Liz and Trevor Sykes tell their story of working together in marriage and in the church (in four parts).
Part Two – Liz’s journey to mutuality in marriage
Like Trevor I am delighted to contribute these posts about our life together, firstly as a couple and then in our joint ministry life. In contrast to Trevor, I grew up in a Bible-believing home but with older parents and no siblings. This may have helped to make me the serious child I was, although my mother said I could be quite naughty! She was often unwell and I was never sure if she would survive some of her strokes and heart turns. My father was a caring person who had no thought of acting as the ‘head of the home’ and I watched him care for my mother and do much of the housework at times as well as holding down full-time work.
In later years I too had much responsibility in the home but still found time to be active in the local church when I left school and worked in a bank. In all my responsibilities at the church I was not aware of being treated differently because of my gender. I thought of myself as a Christian person who had many opportunities to serve God and share my faith. The only time I realised there could be limitations for me as a woman, was after marriage, but that is another story.
I had the idea of training as a nurse so I could go overseas as a missionary, but Trevor came into my life and my life went in a different direction. By the time I met him I had seriously committed my life to God and was prepared to remain single if that was what God had in mind. However, one Sunday this remarkable young man turned up at church to hear our minister speak. Trevor had heard this guy speak at a youth camp in South Australia some years before and was impressed, so although he was stationed in Fremantle in the Navy, he found his way to South Perth that day.
We only had a few conversations before Trevor was off on another trip and I bought some Christian books to occupy him while at sea as there was no Christian fellowship on the ship. On his return to WA, Trevor was transferred to NSW and since I was the youth group leader, he wrote to me when he arrived at the new base and we continued writing for several months – long letters – sometimes 20 or more pages – just sharing what we were doing and getting to know one another.
All this while, we were not seriously considering a future together, but after a time we realised that God had brought us together to share our lives and couldn’t imagine not continuing the friendship. Finally Trevor had a few days leave so came across to WA where we spent time together and confirmed that this friendship was something special from God. This was the beginning of our adventure which has now spanned 55 years.
So, after 2 months, more letters and an engagement ring arranged by mail, I boarded the train to NSW where I stayed with folks from the church Trevor was attending. While in NSW, Trevor applied for an early discharge from the Navy in order to go to Theological College in Qld and was granted the release from his commitment, 4 years earlier than his original contract. Because Trevor left the Navy early, he could not take leave, so we married earlier than expected in order to have some time together as a couple before travelling to Qld where we had arranged to share a house with another couple from WA.
When we began our married life, we determined to allow God to shape our relationship rather than copying our parents’ experiences or reading books on how to have a Christian marriage. Having believed that God had orchestrated our union, we trusted him to show us how to live together as a couple and later as parents. With the Bible as our guidebook, we learnt the ‘one anothers’ of Scripture and found we could trust the Holy Spirit’s work in each other to convict us of wrong or hurtful attitudes toward each other. Perhaps because we were living in another state far from our families, we were able to forge new paths and ways of doing life together with God.
We learn to ‘speak the truth in love’ and to pray together when decisions had to be made, not moving ahead until we had consensus. We figured that if God could not direct two people to come to agreement, how hard it would be to encourage our church community to decide issues. Because we had many years with little income, we also learnt to rely on God for our weekly, rent, food petrol and household expenses. Living like this meant that when money, arrived we knew how it was to be spent because there would always be an immediate need which God had supplied.
Since we were each other’s best friends, we were able to stand by each other when troubles and trials came and not blame the other person but pray together to see how God would show us the way forward. This was helpful when we opened our home to four young men who needed somewhere to stay. They remain firm friends. Our own four boys learned to have compassion for those not as fortunate as ourselves and we are thrilled to watch as through the years they in turn have cared for others and shared their lives with people from all walks of life. For 12 years we were able to have my mother live with us after my father died and thanks to a generous interest-free loan from friends, we built a full granny flat to accommodate our grandma. Again, we supported each other in this endeavour and our boys learnt more life lessons.
From time to time, people would ask how we managed our marriage with respect to ‘who was in charge’ or ‘who had the final say when decisions had to be made’. We could always reply that God was in charge and that we didn’t have to have a ‘boss’ in our home or either of us being solely responsible for the spiritual life of our family. We have always considered our life a merger of two individuals becoming one, without losing our distinct personalities, gifts and abilities. Our key verse which we often share with others approaching marriage, comes from Colossians: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven you.”
Now in our later years, we are so grateful to God for our love and companionship as we face old age with the confidence that God will continue to direct our way and continue to provide all we need.
Liz Sykes calls herself a much-loved child of God; disciple of Jesus, wife, mother, grandma, mentor, Bible teacher, musician, and retiree (76) who loves being away in the bush with her best friend, husband Trevor.
Read Liz’s story and Trevor’s sequels in future The Together Project blogs.