Ah marital bliss! It is truly a many splendored thing is it not? I mean after all young women spend a good portion of their young lives dreaming about the man they will one day marry (or at least they used to😊), and once the date is set, the mother and daughter, as well as would-be bridesmaids; talk, cackle, and plan. Meanwhile some poor girl’s father wonders if he will still have enough to money to eat the follow week once he writes the check for the whole fiasco!
Now I say “fiasco” not because I don’t think marriage is a fine institution. But then who the Hell really wants to live in an institution anyway, right?
O.K. O.K. I’m going to start being serious here, maybe. But you get the picture.
The point I’m making at some poor young maiden’s expense, is that after all the pomp and circumstance around the idea of so-called “holy” matrimony, very little time is spent in contemplation about what happens when the fairytale ends; and where I don’t know, maybe in walks Shrek or something like that.
Now this is not to say there is not some immeasurable marital joy to be had through the years. However, not much is afforded to the attention that also needs to be paid to the realization that both the woman and the man are marrying a stinking, nasty, evil, little sinner!
Yes, that’s right.
There is nothing “holy” about anything beyond the ceremony as concerns the two heroes of our story. The rest, well; it really doesn’t matter. Because even if the wife is a “Brickhouse” (shake it down, shake it down, shake it down now) or the man is a Prince (no pun intended) and comes down the aisle looking like one of those raining men, hallelujah! It just doesn’t matter. Because even if this is the case, someone needs to shake the knuckles out of their freaking heads, because probably before the ink is dry on the marriage certificate, they will inevitably encounter their first excrement hitting their “holy” marital fan😊
What In the World Are They Thinking?
But what really amazes me though, is that people who are nominal Christians at best still want to have a Christian marriage. I mean it’s just hard for me to grasp, so work with me here. I mean what on God’s green earth are they thinking? Surely, if they knew what it entailed, they would simply “shack up”, try it on for a while and see if they are in fact compatible for the long haul. I mean surely if they understood the main thrust of the Christian scriptures on what it is to actually mean (since they wanted a Christian wedding and all), and what it will require should they accept their mission, they would take the high road and find a justice of the peace and simply “get her done” right?
And then for those who for some reason want to be married in a church because, I don’t know; some romantic movie they saw depicted their favorite stars doing so, or because of some societal or family pressure, will somebody please grab these people and shake them up as to what Christian marriage will require? I mean for the love of God and all that is actually holy, they need help, and they need it fast!
For Those Who Know the Real Dealio
O.K., so now for you professing Christians who are still reading.
We all know that there are certain marriages that we assume are so intertwined that it makes you want to upchuck! I mean, you observe them at church and occasionally here and yon, and you never see them fight. It seems they always hold hands; give each other a cute little kissy poo, and they seem as they walked off the set of Little House on the Prairie for goodness sakes. O.K., O.K., they are a unicorn mind you; but in this case we now know they do exist. But keep your eye on them alright.
And then there are the rest of us normal people.
Those who are glad they are married at least 5 1/2 out of 7 days a week. And I’m being nice here. But these are those who walk with God and attempt to live out their marital vows in the right way. They sincerely do.
Then comes the little kiddos that introduce a totally different dynamic. All is as cute as a freaking kitten in the beginning for sure. But then the challenges come not only from what it takes to provide for the little rug rats, but also from the various games they will play with both sexes, using this opportunity to get their way. Yet little do they know that Mom and Dad spout over this, a lot. Or as they get older, they do know. And since they are wicked evil little sinners just like you, they “grin” and bear it. But the point is that Mom and Dad each feel like a pawn, and sometimes, oftentimes even; one is more the pawn than the other. And for the record, in the game of life, like chess; the pawn is never the endgame.
Then we add to that the in-laws and the outlaws. And if you’re a leprechaun, you each get a set that you absolutely adore, and who absolutely adore you. They watch your kids at a beckon call. They call you son or daughter, and you call them Mom or Dad, and after you get done you guys go fishing, and the girls go shopping and we all settle down in Shangri-Frickin-La, O.K!
You can wash the vomit residue from out of your mouth now. But you get the picture.
Now of course some of us do get this arrangement, but they are what you call an anomaly. Which for the purpose of this exercise, are also related to Unicorns and Leprechauns. And the rest of us, well; we get to add to this dynamic the daily death to self from that ongoing relationship that it will require to navigate through this thing called marriage.
