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14th in a series on long marriages
It was the summer of 1974 when 16-year-old Darrell Jordan visited the park with his cousin and noticed a teenage girl hanging upside down on the monkey bars. “She looked so cute,” Darrell recalls. “That was my wife.” Catheleen was only 13, but Darrell felt shy around her. Eventually, they talked, dated, then married in 1977, when Darrell was a college sophomore and Catheleen a high-school senior.
Both had grown up in church but lacked examples of healthy marriage. Catheleen, the youngest of nine children, was raised by a single mom who eventually remarried. Her stepfather, a trucker, was constantly traveling and carried on affairs, Catheleen says. Meanwhile, Darrell, an only child, saw his parents fight, sometimes violently. Once, his dad broke his mom’s ribs. Another time, his mom shot and wounded his dad with a gun. Darrell resolved never to get divorced.
However, disagreements arose early in the Jordans’ marriage because of differences between them: Darrell was a quiet, focused person, while Catheleen was outgoing. She remembers feeling hurt when she wanted his attention but he became engrossed in listening to music or playing his trumpet. Eventually, her feelings would surface, and the couple would fight. Darrell apologized and assured her he loved her. Things would improve—until he found a new project. Catheleen remembers taking off her rings and threatening to leave. Yet they always managed to resolve their fights.
It was a selfish time. I wasn’t thinking of her like I should have.
A few years after Darrell and Catheleen married, their Christian neighbors invited them to a Bible study, and in August 1979 the Jordans went forward in a Baptist church to commit their lives to Christ. Darrell says he fully believed in the gospel a few months later, after hearing a TV preacher. As the Jordans grew in their faith, they committed to solve their disagreements with Scripture.
But problems persisted. Darrell worked for IBM for 10 years, and in the 1990s entrepreneurship demanded his time and attention as he started his own computer business. Catheleen says she felt “95 percent of his time was working, and the other 5 percent we were in church.” She was homeschooling and caring for two babies and needed help. But when she told Darrell, he would remind her their situation would not last forever.
In the early 2000s, the vocational situation changed, but the home situation didn’t: Darrell became a pastor, and for the first few years, he focused on ministry above his family. “It was a selfish time,” he says. “I wasn’t thinking of her like I should have.”
Then, in a pivotal conversation, a friend asked if God had commanded Darrell to lay down his life for ministry. Darrell said no. The friend then asked if God had commanded he lay down his life for his wife, and Darrell was convicted.
Around the same time, Catheleen was learning not to put Darrell in place of God. When Darrell disappointed her, she went instead to God for love and satisfaction. As Darrell learned Christ-like love for his wife, Catheleen learned to give respect to her husband, no matter how he acted. They learned to appreciate their differences: The focus that enabled Darrell to work on projects nonstop also made him a wonderful father, Catheleen realized. “When we did something, he was all in, 100 percent,” she said. “When he focused on me, I feel like a queen. I feel like there’s absolutely nothing he won’t do for me.”
Now after 42 years of marriage, the Jordans say they are “deeply in love.” They live in Sterling, Va., where Darrell pastors a church, and most of their children and eight grandchildren live nearby. Darrell, 62, and Catheleen, 59, can see how marriage has helped them grow. “We call it holy sandpaper,” Catheleen said.