By Pastor Andrew Callaway
He who walks in integrity, walks securelyProverbs 10:9
A trip to my parent’s house is always a trip down memory lane. It’s the house I grew up in and they have lived there 40 years. This summer I decided to dig up some of the old home movies while we were vacationing there. I didn’t realize that doing so would present us with a vivid lesson on the blessed outcome of a life of integrity- specifically integrity in marriage.
The VHS tape I selected was the 50th wedding anniversary celebration of my grandparents, William and Lilly McIlhenny. They were married on November 16, 1940 and the footage on the tape was from November 1990. Considering the date, this would be gold for my kids. I eagerly popped the tape in the VCR to relive my memories with Kim and the kids of a solo I sang of the first verse of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”. It was worse than I remembered! A 10-year-old in a tuxedo with a pink tie and cummerbund straining his high-pitched voice was an awfully funny sight to see (and hear)!
The clubhouse celebration was filled with guests- family members, friends from church- mostly peers. All three of my grandparent’s children spoke honorably about their parents from the podium microphone. They retold stories like the history of my grandparents meeting and their faith in Christ they displayed over the years. As mentioned, we sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” which was their favorite hymn. Afterwards there was white frosted cake and punch. That Saturday back in 1990, my grandparents were honored, and God was praised.
Viewing the film, you could see the joy of a faithful marriage. Not the “new couple on their wedding day” type of joy. That type of joy is an excitement and anticipation about what the future could hold for the bride and groom. This joy, the old married couple joy, was the settled joy, the relieved joy, the joy of a “we see how this turned out and it looks good” joy. There was no hope at what the future might hold but the relief of a settled and firm calm-joy at what the past does hold. The outcome of their marriage is known and was celebrated. Their 50-year union consisted of a faithful marriage, involved fruitful ministry in the church, and maintained family unity. The fruit of their married life had been harvested and integrity proved to be a sweetener and a protector.
I decided to put in another tape that night in search of more nostalgia. The scribbling on the label detailed soccer games from 1988 and a documentary (recorded from TV) on Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz put together by their children. Watching the soccer game was just like being there- not that interesting to watch. The documentary of that famous TV and real-life couple, however, was captivating. The upbringing and rise to fame of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz was fascinating. The public side of America’s golden couple of the 1940’s and 1950’s was charming. The behind the scenes look into the private life of alcohol, affairs, and finally divorce was quite saddening.
Lucy and Desi had married on November 30, 1940 but it was tumultuous from the start. Lucy filed for divorce in 1944 due to Desi’s drinking and womanizing, but the couple reconciled. Then, after 20 years of “keeping things together” through years of infidelity and the misery that sin brings, the couple divorced in 1960.
Apparent in the documentary was the lack of integrity that not only ruined their marriage scarring them both for life, but the devastating marks it left on their two children. Although Lucy and Desi still deeply cared for one another, they both remarried and remained wounded friends until they both died in the 1980s.
After watching both VHS tapes in my parents living room that night, I began to be struck by the tale of two marriages that I had just viewed. Before my eyes was the outcome of two marriages that ironically, both began in November 1940 but had very different emphases and opposite outcomes.
One marriage was marred by infidelity. The other marriage marked by integrity. The marriage marred by infidelity was fraught with instability and ended in misery. The marriage marked by integrity was stabilized with security and continued for almost 60 years (until my grandfather’s death) in joyful harmony.
The lesson of this tale of two marriages is as Proverbs 10:9 commends, “walk in integrity.” Integrity does not describe someone who is sinless, but one who lives without hypocrisy. A man or woman of integrity lives their life in consistent conformity to God’s will; they regularly submit in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Bill and Lil” lived with integrity in their marriage and reaped the reward of security.
As my grandparents would have freely confessed, we can do nothing to please God in our own strength. But God is honored by our grace-powered integrity.
Let us strive then to “walk in integrity” before our Lord and may we find the beneficial result of “walking securely” (Prov. 10:9). As we do, God will be praised. And if any of your grandchildren happen to stumble over the video celebration of your faithful marriage, they may just be spurred on to walk in integrity as well.