“My wife’s definition of ‘love’ is ‘giving and giving and giving with no thought of return.’ She does it better than me,” says Duke.
Duke and Wanda Heller have gone together since their freshman year of high school. They were married 60 years ago on September 7, 1958, in Newcomerstown, Ohio, but have known each other for 76 years. A marriage of 60 years is not easily accomplished apart from God’s work in willing hearts. The Hellers have a few tricks up their sleeves and strive daily to be intentional in their love and respect for each other.
Currently, the Hellers attend Grace Polaris Church in Westerville, Ohio (Mike Yoder, lead pastor), and Duke is a BMH author of “How to Start a Kingdom Conversation.” According to Duke, marriage is a triangle of man-woman-God, and each must participate 100 percent.
“I did not know the Lord when we married in 1958, so when I accepted Jesus as my Savior in 1972, I had to learn what a biblical husband, father, and leader looked like,” Duke shares. “I became a good student of God’s Word – a doer and not just a hearer. This allowed our marriage to become a God-honoring one.”
But a God-honoring marriage can include obstacles that young couples may not realize. In these obstacles, Duke has a few tips.
“Men must have accountability in their life,” he says. “Satan will place temptation in front of the husband, so he needs to have hard, direct questions asked of him to keep him accountable to another man and thus to God.”
Duke has a list of questions he’s used with other men that make it easier for Wanda to respect him.
“If I am not accountable to other godly men in my life that ask the hard questions, it would be difficult for Wanda to respect me truly. It makes it easier for Wanda to allow me to be the leader of the household, because, on a weekly basis, other men call me out when I admit failures in living up to the standard Jesus set for leaders of households,” says Duke.
In loving his wife, Duke’s privilege is to serve Wanda by making her life easier.
“One of my mentors, Zig Ziglar, taught me to do two things that changed my life and my marriage,” Duke shares. “First, when you come home from work, sit at the kitchen table and ask your wife to tell you about her day. This gives her the opportunity to tell of the trials and problems that happened with kids and other situations. When she is done, ask if she wants you to do anything about the problems she had. Most of the time, she just wants you to listen to her, not to fix it. Secondly, after finishing dinner ask, ‘What can I do for you tonight that will make your life easier?’ She may have been thinking of how she was going to ask you to go to the grocery or another function. By asking, you’ve given her a pathway to ask for help.”
Between intentional conversations like these, worshiping at church together, and daily prayer and Bible study time, Duke and Wanda believe their marriage has become easier as the years went on as they served each other’s needs with more love and intensity. Though trials have come with their children and grandchildren, their hope remains.
“He wants us to learn from the different trials,” says Duke. “We believe in our hearts that God has us exactly where he wants us.”
[Connect:] To send a note of encouragement to Duke and Wanda, click here.