Editor’s note, May 2015:  In a recent FamilyLife contest, participants were asked, “What marriage do you most admire, and why?”  Here’s a selection of their responses.  For more, read “The Marriages We Admire.”

1. My former pastor and his wife … they are both with the Lord now.  They had very different strengths but they always showed each other the utmost respect and love and were a testimony to me in my middle school years.  It was very clear to everyone that they treasured each other.

2. My brother Tracy and his wife Kelsie.  They married young, at 19 and 20, and I had doubts about their chances of a successful marriage, just based on their ages.  They will be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in July and have 8 children.  They are truly, to me, the epitome of what a marriage and family should be.  Their selflessness and commitment to each other, their children, family, and friends it’s something we admire and aspire to!

3. I truly admire my parents’ marriage the most.  They met when they were 21 and 24 and married within 6 weeks.  I grew up seeing them go through extreme financial challenges but my mom only worked part-time jobs while we were at school so she could be home with us before and after school.  I never saw them raise their voices to one another.  There may have been times when I sensed they were unhappy about something but they did not let us see them fight.  After we all graduated, got married and moved away, I saw their relationship become even sweeter and more loving.  I hope that my husband and I can also find a deeper love for one another that will help our marriage become as strong as theirs.

4. My husband and I both admire our grandparents’ marriages. No matter what life threw at them, they stayed grounded in their faith and each other. They knew God had plans for them and their marriages and they tried to listen and follow. That is what we strive for in our marriage and life together with Christ.

5. I admire our parents’ marriages most. Our parents have stayed married through many years and many ups and downs. We know their lives behind the scenes. They have been wonderful examples to us on how to stay married. They don’t have marriage rules that I can tell but they taught us well by living their lives and honoring their spouses and the Lord.

6. Both of my parents are deceased, but their marriage is what I want my marriage to model. They loved each other til they died. They went on vacation by themselves once a year. They provided a great home to grow up in. As kids we had everything we needed so we could grow and thrive as adults.

7. I think I would choose my grandparents.  They spent a lot of time at church together and working to share God’s love, but then they could fight like nobody’s business but then go to bed happy and contented. They enjoyed spending time with family and laughing.  Playing games and things. When one died before the other they missed the other one immensely. They shared their happiness with each other and stayed together throughout life’s many challenges.  Parkinsons disease and Alzheimer’s attacked each of them.  But through all of that they loved each other and kept encouraging one another to heal and kick the diseases.  Amazing to think about and miss them since they have been gone for 5 years. At least we have memories!

8. The answer to this question has changed many times for me over the years.  What I used to think was an admirable quality in marriage is not what I think now.    So if at this time having to pick one couple, it would be my son and his wife.  They attended their first weekend to remember in February.   They came to the weekend on the brink of filing for divorce and left with renewed love and hope.   God is good !!

9. I admire our Pastor and his wife’s marriage the most.  They are just real people.  They have struggles and issues just like everyone else but they prioritize one another. Even in the midst of church life and ministry they take time most weeks for date night and for family night.  They have nicknames for each other and when they are together you see the love and respect they have for one another.  When he or she is on stage at church and the other is watching from the audience, there is such a look of love and admiration on their spouses face as they watch them.  They have helped shape us into the spouses we are today by watching them and learning from them over the last twenty years.  They are an example of the kind of marriage we want.

10. Chip and Theresa Ingram because of the blended family aspect and how he has let God work in him and through him with his step children.  Also as a pastor his marriage has many serious demands, but the evidence in his series Effective Parenting in a Defective World is that they are successful at both launching their arrows and maintaining their bond with God and each other.

11. My parents – My mom is no longer living but while she was alive, I saw how my parents stuck by each other through all of life’s ups and downs.  As my mom’s health failed, my dad stayed by her side.  They modeled for my siblings and me what a marriage was supposed to function.

