FARGO — Success … bull’s eye … nailing it … hitting the mark … victory … winning. What does this look like for you? Not at your job or in physical fitness or marriage or any specific endeavor, but in life.

A simple but powerful definition I heard over 25 years ago was, “Success is when those who know you the best love you the most.”

I think about and evaluate my life through that definition often. Teri, my wife, and I celebrated 30 years of marriage in December. Tears come to my eyes as I type that because I love my wife, I love being married to her and it is a miracle we have made it to that milestone.

In my early years of marriage I was not a good husband. I wasn’t unfaithful or intentionally hurtful, but I had no idea how to love and serve a wife. I grew up without a dad or grandfather, so I had no example of a husband loving a wife. I was emotionally distant and had no clue how to communicate. I was fiercely independent, determined not to be hurt again. I carried several childhood wounds into marriage. I felt “poor” as a kid and was terrified about being “poor” as an adult, so I obsessed about money.

The only thing we had going for us was that we both loved God, were determined to walk close to him through Jesus Christ, and knew that “I do” was until death do us part.

And then infertility hit our marriage. I didn’t know how to love Teri and be there for her during that time. I was very driven to “make something of my life.” I longed to have a man say to me, “I am proud of you.” I unknowingly longed for the approval of a dad or grandfather figure.

At age 30 God blessed us with the gift of a son through adoption; truly life-changing experience. Our marriage got better as we had a common project to focus on, the task of raising a son. We found a rhythm to our home, our faith and our life.

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And then, at age 33 Teri and I quit our jobs, risked everything we had and moved to Fargo, in response to God’s leading to start a new church. We ate, slept and breathed Prairie Heights for 20 years. It was not a casual project for us. We went all in and gave it everything. Early on, my exact words were, “Teri, I am going to work as many hours as you let me, and if you or Nate need me, let me know.” I know — I was stupid and selfish. As I hit age 40 I made major changes in my life. My eyes began to open to what a husband, a dad, should be and how a man after God’s heart should live.

And here we are. My son is married, and we have a great relationship with his wife and him. I came home Sunday after being gone for 10 days, and in the middle of winter my 11-year old daughter was waiting for me on the driveway to hug me. I am blessed. God has compensated for my mistakes and helped me get better.