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About this series
Interview with Chip and Theresa
Insights from 45 Years of Marriage
Have you ever seen those couples on the news who have been together for decades? How did they make it? And how are they still just as happy and in love as when they first met? In this short series, Chip and Theresa Ingram will reveal their secret as they reflect on 45 years of marriage. They’ll explain how an authentic, committed relationship with God has been their foundation for the past 4 decades. Discover the ways a God-first marriage can lead to deeper intimacy with your spouse, strength in difficult seasons, and a happier home.More from this series
ANNIE: My name is Annie Iskandarian. And today I have the honor of interviewing two very special people in my life: Chip and Theresa Ingram. I also happen to call them Dad and Mom. Thanks for joining us today.
CHIP: Great to be with you, Annie. And it’s great to have you in studio, Theresa.
THERESA: Yes, thanks, it’s nice to be with my family today.
ANNIE: I know! And today we are celebrating something very special. You guys recently celebrated forty-five years of marriage. That’s pretty incredible, I just want to take a moment to say congratulations.
THERESA: Oh, yes. It’s worth congratulations in our day.
CHIP: In our day and I think in our relationship, because it has been both wonderful, but it hasn’t been easy, has it?
CHIP: That’s right.
ANNIE: Well, today I thought it would be really special to take time for me, as your daughter, to reminisce on the years that have gone by in your marriage, things that I have observed, things that I wasn’t there for, and I have learned from. And have a real conversation about: How has marriage played out for you? And so, one of the first questions is I – that I want to know is: How is that you two have stayed committed to each other for forty-five years and still like each other?
THERESA: Well, I would say number one, I love him! I mean, I loved him forty-five years ago when we got married and I love him just as much or more today. So, that’s a big part of it. And he is what I call an Ephesians 5:25 husband. “Husbands, loves your wives as Christ loved the Church.” He has been that kind of servant leader in our home and that has been just really positive for me.
We are fully committed to each other. We don’t let anything go very long until we address it with each other. That doesn’t mean we always finally agree on it. We may not. But at least we sit down and talk about what is bothering either one of us. And the last thing I was thinking about is that we are just best friends. We just, we like to do things together, we like to be together, we love to drink coffee together. We laugh a lot together.
THERESA: So, yeah, I think we’re best friends and that’s really important.
CHIP: Yeah, it really is. And I think I just like to hang out with your mom and we have had tons of struggles and challenges in about every area you can think of. But, you know, being on the same page and, you know, I think there’s something to say, there’s that level of commitment that is non-wavering. And there’s also just that I like her. I really, I love hanging out with your mom.
ANNIE: Yeah. Well, I think the sad part is that when many people hear you talk, we want that.
ANNIE: But many of us have observed just in our own lives that there’s a lot of brokenness.
ANNIE: And so, why should we keep fighting for our marriages? And is there really hope?
THERESA: Yes, we have hope in Jesus. It’s not so much that we, all of us, have hope in our marriages or to get married, but our hope is in Christ. And He tells us in His Word that, you know, He is our hope, He is our salvation, He is our help in time of need, He listens to our prayers, He cares about us, He is with us every moment of every day.
And so, for me, I have just learned, I mean, from going from a negative marriage early on in my life to a wonderful Christian marriage, that I can’t depend on people to be my strength and my purpose in life. Only God can be that.
CHIP: I think what your mom just shared really is at the heart of it. You know, God made marriage. He has a role for the husband and the wife and a connection and there’s beauty and there’s reward. But it is very, very challenging. It means putting the other person’s needs first and we are all very, very selfish. And I don’t think you can give your mate what they need apart from the supernatural grace of the Holy Spirit working in you.
Marriage isn’t just about: are we satisfied or can we have children? Marriage is the metaphor that Jesus used for His Church. There is a theological, there is a picture that God has ordained for all of life to say, “As a man and woman love one another, even imperfectly, it is a picture of Christ and His Church.