12. My parents. My father is in a state care facility five hours away from where we live because he has Alzheimers. She desperately wanted him closer, but because he had become so aggressive, my mom had no choice but to have him there. My mother faithfully has cared for him the last 5 years in their home until it got unmanageable this last Christmas. Now she drives to the facility every other week to visit him and make sure that he knows that he’s loved. Sometimes he remembers her and sometimes he does not. She also calls him often. They’ve been married for 40 years and have stood the test of time when the going is really tough.

13. We had a couple model a Christ centered marriage to us early in our marriage.  They met with us and helped us set up a budget.  He mentored my husband and she mentored me and showed us with their actions what it takes to have a healthy marriage that honors our Lord.

14. Walter & Melba Hooker, because God radiates through them. You can see the love & respect they have for each other. They put God first in everything together.

15. One of the most recent marriages I have really learned about has become my favorite. It is the story from the Bible about Boaz and Ruth. The thing that sticks out the most is the character they displayed. Ruth was honorable, humble and loyal. She left all that she knew and went into the unknown to take care of Naomi. Boaz was an honorable, humble man that displayed his faith to those in the fields. He took notice of Ruth’s servant heart and in return took care of her. They did things the right way it seems. Over time they fell in love with each other. Boaz even had to lay aside his pride and own desires to do what was right. He had to approach another man that had the first right to marry Ruth. Through it all they remained a man and a woman with true character and loved God first.

16. I know this may seem inappropriate here but after giving a great deal of thought to this question my answer is Dennis and Barbara Rainey. I didn’t have any good examples of a Godly marriage growing up so there wasn’t anyone modeling what I felt like God wanted for couples when it was close to time for me to get married. I started reading everything I could at our library in Bible College to help me out. Once I started reading the Family Life materials I discovered a kinship and have felt like I know Dennis and Barbara through their materials. I really appreciate the work they are doing.

17. The marriage I admire most is that of my in-laws. My father in law passed several years ago due to Alzheimer’s disease. They were high school sweethearts. As his disease progressed my mother in law would fill in the words where he could not, and she knew exactly what he needed even when he could not remember what it was. Once, when we took him out to shop for a gift for her, after he found the perfect Yankee Candle for her, he immediately wanted to go home. He wanted to be with her every moment possible as he drew closer to the end of his life on earth. The day before he died, she was sitting on the edge of his bed. Though he had not spoken an intelligible word for weeks nor had he been responsive for three days, his eyes opened, he pulled her close, she gave him a kiss and he patted her on the buttocks. It is a scene that I will never forget. I pray that my husband and I can be in such communion that no matter what happens to either of us, we always reach for the other.

18. Although I admire my parent’s marriage and they have set a very good example of marriage, my Aunt and Uncle come to mind because they have been a wonderful example of a loving marriage who put God first in their marriage and have drawn strength from their relationship with Christ.  My Uncle passed away almost fifteen years ago and had suffered many years with debilitating arthritis before he later developed bladder cancer.  My Aunt cared for him all those years without complaint, lovingly, and always put him first before herself.  It was evident they loved each other very much and they still kept their sense of humor throughout his illnesses.  During the tough times, she shared about her dependence on God and how she received strength to face the hard times from Him.  They were both a great example of love.

19. The marriage I admire most is that of my buddy Paul. I can see his unconditional love, their communication, and their faithfullness to the Lord.

20. Our friends Rachel and Rudy Hernandez. They have always loved God so much and love each other in a special way in return.  No matter what happens in their lives they are always smiling and trusting God’s plan. They have the same anniversary as us but have been married decades longer.

21. Wow, there are many.  All are successful because of their faith and commitment to God.  I think of George and Laura Bush, George and Barbara Bush, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Billy and Ruth Graham, and Dennis and Barbara Rainey!  But if I have to pick one, I would say Billy and Ruth Graham.  We all know how dedicated Billy Graham was as an evangelist leading so many people to Christ.  It takes God, good communications, and a strong commitment to keep a marriage like theirs strong for all those years.  Ruth supported her husband but also took care of the children.  She was a strong woman and together, with the Lord, they walked as one.