Now mostly what should happen is that at least astute observers on each side realize that his and her side of the family is screwed up, and therefore have been equally screwed up in some of those ways to boot. And if this mutual catharsis takes place, that in itself can be a Eureka moment. But even so, if you add to this very important “come to Jesus moment” the additional pressure families experience merely putting food on the table, keeping the kids in tennis shoes and baseball, while also planning a regular date night with enough energy to make it to some kind of hanky-panky pray tell, you deserve an attaboy. Right after you realize of course that you’re tired as Hell!
And after that, well; you look forward to another week of pretty much the same.
Now don’t misunderstand me. There is bountiful love here to be sure. And occasionally the intimacy can be amazing. Hell, there are even times when the kids look like they jumped off the cover of the Mormon Freakin Tabernacle Choir Christmas album, and your dog comes up to you and gives you a freaking bone instead! And at those times, life is good to be sure. And there are many of those along the way. But the truth is, regardless of at least some regular bliss, marriage requires work.
That’s right. Work.
And the very love that we somehow “fell into” now becomes a decision we must make every single day. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Observing Marriages at the Local Restaurant
So, if you really want to understand marriage, and you really want to get to where you might actually be able to give some marital advice to someone let me suggest something. May I request you give it at least 20 or 30 years before you start spouting off at the mouth about the “five steps” to this and the “seven steps” to that. Marriage, you see, is like fine wine that gets better as it ages, but…the ingredients that you both continue to put in it matters a great deal!
Now for the record, it is not hard to tell whose putting in what by simply doing a little old-timer couple watching at your local restaurant. In fact, my wife and I have had this experience together on more than one occasion, which has been great fuel for later conversations based on what we have observed.
For instance, we have often received our martial education as we have sat down to eat and talked about the day’s events while an elderly couple is doing the same; minus the talking mind you.
So over the course of 30 minutes or so, the couple in question orders their food, and as they wait, each one continues to occupy themselves with a phone, a newspaper or staring anywhere but towards the other person. Then once the food arrives, there is usually some observable small talk having to do with such things as “pass the salt and the ketchup please”. And then as the plot thickens, each one eats their food, while never so much as looking at one another or talking. Then once the last morsel is downed, the man requests the check (or at least this used to be the case), and they skirt off out the door to their next destination of “behind closed doors” that no one cares to have an invite to.
There’s Only You and Me, and We Just Disagree
The purpose of my observation here is what I noticed and what I would like for you to notice as well. And that is that most of these couples that we observed in this fashion, were no doubt the couple who couldn’t keep their hands off each other in the earlier days. They enjoyed time with the kids and with each other; but sooner or later, one or both forgot some things, left some things undone, and as you may have already guessed already; swept things under the nearest rug for “unsafe” keeping.
Now the reason I mention this, is because whether or not the particular couple are people of faith obviously can’t be ascertained here. But for the purpose of illustration, and quite sadly; they are like many who over the years learn that bringing up issues of contention for the purpose of resolve bring more contention. This results in a blow-up, an epic fight, then they walk away to their corners or leave for a while, only to come back and over time pretend it didn’t actually happen. Que sera, sera. They lift up their rug, and each one takes their turn doing the sweeping and the rug is then let back down. It’s as if it never happened.
Now this is bad enough to watch and to also participate in as a Christian for the following reasons.
First of all, if a man and woman are on the narrow path together and have been doing so for a good length of time, one would hope they know better, and that they have not forgotten the rug.
For instance, they know what the Bible speaks of concerning the difficulty of human relationships. They should also know the monumental importance of that relationship before God, and the fact that their marital witness is perhaps the greatest proof of the Christian faith. One would think this triage would be enough to alert them to the baby gorilla eyeballing his chance to be 800lbs in their room. Yet the sad part is, because the world has so tainted what a loving relationship is to look like, and because they have mostly bought in rather credulously to it, the result is consistently predictable. That being the case, and the example being more the norm rather than the exception, is it any wonder that most of us have nothing to say or teach to other would-be couples who are contemplating this “unholy” prospect?
What the Scriptures Teach
The truth of the matter is that the scriptures are of some help on this matter. Yet for all the books on marriage written by Christians, it is my humble opinion that most are nothing more than worldly views on marriage with a little bit of holy water sprinkled on them for good measure. So to me, most are not of much help at all. However, there is one exception that I can’t recommend highly enough if you are the couple in the restaurant, or, you are on your way there on a supersonic jet. The book is entitled, Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. Get it, and maybe get the Sacred Marriage Devotional to go with it.
