What does a man learn after five years? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I know my wife has the fruit of the Spirit of self-control.
After all, as of this moment, I’m still alive and writing this blog. Somehow, she has not managed to kill me yet.
But it’s been five years now. As I write this, it’s around 11 AM EST and I’m remembering it was technically 2 PM EST when our wedding started. It’s hard to really think about what goes on on the wedding day. I just remember being so rushed. I even took an Ambien the night before and got an hour of sleep in and we have a picture of Allie chugging a five hour energy drink in the bridal room. I was traditional to the end and didn’t see her in her dress until the doors opened, but I remember one of my friends coming in who was a groomsman and telling me “You have no idea what you’re missing!” Our service went with no problem and yes, even the Superman theme playing as we walked down the aisle together. (And contrary to what you might think, it was HER idea.)
My best man wrote an incredible toast that had me laughing my head off during the reception. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to catch the garter at the wedding and the youngest guy trying to catch it did. Sorry friends. You’re going to be waiting a long time it looks like. (Meanwhile, it’s my understanding that the lady who caught the bouquet was engaged and did get married next.) Needless to say, Allie and I were also traditional in waiting for marriage, so yeah, we didn’t stay long at that reception.
Our honeymoon was spent at Ocean Isle Beach. It’s incredible that Allie got me into the water much further than normal in the ocean and in the swimming pool. This is incredible because honestly, I’m scared of water in that capacity. I don’t have a clue how to swim and I’m terrified of going underwater, but hey, miracles happen.
But after all of that, comes the part of learning to live together. So what has been learned? Over the past five years?
Marriage can be hard work. Recently, some of you may note that a prominent internet blogger responded to a post I wrote on him concerning polyamory. I plan on a much fuller response, but I remember seeing that a relationship should not be hard. After all, friendship isn’t hard. (Though I contend that it often is. It’s extremely hard on me when I see my friends doing very foolish things.) Why should marriage be hard? Well that depends on how you view marriage. If you view marriage as a relationship that can be ended at any time and is not a lifelong commitment, well no, it’s not hard. If you view marriage as a place where you can get your needs met, well no. It’s not going to be as hard either. Of course, it will be hard on the other person if they view marriage in either way, but if you don’t, yeah. No biggie.
But then, you have to ask if it’s really marriage.
As I said yesterday, marriage is all about the death to self. Marriage is also about your sacred space area. It’s about viewing your spouse as someone sacred and treating them as if they were sacred. Remember in the Old Testament about how elaborate the system was to carry the Ark of the Covenant? After all, the Ark represented where God dwelt with His people. You know what? You and your spouse if you’re Christians both represent where God dwells with His people. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. You really matter body and soul.
In fact, I’m currently working at this moment on a theology of sex for Christians and I’m considering having my Master’s research program be on the resurrection and sexual ethics. So that means in both cases, in preparing for this, I’m having to do a lot of thinking and reading and studying about sex. Yep. I know. I really suffer for Jesus. You all just pray for me in the midst of this trial and tribulation of having to actually spend time studying sex.
This also brings to mind what I’ve heard Robert Gagnon say that makes me treat things so much more seriously. What you do to yourself, you do to your spouse. It’s tempting to act like each of us is our own when it comes to marriage. We’re not. Allie’s body belongs to me, for instance. Well geez Nick. That sounds awfully sexist. If it ended right there, you would be right, but my body also belongs to her. When the Bible says we are one flesh, it really means that. That’s one reason marriage is a lifelong covenant. Cutting off one person from the relationship is like cutting your own body in half.
It also means you share pain and you share pleasure. Allie’s pain is my pain. Her pleasure is my pleasure. My pain is her pain. My pleasure is her pleasure. It’s important to know that that extends however to if it’s in line with what God says. If her pleasure is something that is hurtful to her, then it is pain to me. The same goes with me. It really has to sink in what that one flesh means.
In fact, in some marriage ceremonies of the past, the bride and groom would say to each other “With my body, I thee worship.” Marriage is in essence you and your spouse sacrificing yourself to one another. The thing is, when you sacrifice, you actually find your joy, because you get the joy of your spouse and that joy becomes your joy. This is one reason sexuality is meant to bring a lot of joy. The woman gives a sacrifice in which she has to make herself totally vulnerable to her husband. The husband makes a sacrifice in which he takes his strength and in essence, gives his life to the woman.
Marriage can be hard because we all look out for #1, but the truth is when we die to ourselves, we find our real joy. It’s odd, but I think there was someone years ago who made a similar statement about dying to yourself. Maybe he was right on something….
And you know what? That joy is intense. I’ve pointed to the joy of sexuality already and in many ways, it’s hard to get more intense than that, but I would let people in on a secret that I think is true. Intimacy is better than sex. It’s just that for a man, sex leads to the best intimacy that there is. It’s not always the same for a woman. Of course, a woman does and should enjoy the sexual aspect, but it won’t necessarily be in the same way.
But there is much joy also in the day to day little things. There’s joy in sharing a bed with someone in the evening and knowing they’ll be there when you wake up. There’s joy in riding in a car often with someone else. There’s joy in going to a church service together. There’s joy in having time spent with other couples. (It amazes me that before I married, most of my time with others was with single friends and now most of it is with other married couples.) There’s joy in sitting down and watching a favorite TV show together. There’s joy in the evening time of praying and reading the Bible together.
And when you suffer, you don’t truly suffer alone. (Well with some exceptions. Allie does like me in quarantine if I have the flu) If one of us is in the hospital, the other is right there. The pain is shared. You know that there will be someone there to take care of you. You know you have someone you can go to for advice and comfort. There have been times I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and just not feeling the best and realized that just my wife putting her hand on my and giving me some light assurance is all that I need to calm down again.
Marriage is transforming, but like the grace of God, it will only transform us insofar as we change in response to it. (Please don’t turn this into a debate on free-will either. I have zero interest in that.) That change is painful sometimes, but it’s also for the best. Yet we can be an inspiration to one another if we are willing. Allie has inspired me to change in many ways for the better. I hope I’ve done the same for her. Many of you could even attest who knew me before Allie came along to the remarkable change you’ve seen in me since she’s arrived. Change like I said can often be painful, but we can each serve as an instrument to the holiness of our spouse.
By the way, this change that I’ve spoken about, the Bible speaks about a husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church and the wife loving her husband as the church loves Christ. That requires both be self-sacrificing and also, this is one reason we do not change the definition of marriage. Changing the definition of marriage changes the Gospel. If you’re a non-Christian, you can say “So what?” to that, but if you’re a Christian, you should take that extremely seriously.
It’s also why marriage is 100-100. We can often look at what’s going on in marriage and say “It doesn’t work. It’s like saying a sledgehammer doesn’t work to drive in something if you just use it to lightly tap. The fault isn’t marriage. The fault is the people. No one truly gives 100-100, but everyone should strive to and if we’re Christians, we should know that that is the path to true happiness. Our Lord calls us to lay down our lives if we need to for the Gospel. If we do not show that love to our spouse, who we have seen, how can we show it to Jesus, who we have not seen?
In light of that, marriage has for me been a time of learning. I get to have a big mirror put up before me every day that says “See? This is what you are like.” I have spent a lot of time giving and receiving forgiveness, but most of it has been receiving. There’s still a lot to do and if you’re doing marriage right, it should make you strive to be more holy and live a life pleasing to God.
So in the end, love to my Princess. It’s been a good five years and I hope we grow more in holiness for when year ten rolls around.