22. I admire those like Jim and Shirley Dobson.  There are also Steve and Kathy Gallagher and Jeff and Rose Colon from Pure Life Ministries.  In our local church there are Steve and Mary Lowenberg and Mit and Judy Williams.

23. There was a couple that is much older and they really had a great marriage.  The husband has gone on to be with the Lord now, but they really did everything together.  They served the Lord together and were very happy.  She’ll always miss him.

24. Hard question to answer. Like my wife, I was raised in a broken home. I never had the opportunity to see the model of a healthy marriage. My wife and I had to re-learn how to approach marriage and relationship through the training I have received. And, over the years I have come to realize that marriages that look wonderful on to the outside world may not be so satisfying and joyful. So while I can’t give you a marriage I admire most, I can give you a relationship I admire most and that is God and His love for us. It is amazing that we have the unconditional love of our creator. It is a love that we do not desire but it also is a love that we can learn from. The best thing that my wife and I have done in our 16-year marriage is let God in. We have found Him to be a great support and comforter to us. And His presence is what helps us work around our “rough” edges.

25. The marriage I admire the most is my boss’s marriage.  He and his wife had many years of conflict and divorce was imminent at times.  He had a tendency to try to bull-doze her and control outcomes.  She, on the hand, had very firm boundaries and wouldn’t budge.  My boss chose to focus on what God wanted him to do to be a man of integrity, even when his wife refused to be intimate with him for an extended period of time and was very difficult to live with.  My boss allowed God to transform his heart, even when it seemed his wife refused to change; and even if the marriage ultimately failed.  He also stopped asking his wife to trust him.  Instead, he focused on being trustworthy.  In taking the pressure off his wife, and allowing God to work on him, his wife chose to let the Lord work on her heart and she re-engaged in the marriage.  They are now enjoying an intimate and loving union and their story is an encouragement to many others with struggling marriages. 

26. I admire my sister’s marriage the most.  They demonstrate love, commitment, and sacrifice.  They show me that it’s okay to have arguments because deep down they love each other.

27. I most admire my parents’ marriage. They started out very young, getting married at 19 and 17 years old, with a baby on the way. In December, they will be married for 40 years. (How amazing!) They have been through many, many struggles and joys through the years. They have held on tight to each other and to God when times were tough, and they have celebrated their joys together too. They have helped each other to grow and yet accepted each other unconditionally. After all this time, they truly are still “in love,” and their love is evident to anyone looking at them. They are best friends – enjoying their time together and sharing daily life. What a blessing to grow up in a household where these were my role-models! My parents’ love for each other, for their children, for their grandchildren, and for Christ are an inspiration!

28. Marti and Kalet Lieberman.  They are an elderly couple who have been at this marriage thing for a long time.  They’ve been through it all and have embraced every situation to make their relationship better…or as they say, to demonstrate the strength of their relationship.  They remain playful, flirtatious and deeply committed to one another’s well-being and pleasure in life and we love being around them!

29. I admire my spiritual grandparent’s marriage. My godfather passed away several years ago, but I vividly remember the love that he had for his wife and I can still see how much she loves and misses him. Their marriage went the distance and lasted until death. I admire how they had different ways of communicating, but they both love the Lord with all of their hearts.

30. A couple at church that serve in the community and have a heart for the least of these.

31. The marriage I most admire are my friend’s Greg and Suzette marriage. They currently lead our weekly couple’s Bible study and they faithfully week in and week out open their home to our remarried couples group.  They exemplify a God-loving couple who serve consistently together at church during weekend services in guest services and children’s programs and are willing to lead and reach out to others who do not know the Lord.  When I grow up, I want to be just like them!

32. Our friends, Mac and Nicole. They are strong in their faith, they have persevered through many trials, and they seem to love each other very much.

