I may not know much about love or marriage, but I do know a couple who defines what love and marriage should be. And although I have not been around for the fifty years they have been together, their lives today tell the story which I did not witness. Bob and Norine Colan were married fifty years ago today on June 8, 1956.
I bet you are asking yourself how this love story began, so I will gladly narrate for you. Now, this story is reliable because I received all my information directly from the two sources themselves. So here it goes. Robert was a strapping young lad who came from a family of two brothers and a sister. His parents both passed away when he was younger, so he was faced with lifeís harsh realities early on. When he was older, he married a woman named Carol and had two boys, Dave and Steve. A few years later, their marriage ended in divorce. Although the times were tough, God had something greater planned. Bob started working for Omaha Steel, where we will pause for a moment and look at Norineís story up to this point. Norine grew up in Mondamin, Nebraska on a small farm. She had a loving father and mother and one younger brother. Living in a Christian home, Norine spent her time as a young woman devoted to God. After graduating from high school, she moved to Omaha. Hardly knowing anyone, she moved into a small confined space we now call an apartment. Soon after moving to Omaha and settling in, Norine starting working for Omaha Steel; where, as you can guess, we will pick up the story.
If you have been paying attention you will see that Bob and Norine were working for the same company. After working with each other for three years, the day finally came when they got to know each other. Bob was on his way to a meeting and Norine happened to still be at the office. Both of them starting talking and forgot their previous plans. Iím not quite sure how long they talked, but it was just long enough for God to work. Little did they know, one night and one conversation would change their lives forever. After that night, they were inseparable. Bob would come to her apartment each morning and take her to breakfast before work. Each afternoon, they would have lunch together at the same diner. And every night after they were off the clock, they would converse over dinner. He would walk her home and she would go back to her apartment and pray.
After the first couple of dates together, my grandma laid out her standards. She explained to my grandpa that she would not marry someone that was not a follower of Christ. Up front, she expressed her love for God and how that would never change. Some people would be afraid to tell a person these things in fear of rejection; but, she loved God more than anything in this world and she trusted that God would bring her someone perfect. I admire her for the way she would not compromise her beliefs and her relationship with God. She knew that if someone was to love her, they needed to love God first.
Now, this is one part in their story where I find hope. My grandfather had been raised in a Catholic home and his relationship with God, when he met Norine, was not at all where it is today. When my grandpa saw my grandmaís relationship with God and knew what it meant to her, his heart began to stir. He knew that in order for his relationship with her to continue, he needed to grow closer to God. Every Sunday he would come with her to church. Every Sunday he would listen and questions would form in his heart. At first, his intentions were out of love for my grandma; but, with time and prayer, God began to be the reason why he went. His love for God grew and he began to learn about the Bible and Godís gift of love for him. In February of 1956, my grandfather proposed to my grandmother. And with out hesitation she said yes.
A few months later, after continuing to learn more about God, my grandpa decided to be baptized. I cannot imagine how happy my grandma must have been to see my grandpa grow in the Lord and finally surrender his heart. Iím sure that after endless prayers and conversations my grandparents could truly see how amazing God is and how he works in ways we cannot explain. Even though eleven months seems like such a short time to know if you are meant for someone, my grandparents trusted what God was telling them. And on Friday June 8th, 1956 Bob Colan and Norine Elliff were married.
Now, the story does not stop here. Most newly weds have some time to spend with their new spouse and relax; however, Norine immediately took on the responsibility of caring for Bobís two sons. In the midst of all this, Bobís first wife began to play tug a war with her sons. She moved them to North Platte and made it almost impossible for Bob and Norine to be with them. After many prayers, God made it possible for Bob and Norine to bring Dave and Steve back to Omaha. Although, these times were tough my grandparents gave everything to God, and he pulled them through. Knowing the difficulties they encountered from the very beginning makes me appreciate their love for each other even more. Most couples today cave in when stressful situations arise, but Bob and Norine stood firm by each otherís side and turned to God in everyway. I think it is important to see the reason for their marriage working thus far. You see, there is not two people involved here, but three. God is their focus. God is their focal point. How many times do people forget this concept? And how often in marriages do people get caught up with their own wants and desires and forget that God is the key? I am so grateful to have two loving grandparents that never gave up. And because the never threw in the towel, they were blessed with two more sons, Greg and Gail.
Now this is where I received my role in this story. I was born to Greg and Sue and had the honor to be the first granddaughter of Bob and Norine. As I grew up, I stayed close to my grandparentsí side. I was told stories, bounced on my grandmotherís knee, taught how to sing, and most of all, I was told about Jesus. I can remember as far back as age four, I loved God and wanted to know him more. If my grandparents had never been, I might not know the love of God today. When I was about four years old, we moved away to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for my fatherís job. Iíll never forget the tears that streamed down my face as I told my grandma and grandpa goodbye. As they rode with us to Sioux Falls, I wondered when I would see them again. Year after year, we would come back to visit them in Omaha. And each time I would have to say goodbye again, it became harder and harder. Distance, however, could not keep me from my grandparents. As I grew up, and continued to be taught by my parents and grandparents, I knew in my heart it was time to give my life to God. I was baptized in August of 1994 and my life has not been the same since. My grandparents mean the world to me. I cannot express in words the lessons they have taught me or the amazing love they have given me. As I reflect upon my life and the reason I am who I am today, I cannot help but form tears in my eyes.
