With the rise of the Millennial comes the rise of the extended single life. Most of us won’t marry until at least age 27, studies show, and 25 percent will never marry at all, according to a Pew research study.
Maybe that’s because we love our individualism and sense of freedom, or we want to wait until we are “ready.” Regardless, I think by prolonging marriage, we may miss out on something that my grandparents learned: the beauty of long-lasting commitment and love over nearly 50 years. Here’s their story:
Not Dragging Their Feet
It was 1966, and a slender, dark-haired beauty in the halls of Moody Bible Institute caught my grandfather’s eye. Roy Mazelin was a senior preparing for life on the mission field doing Christian radio broadcasting. His destination: the Dominican Republic.
The dark-haired beauty he noticed was also a senior who had been preparing for the mission field, though she was considering Papua New Guinea. Caroline Landis had been asking the Lord for a husband but was beginning to think He wanted her to go to the mission field alone.
But God was working behind the scenes, leading Roy to notice Caroline. He says, “She was so beautiful, I had to ask her on a date. Once I did, I discovered she already wanted to go overseas, and our lives were going in the same direction.”
On the other hand, Caroline says, “I didn’t find him very attractive at first, but when he asked me to attend a church function with him, I went. The more I got to know him, the more I loved his qualities. He was kind and gentle, yet strong.”
The relationship progressed quickly and after one month, Roy proposed. They were married two weeks after graduation and moved to the Dominican Republic one month later.
The Early Years
Learning how to be married in a new culture during the first year of marriage was difficult. It was a lot of change.
Caroline says, “We yelled at lot at first, because that is how I had grown up dealing with conflict. But one day Roy said to me, ‘You don’t have to yell, Caroline.’ After that, we began trying to work out things more calmly. I learned that the more I praised him, the more he would praise me.”
“I think when you first get married, you don’t actually love each other,” says Roy. “You think you do, but over time, God gives you a different, deeper kind of love; one that compels you to forgive and be kind over and over — even when it’s hard. It’s a love that isn’t just a feeling, but a choice to put the other person first, even when you don’t want to.”
After two years in the Dominican Republic, they had their first son, Allen, who is my father. He was sick and cried constantly, which made things difficult (something I’m sure he will be thrilled I mentioned).
A New Mission
New Dominican laws that year forced my grandparents to close the Christian radio station they were serving, but they knew God still wanted them in full-time ministry. By 1972, God opened the door for them to go to Aruba, where they endured several miscarriages before having a second son, Mark.
And it was in Aruba that my grandpa was rushed to the hospital for excruciating pain in his lower abdomen. The local doctor started emergency surgery for what he thought was appendicitis — but he was wrong. The doctor discovered several holes in Roy’s intestine, but was unsure what the diagnosis was. He simply began covering the unknown problem with pain medication and antibiotics, never addressing the real issue. After several weeks, my grandparents decided to schedule a Sunday flight to the United States for treatment.
But the Tuesday night before they were scheduled to leave, Caroline woke up with an urgent sense that they had to get to the United States immediately. Recognizing the Holy Spirit’s pull, she checked Roy out of the hospital and took him to the airport. Though the airplane was overbooked by 20 passengers, by God’s grace they were able to board the flight.
The ambulance picked them up at the airport in Chicago. After arriving at the hospital in Wheaton, Roy was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and the doctor said if they had waited a few more hours to come, Roy would be dead.
Due to Roy’s serious health concerns, my grandparents were unable to return to the mission field. This seemed like the climax of trials — giving up their callings, their dreams. My grandma, who had planned on being a stay-at-home mom, had to go into the workforce while my grandpa recovered.
“I didn’t understand why this was happening, but I didn’t question God,” said Roy. “I thought about Paul and the thorn in his flesh. I figured that if God didn’t want to take away my disease, He must want to be glorified through it.”
Caroline added, “Even though it was hard, I couldn’t hold it over Roy’s head. I knew that God was sovereign, even in this.”
The hardship pushed them into God’s Word and showed them how to love each other more deeply.
The Results of Lasting Commitment
Now, after nearly 50 years of marriage and fighting through various hardships, they are one of the happiest, most loving couples I’ve ever seen. They still hold hands, go on dates and compliment each other. And though Crohn’s has left my grandpa with only half a kidney, strict dieting and limited availability for traveling, I have never heard either of my grandparents complain.
So many people are willing to give up on marriage when things get tough, dreams are crushed or expectations unmet. How were they able to walk through it all and still have such a happy marriage?
“You have to keep God first,” says Roy. “Recognize marriage isn’t about making yourself happy, but about serving God by fulfilling each other’s needs.”
Caroline added, “Forgive quickly and don’t sweat the small stuff. And keep dating, holding hands and having sex. Keep doing things together and love will keep growing.”
So for all the Millennials who are delaying marriage to enjoy the freedom of singleness, don’t forget that marriage is great too — and it really can be this good even after five decades.
Ashley Mazelin is a publicist at Focus on the Family. She has a journalism degree from Grace College and Theological Seminary, and enjoys writing, reading and spending time in the mountains.