By Shawn McMullen
An account of the courtship of Ulysses S. Grant and Julia Dent describes how the couple found themselves in a buggy at the edge of a bridge spanning a flooded creek. They had been courting for about four months. Grant could tell Julia was frightened at the thought of crossing the bridge and he reassured her it was safe. In Julia’s own words: “Just as we reached the old bridge I said, ‘Now if anything happens, remember I shall cling to you, no matter what you say to the contrary.’ He simply said, ‘All right,’ and we were over the planks in less than a minute.”
It’s said that Julia, true to her word, held tightly to Grant’s arm as they crossed. The couple continued on in thoughtful silence for a few moments before Grant mustered the courage to say, “Julia, you said back there you would cling to me whatever happened. Would you like to cling to me for the rest of our lives?” Julia said she would, and they were married in August of 1848.
Historians describe Grant as a devoted husband and father— loving, kind, and considerate toward his wife and children. It seems he and Julia really did cling to one another throughout their lives.
That should be the goal of every Christian couple. From the beginning God’s Word has taught us, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, English Standard Version).
Holding fast to one another is key to a successful marriage, but it’s not easy. Financial pressure, time constraints, responsibilities at work, at church, and in the community can cause couples to loosen their grips and drift apart. Communication barriers, past hurts and offenses, and personal issues (such as fear, inadequacy, and low self-esteem) make it increasingly difficult for couples to hold fast to one another.
There is a simple solution to this dilemma, however. Look to God before looking to one another. The more each individual in the marriage relationship is transformed into the image of Christ, the more the couple moves toward oneness.
I often illustrate this principle when counseling engaged couples by using a simple triangle. I write the groom’s name beside one of the lower corners, the bride’s name beside the other, and God’s name at the top. We talk about what it means to draw near to God, to grow toward him, and to become like him as we mature spiritually. Pointing to the top of the triangle, I show that as the husband and wife each draw closer to God, they automatically draw closer to one another.
Talk to Christian couples who have been married for decades. Ask them the secret to their success. Most will tell you their solid and enduring relationships are not the result of their skills, their intellect, or their personalities. Instead, they’ll tell you they concentrated individually on drawing near to God, becoming more and more like him, and acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord of their home.
They’ll tell you only God can help a couple hold fast to one another.