If you could redo one thing in your life, what might it be?
That's hard, because at this particular crisis moment in my life I want to say—and I will say—I would be a more attentive, affectionate, gentle, kind and forthcoming husband.
Running neck and neck with that, but in a very different category, I would be a very different and more effective personal evangelist. I'm not by nature given to small talk or easy start up conversations on the street—or wherever. Therefore, I am not naturally bent towards being an effective personal engager in conversation which leads to a loving presentation of the gospel. I grieve over that! I would like that to be different.
But at this juncture in my life, I think I would honor Noel most, and it would be most helpful for me to say something about being a better husband over our 41 years of marriage.
I've never abused Noel, I've never hit Noel, I've never hollered at Noel. We have a solid, good, strong, unshakable, mutual respectful marriage. But there is just so much more. I feel at age 64 I'm learning things about how to surprise a woman and sacrifice for a woman—the woman of my life. I'm learning how to be emotionally more there, emotionally more tender and kind and gentle and affirming. If I have another 40 years, I hope I will do better in that dimension of our relationship. That would put me at 104. Oh my!
You know I've said to Noel many times. "What's going to be so great—" and I say this to young couples who are having problems. I say, "Look. Things are going to change. It is going to get worse, and it is going to get better. Rather than divorce at age 24 years in the marriage—marrying someone else, having another hard marriage and maybe doing it again.... Wouldn't it be better to work your way through this painful situation? And when you are 80 years old you go up to the North Shore together and sit near a window with bushes on the other side, at a little two person table. You have some 80 year old salad appropriate stuff between you, with little birds jumping around in the bushes. And then, with your wrinkled face and your toothless mouth, you look at each other and say, "We've made it. We've made it." Loving each other like crazy. I think that will be the great reward of all the work it takes to keep making a marriage as good as you can make it.
My advice would be—though they didn't ask for advice—don't take the divorce route. Give yourself to the hardest, longest work you've ever known. Have the dream that, someday on the other side, God will do more than you ever thought he could—that you will look at each other's old wizened faces and say, "We've made it."