And so, marriages are worth fighting for, not just whether I’m satisfied or fulfilled or whether it’s going well or not well. In our lowest times, it was we made a covenant and we are representing something way bigger than just Chip and Theresa’s little world. And keeping that in mind in the darkest times has been really, really important.
ANNIE: Mm-hm. I would love to go back maybe fifty years or so, maybe a little bit less, and ask mom, would you share your story of what your life was like before you met Dad and I know that you were married previous to meeting him.
I think, it would be really helpful if we could get a clearer picture of what your life was like before you met Christ and what that marriage was like. And then your journey, I think as we can see the details and the journey of your story, that will really help us see how we can have a marriage like yours.
CHIP: Yeah, good word.
THERESA: I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, my parents would say they believed in God, but we didn’t read the Bible, we didn’t pray, we went to church but we weren’t involved in the church. My dad was, away a lot and he was very strict. And he just had all these rules that we had to abide by all the time. And so, I felt like I had to be perfect, that I had to just make sure that I didn’t do anything that would upset him, because he would discipline us over the littlest thing.
So after leaving home I went to college I started to date a young man that I was real infatuated with. I didn’t realize that I wanted to be with him just because I wanted to be loved so much, I wanted that security. I wanted to know that somebody wanted me, because I had never really felt that way before.
So, we got married and after about four years he graduated from college, we had two little boys that were born. They were twin boys that were born. And about maybe three months after our babies were born, I got a call from a friend, an acquaintance, I didn’t know her very well. She called me one night and said, “I just have to let you know that your husband is, he is over here at our house with another woman.”
And it was just a shock, because I couldn’t believe anything like that would ever happen to me. And so, that started that downward spiral he finally came and packed his clothes and left and so he, from then on, he was with her. He never supported us financially, so I was on my own. I went back to work and it was hard. It was really hard taking care of these two babies by myself and finding people to help me with them.
And then, you know, I got to know a Christian man John Conaway who I worked with at Fairmont State College and little by little he began to ask me questions and I would open up to him some when we were working. And I had never told anyone, none of my friends, I never told anyone that my husband had left. Nobody, no one knew what I was going through other than my family. And one day I just couldn’t hold it in anymore and I just started crying right there and I thought, What am I doing?, this is my job. I don’t want to lose my job.
ANNIE: I don’t know how you held it in that long.
THERESA: I did. Well, I wanted to be professional. And he was so wonderful. He just started telling me about Jesus and how much God loved me and just over and over and over. And pretty soon I got to the place where, I wanted to know God.
So, one night I went to church with John Conaway and his wife, they invited me to go to church with them and I went. And went through the service, And nothing happened. I was expecting, that God was going to show up.
Afterwards, I went back out to the, got to get in the car just feeling distraught, like, This isn’t real. my sister was helping me get the boys in the car and this elderly lady walked up to me in the parking lot and I didn’t know her, but she came over to my door and she looked at me and she said, “Would you like to be saved tonight?”
THERESA: And I said, “Yes!” people that were getting in their cars saw what was happening. We all went back into the church, we went up to the altar, we all got on our knees. They all got on their knees with me. And I prayed and accepted Christ. I didn’t, I didn’t really know how to accept Christ, but I was, you know, I know, I believed. And so, that’s when my life started to turn around. That’s when I began to have hope for a new life, a better life.
ANNIE: I think that’s really important to note that your hope was found in Jesus throughout your journey. That marriage, your marriage did not work and not for any fault of your own, but you were put in a really hard situation and I like that in your story, Jesus shows up and He gives you hope for a new life. And that actually sets you up to meet Dad. So, tell us a little bit about that.
CHIP: Well, I’ll jump in here. I played basketball in college And I had been offered a job where I went to college to be like a student recruiter. And I thought, That’s the same conference I played in these schools. And my grandmother lived in Fairmont. I’ll go up to the college and see if they’ll hire me to be a student recruiter here. And I walked in and, you know, this sounds almost Hallmark-ish, but I saw your mom, she had this really long, blonde hair and this very light blue dress. And I remember just looking at her and by this time, I was committed. I will only date and marry a Christian.