33. At my Father’s passing in 2012, my parents had been married for fifty three years.  Their life together wasn’t always picturesque; however, they were both Godly people and always had the faith that God would see them through and He did.  My parents always took us to Church and led Godly, exemplary lives for me and my two siblings to follow.  For my entire life, I have never had to wonder if my parents loved each other or were happy being married to one another.  My mom has struggled since my Father stepped into Heaven but she relies on God’s promises that they will be together again.  I pray every day that my children will see in their parents the daily love and devotion I saw in mine every day of their lives.

34. I don’t particularly have one certain couple that I admire.  I look at couples all around me and listen to stories and hear them say “We been married for over 40+ years” and I think to myself, “WOW”…. you don’t find that much anymore and when you do you can see the love they have for one another and know that they at one point had struggles but persevered and held tight.  I love to hear the older generation tell their tales of life and know that it can be done.  I am a divorcee and so wish I could be one of those who could have said, “We been married for over 40+ years.”  I know God created marriage to be a unity with Him and without Him it is a downhill battle.

35. I admire my brother-in-law, Paul, and his wife, Jody’s, marriage.  They serve the Lord together, set a godly example for their two children, and love life together.  I think that they set a great example for my wife and me on how we can sacrifice to serve God and raise up godly children, while still laughing and enjoying life.

36. I admire my sister and brother-in-law’s marriage.  They have definitely had their ups and downs but they support each other constantly.  They also feel comfortable communicating with each other over things they disagree on or are bothered by.  I have always looked up to my sister, and I continue to look up to her and learn from her relationship with her husband.  They made me realize that marriage is work and it is not easy.  However, that doesn’t mean you weren’t meant to be married to each other, it just shows how much you love that person because you will work hard to stay in the relationship.

37. Sadly, I don’t know personally many marriages that fall in to this category—even within the church.   I want to change that with our marriage starting now, and my prayer is to leave a different legacy for our children and grandchildren.  One that shows a true biblical marriage—a role model marriage for them.  Not perfect by any means, but one that models God’s plan for marriage as best we can.  There is one couple in our Bible study that has a strong, godly marriage.  They’ve been married 50 some years, and they are open and vulnerable about their struggles along the way.  They’ve kept God as the center, and have devoted these “senior” years to helping other couples.  The wife, though strong willed and outspoken, maintains a true submissive attitude toward her husband, but does so without complaining or appearing to be a “doormat”.   She’s a regal, well spoken, elegant, intelligent and strong woman—but allows her husband to lead.  It’s beautiful.   He, true to biblical teaching—loves her so much, just as Christ loves the church and treats her with kindness and gentleness, and never in a domineering manner.  This is the marriage that I admire most.

38. My parents’ marriage is the one I admire most. As I remember my childhood, what sticks out is the love they showed each other every day. When Mom stayed at home, the first thing Dad would do when he came home from work was give Mom a hug, kiss and then spend 10-15 minutes alone together to reconnect before the evening ensued at being parents. Despite seven children presenting a multitude of challenges, they knew the most important relationship, the one on which all the others depended, was theirs as a couple. It was the best example for all of us to follow, and follow it we did. All of us have long standing, strong and loving marriages, directly contrasting the culture around us.

39. My parents’.  They were best friends and modeled love, communication, faith, and compassion.

40. Richard and Jennifer Rogers because God is the center of all they do.

41. I most admire my wife’s former marriage to her deceased husband, Randy.  They were married for around 30 years before he succumbed to cancer.  He was a godly man, and they raised two great children, who have since bourn us grandchildren.  My wife and her former husband together helped a lot of people to strengthen their relationship with Christ or come to Christ in the first place. I pray I can do as good a job as a husband and father as he did with my wife and his children, with my own two sons from my former marriage, while bringing all of us closer to Christ.

43.  It would probably we ours because we firmly believe we are the foundation of future generations. (We both came from dysfunctional families.)  To see the work He has done in our marriage is nothing short of a miracle.  It is a living testimony to our children and grandchildren of the goodness and faithfulness of our God and how He blesses those who earnestly seek Him!

