advice that you would like to give couples that are about to be married?
B: It is very important for a couple to know the power package of what God accomplished for us as new creations in Christ. Through Jesus Christ we have an immediate change of our identity. In the Bible, God calls us "saints" 42 times after his death on the cross. We went from being a sinner to a saint; from being an enemy of God to a friend of God; a rejected loser to an accepted winner; a person fighting for love to a person loved by our Creator beyond our comprehension; and from a clueless marriage partner not especially interested in changing to a partner seeking change to become a successful marriage partner.
A: Listening to each other is an indispensable element in a good marriage and listening is very hard to do. You must be aware that marriage is hard work and be prepared to give of yourself.
B: It's also important to know each other's needs. Even though the male is typically a bonehead in this area, he can learn and then look to Christ living through him to make the difference.
I want to thank Bill and Anabel for answering my questions. What an amazing example they are off a Godly marriage. We'd love to hear from you about how knowing Christ as Life and understanding who you are in Christ has helped your marriage.