And I remember in my mind I said, Lord, I don’t know if she’s a Christian or not. If not, please make her one. And so, then, you know, I went in and did this little interview and uh we were launching a ministry. And one thing led to another. And she came to some of the Bible studies and meetings and, And I was so attracted, I tried not to show it very much. And apparently I did a great job, because she thought I didn’t even notice her.
She didn’t come back anymore and I would wake up in the middle of the night with her face in my mind. And then I would look the next week and the next week and the next week and the next week. And it had to be about six weeks or so and finally, I mean, this is – talk about no technology – when people came we’d pass around a clipboard and you would write your name and a phone number. And I secretly went into the kitchen where Dave kept it hanging and went through all these pages, all I knew was her first name was Theresa.
And I went back I don’t know how many weeks and I found her name and I found her number and I gave her a call. And the story gets longer as I got to know the boys and we took a year to get to know one another. But God worked it out…
ANNIE: Mom, what did you think when you saw him for that very first time?
THERESA: Okay, let me back up just even a little bit more. After I got divorced, I was a Christian, I was growing spiritually. I was learning to be in the Bible, I was learning to go to church. And learning to pray, that was one of the best things that I ever learned to do was to really pray and trust the Lord to answer my prayers. And I began to pray. I wanted the boys to have a dad. I mean, as much as I wanted to have a husband, I wanted the boys to have a dad. And so, I was praying that God would bring me a husband.
And then all the girls in my office where I worked, they were all Christians. And everybody was praying that God would give me a husband. You know, and I had never, like you said, I had never met a Christian man. I mean, I hadn’t been in a community anywhere where there were Christian people, and - and when I was at work one day and Dad walked into the counter you know, I was - I was really attracted to him too but what happened, I mean, God is amazing. When God wants to do something, He can work any circumstances He wants to to accomplish His will.
And my friend Nancy, she came into my office one morning. She said, “You know that guy that walked in here the other day? My husband is in his Bible study. We should go.” And so, (laughter) um… So, I went and sat in on this thing and it was wonderful. But Dad didn’t pay any attention to me. I mean, it was like I wasn’t even there. And so, the next week I thought, I’m going to go back one more time. And it was good, but just still. Dad didn’t pay any attention to me.
And so, I went home that night and I remember putting the boys in bed. This is so vivid to me. I sat there on my bed and I just cried out to God and I, it was the first time I ever learned how to surrender something. I didn’t know before that what it looked like to surrender. And I told the Lord, you know, This is Yours. I’m not going to try to make this happen anymore. If he is the one, You bring him to me. Yeah, I still thought he was. And I, that’s what I did.
ANNIE: I love your act of faith.
THERESA: I never went back, I never – I didn’t do anything. And I don’t know, it might have been a month or maybe six weeks. I don’t know how long it was after that. He called me, Dad called me, and wow, I was shocked. And he wanted to come over and we just started a friendship, started a relationship.
ANNIE: That’s really amazing.
THERESA: Yeah, so that’s how we ended up. And it took us a couple years to work through all the issues. Dad thought he couldn’t marry me because I was divorced
ANNIE: There’s a lot there.
THERESA: There’s a lot there.
CHIP: Did a lot of research on biblical and unbiblical divorces and counsel and, you know, and we really, I mean, we were really just friends for a year and I just thought she was off-limits. And it was really hard. I kept all my emotions behind any actions and we, I think the…
THERESA: He really did.
THERESA: All he ever did was pat me on the head. I got so frustrated with him. Because I had never been around a Christian man before.
ANNIE: You’re like, “This is weird.”
