Pastor's Pastor

Pastor's Pastor: Thirty Roses

Pastor's Pastor: Thirty Roses

Thirty years ago, June 7, Jesus gave me the greatest gift beyond His saving grace. Sharon became my partner in marriage, ministry, mischief, and mission.

James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Thirty years ago, June 7, Jesus gave me the greatest gift beyond His saving grace. Sharon be came my partner in marriage, ministry, mischief, and mission.

Because Sharon likes flowers, I often plant rose bushes to commemorate our anniversary. If our garden had sufficient, I would plant another thirty roses as a growing testimony to our years together. She will settle for less, but I have ordered twelve new bushes which I anticipate will soon be filled with blossoms.

Before you conclude that I've got "good husband" down pat, let me assure you that there are times when Sharon deserves roses and gets thorns from her over-extended, self-absorbed spouse. Every day does not bring roses, accolades, or I ashamed to admit, even compliments and gratitude.

Notwithstanding, I've made some observations through the years which I share as a tribute to my love for Sharon as well as an encouragement for you.

Opposites attract. The proverb states more truth than fiction. Sharon and I are opposite in every measurement of personality, temperament, or working styles. Despite this, or perhaps for this very reason, our Father has fulfilled his creative promise to "make a helpmeet." This Biblical concept means two completing halves of a whole rather than an individual created to run errands for the other.

Opposites are still opposites. Neither conversion nor marriage changes basic personality. A converted extrovert does not become an introvert and a spouse does not change from thinking to feeling modes of processing decisions just because their partner is different. One of our most challenging marital tasks, even after thirty years, is to value and utilize each others strengths rather than ridicule or despise that which is so different from ourselves.

Irritants remain. Growing together does not guarantee perpetual harmony.Each other's traits which frustrated us back in courtship days, frustrate still. Recently, Sharon and I strenuously argued an issue which we thought we had thrashed to resolution before our wedding. However, if we focus on our partner's positive characteristics, it really is possible not to notice each imperfection every day.

Fight fair. A magnet on our refrigerator says, "Marriages are made in heaven; but so are thunder and lightening." I doubt the veracity of those who claim never to utter harsh words. Differences are both a reality and a strength for marriages. Remember, the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference. So disagree strongly; but establish some ground rules. Stick to the issue at hand rather than battles of yore. I'm speaking of verbal inter change only. Violence, whether physical, emotional, sexual, or verbal, has no place in Christian homes. Afterwards, reunite to enjoy peacemaking.

Don't forget to laugh. Sharon, in a manner unlike any other, can identify the humorous or ridiculous in even the most complex situations. She helps me process trauma by chuckling over human foibles or bizarre circumstances that, otherwise, would overwhelm. There is little that we cannot face if we can laugh ourselves through the crisis.

Time is vital. Laughing together means sufficient time together vacations, days off to relax enough to enjoy each other. Once when I had extended an already-lengthy itinerary, I returned with a gift that I believed might compensate for my absence. When that gift ended up at a garage sale, it clearly showed my presence at home was more desired than any gift.

Don't meet tears with logic. Too many men want to "fix" problems when all our spouses really need is a sympathetic ear. Listening and embracing are often more effective than jumping to either conclusions or actions.

Good marriages demand three partners. We need Jesus to enjoy a happy home. To the extent that we include our Lord, our marriage prospers. To the extent that we neglect his Word, His will and His presence, we falter. The chance of our success depends more on our commitment God included in a covenantal relationship than on whatever appears momentarily convenient.

Ministry comes from surprising sources. Sharon studied homemaking. Do colleges still offer Home Economics degrees? Reality made her a minister. Our first conference president, Henry Carubba, saw potential where neither of us had even thought to search. As a evangelistic assistant, colporteur, Bible instructor, and pastor, Sharon developed skills in soul-winning, nurture, and administration which have expanded our team ministry.

Thirty years is not sufficient. Our first year together sometimes seemed never-ending as we struggled to accommodate each other in the reality of shared space, interactive time, and renegotiated roles. Sometimes we questioned even the basic sanity of two individuals who had been so certain of our love now stretching just to survive.

Three decades later, I wonder where the years evaporated as I conclude that Sharon is so fascinating that we must share eternity together!

Thirty years are nothing in view of eternity. I am so grateful for my spouse. I am so thankful we are almost home!

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James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

June/July 2000

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