44. My Grandparents. They stayed together until the end.

45. The marriage I admire most is my parents. Early on in their marriage my dad was unfaithful. Now that I’m married and an adult, I have no idea how she stayed with him. I don’t believe I could have. But, God’s grace is bigger than us, and He had a divine plan to Romans 8:28 their marriage! My mom forgave my dad, forgave the other women, and loved my dad. I was the last one out of six to become a Christian, so watching this unfold in front of me made me love and respect my mom and dad more. … with God’s love inside of them, they repented and made their marriage thrive! My mom passed away right before their 42nd anniversary, but I’m telling you what, she left a legacy for all of us kids, that spoke, “You can do all things through Christ”. My parents’ marriage was one of commitment, covenant, and promise. I believe the road work has been paved for generations to come.   There is so much more to write on this, but I know I’m limited, so I would like to end with, thank you God for unveiling your infinite love for us through my parents’ marriage! It has truly changed me from the inside out!

46. My aunt and uncle.  Their marriage was centered around their faith and family.  They did not have any easy life but had many friends and always seemed positive and happy.

47. My parents.  They have been married 57 years.  Last summer defined their marriage.  We own a cabin next to their cabin.  One morning I went down to their cabin in the morning. My parents were sitting by the table one with the Bible, the other with a daily devotion.  They were spending time together growing closer to God.  You can’t help but admire that!

48. Any elderly couple that is walking together, laughing and holding hands.

49. There are so few good examples of good marriages. The one that stands out as one to admire is my in-laws. This past year they celebrated their 50th anniversary. In the 28 years I’ve known them I have seen them take a huge risk to start a business, even when their marriage was rocky, at best. They were very successful and amassed a significant fortune, only to see most of that wiped out with the failing economy. Also in the midst of this time, they lost their youngest son to a very aggressive brain tumor. The stress of losing a child to a horrible illness nearly tore the family apart, but their commitment kept them together. I have seen both of them put their focus on Jesus, and while they are still far from perfect, they demonstrate what happens when you focus on what is truly important and not on your current circumstances.

50. I think the marriage I admire most is my parents’.  It is obviously the one I’ve seen the most up-close having spent the first 21 years of my life living with them and watching them day by day. Growing up I didn’t really think a lot about their marriage other than to be glad they were married and not divorced, but now that I’m an adult and have been married 11 years I have a much different perspective and appreciation for their marriage.

I’m the third of eight children and my mom homeschooled us while my dad worked from a home office as a salesman. I admire them because they approach their marriage and family so selflessly and sacrificially. I admire them because they jointly have embraced God’s calling on their lives to have a large family and raise us in a God-fearing way. Obviously, my up-close view of their marriage means I’m aware that it isn’t perfect, just like every marriage. But I greatly admire and respect them for the fact that they have always put such a strong priority on family time and helping our family to be close.

I think that process started with their understanding that the strongest bond two people can have is Christ, so they prayed for their children and taught us the Bible in hopes that we would all come to know the Lord as they do. Next I think they understood that if the parents have a strong bond then it sets the tone for the rest of the family, so they took getaways together and made it very clear that they are unreservedly, wholeheartedly committed to each other. Finally, they always emphasized togetherness and a team atmosphere for all of us kids.

The proof of their success is that by God’s grace all of their children are walking with Him, and even though we are such a large family (23 altogether now with 3 spouses and 10 grandchildren having been added so far) we are a very close group. So much so that if any part of the group is missing it seems like we are incomplete …

I realize I went a little into my admiration for them as parents, but even their parenting started with their marriage and building it on the rock of Christ and then continuing to seek to keep it strong so that they together can accomplish those things that the Lord is calling them to do. That is my prayer for my marriage—that as a couple we would push each other closer to the Lord and together accomplish great things for Him.