When I became older, I started to notice more things about life. I started to realize that family is the most precious thing a person can have. My family is everything to me and there is nothing I would not do for them. Bob and Norine feel the same way about their family. Looking back, my grandparents have sacrificed more than Iíll ever know to have the family we have today. They have gone out of their way in order to help the people around them and to show them love. Their devotion to the Lord and each other has only continued to grow from the moment they said, ďI do.Ē When they made their vows, they made a commitment, a promise to love each other and to love God. What is so amazing about their promise is that they have kept it for fifty years to this day. Just take a moment and reflect on what that means. Fifty years. Fifty years is half of a century. Fifty years is 599 months. Fifty years is 2608 weeks. Fifty years is 18262 days. And for fifty years, Bob and Norine have spent over 450,000 hours and over 30,000,000 minutes together. Since they have been married they have had four boys, four daughter in laws, eight grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.
During the (almost) 21 years I have been alive, I have never once seen my grandparents fight. I have never seen them raise their voices at each other. I have never heard them complain. I have never heard my grandpa say one mean thing about his former wife. I have never heard my grandma say one mean thing about her either. I have never heard them talk about each other in a negative manner. Through all my grandpaís medical problems, I have never heard him complain or give up. When dealing with family issues, I have never seen them become angry. And through it all, Iíve never once have seen them give up on God. My grandparents have seen rain and they have seen shine. Not only have they persevered through both, but they have done it in such a way to honor God. In Ecclesiastes 7:14 it instructs us to be happy when times are good and to praise God when times are bad, for God has created both. I cannot think of a better example of this then Bob and Norine.
Marriage is a gift from God. God intended for man to take a wife and to love her as Christ loves the church. As I start to consider marriage in my own life, I have sought to learn from my grandma and grandpaís marriage. Time after time I ask my grandma to tell me their story as we bake goodies together. And as situations arise in my life, I look to them for hope and strength. They are my inspiration and my hope from God that I deserve the kind of marriage they have. God speaks volumes to me through them. I know in my heart when I look at both of them, their marriage is what God intends for all. When he was outlining what a marriage should be, he must have smiled knowing what their marriage would be like. As I seek the Lord and his will for my future husband, he sits me down on His lap and says, ďAlthough this world forgets what real love is, I have not. You mean so much to me that I gave my Son for you. Not only do I want you with me in Heaven someday, but I want you to prosper in your life as well. You need not worry about who you will marry for I have chosen the very best. You deserve only the best, and I will not let you settle for less than what I have to offer you. The world may surround you with lies and guys will try and deceive you; but, if you listen to my voice in the storm, I will lead you to the one. Do not give up. I have brought the right people together for years and years, and I will do it again, but only if you let me. Will you let me show you, like I did with your grandpa and grandma? Will you trust me as they did?Ē
In this world, it is so easy to forget to turn to God. Picking your companion is one of the most important decisions you will make in your lifetime. And picking the right one or the wrong one will determine your footsteps until you die. More marriages in America will end in divorce each year than any other country. Since 1997, 2.5 million of Americaís marriages end in divorce every year. Statistics say that half of all US marriages will end in divorce. Statistics are also telling us that the divorce rate is declining. This is because the marriage rate is declining. Today, there are more than 5.5 million couples that are cohabitating. Maybe they are catching on that most US marriageís end in divorce; however, I feel they are missing the point. More and more kids are growing up in homes surrounded by these types of relationships. Now, letís look at the brighter side of this issue. Glenn T. Stanton researched and found that evangelicals who attend church regularly, divorce at a rate 35 percent lower than secular couples. In my opinion, reaching a 50th wedding anniversary is quite an accomplishment. I would say that most people do not even reach their 25th anniversary.
I think 50 years together says much about a marriage. Bob and Norineís marriage of fifty years will continue to speak to people as it did to me. Someday, when I marry and have a family, I will sit my children down and tell them the incredible story their great grandparents left. I will teach them the importance of love and commitment, and most of all, about bringing God into the center of their marriages. Not only does fifty years mark another dot on the timeline; it leaves a legacy for all. Bob and Norineís marriage is a legacy, an example of the love and commitment Christ has made to all of us. Words cannot be found, nor gifts cannot be given to express the honor they both deserve as they celebrate fifty outstanding years together in marriage. As I know they both do, I think itís important to thank God on this day for bringing Bob and Norine together and for giving them these years together and for the many years to ahead.
Thank you grandpa and grandma for teaching me about Jesus, showing me what real love is and for surrounding my life with such a wonderful family. I know your family and friends would agree with me if I said we would be lost with out you. Thank you for everything you both have done for us and may God bless you for many more years to come.