I think that the key thing to the longevity of our relationship has been its genesis. We had both decided before God that we would not enter into a relationship, on a dating basis, unless we were sure that God was in it, or had orchestrated it. For Liz this came about when she was in her mid teens, so she busied herself in work and church life waiting for God to bring someone of his choosing along. For me it was a little different. I was in the Royal Australian Navy and for a time was a typical sailor with a girl in every Port. My Christian life and convictions had slipped by the wayside and I wasn't living as a christian in the early part of my naval career. However God did not give up on me and touched my life in such a deep way that I wanted to live for him alone.
I was convicted about the wrongness and insincerity of the various girl friend relationships that I was still engaged in and wrote to all of the girls to tell them of my renewed relationship with God and that I could not keep up the pretense. It was then that I made the promise to God that I would not enter into another relationship unless I was sure that God was in it.
In finding my way back to God I attended a church in South Perth, Western Australia where I had previously heard of the preacher from my youth in Adelaide, South Australia. It was there that I was connected with an enthusiastic youth group and the leader was Liz. When I went overseas young people from the group prayed for me and wrote encouragingly to me and the intermediary was Liz. On one of my shore leaves in Perth Liz invited me to partner her to a wedding, feeling that I would benefit from the Christian fellowship. Shortly after that I was drafted to New South Wales and I continued to correspond with Liz as the connecting person with the youth group.
Liz began to develop an emotional attachment and went to speak with her Pastor about it and he suggested, from hearing of our lengthy correspondences, that I was in denial of my own feelings of a growing attachment. When I spoke to God about it he showed me that Liz was indeed the one that he was bringing into my life. We were both convinced that God was drawing us together but we had never so much as held hands or kissed. I asked her father for permission to marry Liz and we made plans to get engaged when I came to Perth on annual leave. That all happened as planned in a 10 day whirlwind courtship.
Not very long after that Liz cut all ties with her Perth home and church life to join me in New South Wales with a view to preparing for an early marriage. We were married in June of that year after knowing one another under 12 months but most of our getting to know one another was through lengthy letters where we shared our hearts and the expectations we had for how we would live out our married life together. Much of this detail is in Liz's account of how God orchestrated events and her own growing into that awareness.
The key thing in all of this to me is the certainty of God being with us in the beginning and then proving his presence and faithfulness throughout our married life together. It has not all been plain sailing, we have had serious challenges, but we have never had any reason to doubt one another's commitment to each other and to God. From the very beginning, even though our understanding of marriage, at that time, was basically complementarian we had a marriage of equals. In fact Liz was far more experienced in church life and living with and for God than I so I had a great deal of learning and catch up to do. There was no way that I could assume a headship role, nor would I have wanted to.
How did we survive 50 years of marriage with all the ups and down that life brings? We not only survived but triumphed because throughout the whole journey we are best friends.