You’re welcome Gary!
But in the interest of a full disclaimer here, please be aware that your worldly gag reflex will be activated as you read, because what it states from the biblical record is that marriage is about your holiness and not necessarily your happiness. You heard me.
Now I’m not saying you can’t have both. But what I am saying, or rather what God is saying is that your holiness (always through grace) is His biggest concern. If you don’t believe me, since we are to be like Jesus and all, try this one on for size:
“Although He was a Son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered”— Hebrews 5:8
Chase it down with a coke if you need to pumpkin! Your holiness comes through, well…suffering. That’s the Christian view. That is if you are still wanting that Christian marriage and all.
But the other truth is, other than the story of maybe Jacob and Leah, or Ruth and Boaz, as well as varying interpretations of romantic love that the Song of Solomon lays out for us (and even that’s a stretch), the best place we find out what real love and marriage looks like in the Old Testament is from God himself in the book of Hosea. Go check it out and get back to me.
In fact, as I have read the Old Testament, it occurs to me that overall, it mostly gives us examples of bad families as a way to teach us something about how “not” to do it, rather than as an exemplar for us (I Cor. 10:6-11).
Now as far as the New Testament goes, Jesus certainly lays out HIs ideal for marriage in the gospels as to the two becoming one flesh. Yet it is the Apostle Paul (an unmarried man mind you) who lays out for us what I think is the kingpin of what marital love is to be like in 1 Cor. 13. You know the oft repeated chapter read at; you guessed it: Christian marriages. Yet ironically it is usually forgotten by the time the cake is cut and the champagne is poured. But even though Paul does not state the chapter is in reference to marriage, one would have to be blind to miss that he is talking about Christian love, something that is to be the bedrock of what truly separates us from the world’s lop-sided sense of it, and pinpoints very clearly what love in fact requires. You know, something like this:
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.— 1st Corinthians 13:4-8
Oh, and then there’s also something about men loving their wives as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her (a mystery). But one thing about it that’s not a mystery as it relates to the church is this. Here it is: He “died” for the church!
Post it on your door and on every one of your walls please. Just don’t sweep it; well… you know where.
35 Year Parting Advice from the Old Man
There are two very important tidbits of advice I’d like to leave you with today. One of those you probably skirted by in the beginning of this blog, and the other I will now add.
First of all, men and women, lend me your ears.
Men, right now just forgive her for being a woman.
Go ahead now. Forgive her for the fact that she will probably never, ever think like you, act like you, or maybe actually never feel like watching football with you (a guy can dream though😊). Forgive her also for both the occasional rational things that come out of her mouth directed against you, and also the mostly irrational things that come out of her mouth that are mere camouflages for really wanting to say, “I Just need to be held”. Just do it, and give her absolution, always.
And ladies, go ahead and forgive him for being a man.
And the lowering the lid thing. Just go ahead and let that go. Stop dreaming that he’ll come in and fold the clothes, sweep the floor, do the dishes, and walk around singing “Zippy, Do-Da” while doing it OK? This of course doesn’t mean he can’t or shouldn’t do that out of love occasionally, or even regularly, but you absolutely must forgive this guy for being a man. Go ahead. And you too, given him absolution.
(This advice in itself I should actually charge you for😊, because it’s worth its weight in gold.)
And then secondly and lastly. Recognize that your spouse is a wicked, evil little sinner at their core.
And well, they can’t entirely help it. But both of you. Hear me. Do that right now please. You’re both sinners. Juicy ones. You both (and I mean both; ladies) wouldn’t even have to wait in line to get into Hell because they’d let you both right on in OK!
That’s because you’re both selfish at heart. You wrote the song “My Way” and you’d like to keep it so.
You both have forgotten the joy that you once had when you first kissed.
You’ve both forgotten to put your Sunday best on for those date nights.
You’ve both taken for granted what the other does for you day in, day out, and years on end.
And don’t forget men.
If Eve had not bitten the damn fruit first, you would have gladly stole it from her so you could take credit.
And remember, both of your swamp butts were kicked out of the garden O.K!
And Happy Marital Bliss to You Both You Filthy Animals!