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Dr. Robert H. & Arvella Schuller
Interview By NA
Dr. and Mrs. Robert (RHS) & Arvella Schuller (AS) are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. Today, they talk about their early marriage and the love and the laughter that have kept them together for the past 60 years today. Sheila Schuller Coleman (SSC) interviews her parents.
SSC: Well I am pleased today to interview two amazing people. I'm kind of partial to them but I have to tell you that the world is also partial to them because they have done so much for the world. This Tuesday, my parents are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. Please welcome Dr. and Mrs. Robert and Arvella Schuller.
RHS/AS: Thank you.
SSC: Well I believe our biggest omission as a ministry has been the fact that mom stayed in the background all these years. I have been the recipient of so many, many words of wisdom from her, as has dad, so I am pulling her to forefront as much as I possibly can, while I can.
But dad, what was it about mom that made your heart go pitter patter when you first met her?
RHS: I don't think it did. I remember one year in college, I came out of the psychology classroom and the professor, Dr. Granburg said to me, "Bob, when you get ready to be serious about a girl, use your head and your heart will follow."
SSC: Has your heart followed, dad?
RHS: Oh yes.
SSC: Describe for us what happened that summer you were asked to be an intern in Iowa.
RHS: I was asked to preach in a little country church on Sunday because their pastor was gone and since I was on vacation I said yes. I came to church early, the first car parked in the parking lot, and I had hardly parked when a car about hundred feet south of me parked. And out of that car came a girl carrying something. And I watched her walk and the energy of her walk and her posture caught my attention and that was when I first fell in love with this lady. I don't remember what I preached about that morning, but I couldn't wait until that week so I could find out who was that girl and where could I meet her.
I met her on Monday at her home and we had a date. No, I didn't kiss her the first night. And I wrote a letter to my closest buddy in college and said ‘I've met the girl I'm going to marry.' One date.
SSC: One date.
AS: Three dates later he asked me to marry him and I said no.
SSC: So how many dates did it actually take, dad, for her to say yes?
RHS: I'm not going to answer that.
AS: Well he left for the summer to another assignment from the seminary and meanwhile I was sort of going with another guy.
SSC: Oh I didn't know that.
RHS: What does sort of mean?
SSC: I didn't know anything about this.
AS: But I also heard that he sort of had a girl back at Hope College.
SSC: Well I didn't know about her either.
RHS: Well I don't think my sort of was what your sort of was.
SSC: Mom, how has it been living with this dynamic man for 60 years?
AS: First of all, I was very skeptical about preachers. I thought they were perfect and I knew I wasn't perfect so I did not want to marry a preacher. My hearts dream was to be a musician, so that's what I was going to do. But that didn't include marrying a preacher. So I think the first year, well it's often still my prayer, but the first years of marriage it was my daily prayer, ‘Lord, help me to be a helpmate, not a hindrance to his ministry.' So that's been pretty much my prayer.
SSC: Boy, has God answered that prayer.
RHS: Yes He has.
SSC: He has answered that prayer because they say behind every great man, there's a strong praying woman and in this instance that is very true.
So what advice do you two have for young couples today?
RHS: My advice is to always listen to your wife.
AS: And then do what she says! Of course through the years, you learn different principles and techniques. When you're first married, you're in love and you think oh this is wonderful, but then reality hits and you wonder will love really be more than the reality and can it survive the reality of living together? I think there are many, many saving techniques that we've learned through the years from people who were smarter and older and wiser than we were.
I remember when our first house here was also church. All of the telephone calls came into our home and his office was one of our little bedrooms. So our life was church every night. Furniture was moved aside and we had church. And then the first summer we were here, Hope College sent us a caravan of five helpers for the summer. And of course we had to provide housing and so they stayed with us. So we were a crowded group of people in this tiny house, which was also church.
So one night, my husband said early on, he said ‘I have a new assignment for you kids. You're to babysit tonight. There are two children and there are five of you. You will babysit tonight so my wife and I can have a date night.' Oh what a relief. And that settled and established the date night that we still have to this day. Once a week date night. We don't share it with any other couple; we share it with each other.
RHS: On Monday night.
AS: Yes, Monday nights. And I knew that if I had something that was really bothering me about him or things were not going right, I could wait until Monday night because then I'd have him all to myself.
SSC: Well the two of you got married and it's been happily ever after for 60 years as a couple, however, as a couple, you have definitely faced your share of firestorms and challenges. Carol's accident is one of the first that comes to mind, and then you had your brain injury in Amsterdam, a heart attack, mom had breast cancer and your own heart attack. How did the two of you survive that? What helped you get through those tough, tough times?
AS: These were miracles that we experienced. And for every one of the horrific experiences that we went through with our health or with our family, God was there. And there were hidden blessings that were revealed to us and that made it a very, very beautiful time and a time of spiritual growth.
But I'd also like to say that we laugh a lot. He is the biggest jokester ever and still is to this day, and so my advice is to laugh. When things get rough, laugh. Yes, you pray, but you also laugh. I remember there have been times when he looked at the food that was on the table and he would say ‘honey you pray tonight. I can't because it doesn't look appetizing.' So he had a way of just talking himself out of little problems and big problems.
But we love each other, I think, very, very much and it's the trust and the love of Christ. And I see Jesus in him. I see Jesus in him very, very much. I wish you could hear and experience the beautiful prayers I hear when we are alone together. So thank you Bob, for letting me be a part of your life.
SSC: Dad, do you have anything you want to say to mom here on your 60th anniversary?
RHS: We've never had a fight, verbally or emotionally. I have never, ever done anything professionally or personally without her blessing and approval. We have always agreed with each other. The process perhaps took us through times of dialogue and disagreement but we never settled until we were of one mind and one heart. That's the prayer. Never once have we gone to bed where we were unhappy with each other. Not one night.
AS: Our biggest argument these days is you have to out live me because I can't live without you.
RHS: That's true.
SSC: Well thank you for being wonderful, wonderful role models for all of us. The purpose of your marriage has been not just to love each other and to strengthen each other, but it has been to bring a lifesaving message of hope through Jesus Christ to the entire world. You have worked tirelessly for that and I just want to say on behalf of everybody, thank you and we love you.
RHS: Thank you.
AS: Thank you.