CHIP: And she played the guitar and we would sing worship songs together and pray together and, you know, I found myself praying, “Lord, I’m, I’m kind of, I think I’m really ready to get married.” And the Lord said, Well, what about Theresa? And I said, “Well, she has got two kids.” And, Well, haven’t you been praying that those kids would have a dad and she would have a husband for the last year or so? “Yeah.” Well, do You think I could help you be that? God made it really clear, vividly clear that she was the right one and a year later we got married.
ANNIE: Yeah, you went from patting her on the head to opening the door and kissing her, right?
CHIP: Yes, I…you don’t forget these stories. This is, so I’m…
ANNIE: This is like what I remember as a childhood, you guys telling me how you met.
CHIP: Yeah, I’m in South America and I’m playing, you know, we’re playing every Olympic team in every country in South America except Uruguay. And it was a resort so I’m sitting on these big, huge boulders looking over the ocean and there’s all these couples and I’m thinking, You know, Lord, I like being a teacher. I like being a coach. I’m discipling these guys. But I’m, I’m ready to get married.
And that’s when the Lord whispered. And by the time I got to the last country, I was head over heels. I just couldn’t wait to see her. And I still remember getting off the plane, getting in my little Volkswagen Bug, and driving straight to her house and knocking on the door, like, at eleven p.m. Totally out of character. And…
ANNIE: Well, I mean, I don’t know if that’s out of character.
CHIP: Well, well, at least it was…
ANNIE: You are spontaneous.
THERESA: It was for him.
ANNIE: Yeah, at that point.
CHIP: Yeah, for to come to her house at eleven at night…
ANNIE: Well, sure.
CHIP: …and then, you know, little did she know. I was like, I went from this, you know, patting you on the head to saying, “Hey, I really want to explore this.” And kissed her and she looked at me like, Oh my gosh. And that started the beginning of a year of courtship that is a whole many more times of talking that we…
CHIP: …won’t go into right now.
ANNIE: Absolutely. One of the things I observed from your story is the commitment to prayer and surrender. Both of you. You were praying for a wife in that journey that you took. And you prayed bold, specific prayers. It wasn’t just a general, God, I want to get married. God, help me. And I think there’s something really significant about that.
And I love your example, Mom. I longed for this in my own life and I struggled even in dating relationships prior to getting married is truly surrendering your love life to God. I don’t think many of us do that. And I think that is such an important principle whether we are single, we’re dating, or married. Because ultimately in our marriages, we come across obstacles and are we going to trust God and surrender to Him in our marriage or are we going to try to drive it ourselves? And a lot of times we just drive it off the cliff.
ANNIE: And so I really appreciated that example.
CHIP: And I would just, I would just add this. Of course I was very physically attracted to your beautiful, beautiful mom and on and on. But the most attractive thing was your mom’s passion for Jesus.
And it was that, that faith and that foundation that that’s the kind of woman that I wanted to go through life with. And so, yeah, we multiple times. For me it was am I really willing to walk away from this if it’s not God’s will after I do my research on divorce and remarriage? And I really had to come to: what does the Bible say and I’m going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and I’m going to make a decision.
And when I looked at Scripture and got various counsel because of their background, it was very clear that I had biblical grounds to marry your mom, but a lot of people were going to be very upset with me. Fortunately, my mother and father were very for it. And that was very encouraging.
So, you know, I think it’s that lordship. Lordship in dating, lordship in the days ahead, and that surrender, that bottom line, we are going to do this God’s way when we feel like it, but most especially when we don’t.
ANNIE: Absolutely. And as we close this time together, I just want to encourage those who are listening, if you haven’t taken time to surrender to the Lord the relationship you’re in right now, whether you’re single and you’re dating or especially if you’re not even married, this is the time to surrender your love relationship to God.
If you’re married right now and you’re going through struggles, cry out to the Lord. He wants to meet you right where you are. And when we follow Him and we surrender to Him, He shows us His path and it’s full of life and freedom and hope! Thank you for being with us today, Mom and Dad, aka Chip and Theresa Ingram.