Saturday, September 12, 2015

Anyone want to read stories about staying married? (I'm asking for a friend....)

I've been thinking a lot about marriage lately.  Not for the fervent headline reasons you might expect, either.  More because we're approaching a big anniversary (25 is still silver, right?) and our son is getting married in less than 4 months.  These sorts of events make you take stock of your experiences and beliefs on a subject.  

And I've toyed with throwing caution to the wind and writing a blog series on marriage.  Sort of like the parenting one I undertook a couple years back.  I feel more trepidation to broach this subject of love and intimacy and sex and procreation and covenant and sacrament.  Maybe that's wise.  I don't know.

I cooled to the idea.  Probably these weeks of fighting with Brian made me rethink my ability to contribute anything meaningful to the already saturated newsfeeds of my friends and family.

Then -- today, actually -- I read a book about a husband and wife who loved Jesus and loved each other and discovered that wasn't enough.  They're still married.  Admirably so, considering what they've been through.  It was a good story.  An important story.  But it left me a bit cold.  I closed the book, paced the house, collapsed on my bed to think for a bit.  What was troubling me?  I walked to the IGA Mini-max and bought some broccoli for my supper. I walked home.  I ate the broccoli and a tuna-noodle concoction, flipped through a few channels on the TV, paced the house again.

Finally, when Brian returned home from a youth group event, I talked at him for a bit.  "I read this book today...." I told him "It was a fine book.  Good people.  Hard story.  True love.  But I just feel sort of 'meh' about it."


"Maybe," I said. "Maybe it bothers me that the author doesn't ever use the word 'sin'?  She used some synonym-type words like 'wrong choices'. 'Lust', even. But she never says sin."  I left the room sort of mid-sentence, feeling a bit badly that my biggest critique of this woman's courageous life story is that she didn't use old-fashioned Bible language.

I brushed my teeth, poured the requisite glass of water for my  nightstand, pulled my pajamas out of the top middle drawer of the dresser we've owned for approximately 15 of our 25 years sharing a bedroom.  My pajamas always go in that drawer. Everyone knows the top middle drawer of a bureau is prime real estate.  True to form this past quarter century of living together, Brian kindly places his clothing in the hardest-to-reach locations so that I can retrieve my clothing with ease.

I walked back toward the living room where he -- bless him -- was trying to watch some college football.  "You know what else she didn't say?"  I pop my head into the room.  "She doesn't use the word 'forgiveness'."

The couple in the book are worthy of respect for their commitment to each other.  Never once in the middle of all sorts of upheaval do they consider leaving each other.  At least not that the reader is told.  I say this to Brian.  "Clearly they love each other well.  They come together and work out the problems, but she never talks about forgiveness.  Without sin, I guess there's no need for forgiveness."

I walk back to our bedroom.  I feel relieved, like I've solved a considerable puzzle and can now sleep in peace.  No sin, no forgiveness needed, just a sort of egalitarian tolerance of each other's foibles and screw ups.  Each making right with God and each other in their own way.  

 Maybe those words got edited out of the book and I'm reading this story of marriage all wrong.  I think that must be it because I can't imagine a love story without either of those elements -- sin and forgiveness.  Can you?

It's tricky to tell the story of a marriage when the most good and the most evil things that take place between a husband and wife become the most sacred of all moments between them.  I am not convinced Brian and I need to put those moments in black and white, else we profane these treasures we've been storing up.  

Still, I think what the world needs now is love -- sweet love. And not schmaltzy, song-lyric love.  Not all-caps, hashtag love. Not reality TV show love. Not even Hallmark or Christian movie love.  I think we need each other's stories.  How can we better encourage each other to persevere in love -- married or otherwise -- than with our own hard-won, grace-given stories?

I still think the best place to hear these stories is face to face, sitting in a room together.  I think stories are best shared with people we know and can see up close for lots of days and years, in all sorts of situations.  

So I shelved the idea for a blog series.  Then I read that book today and can barely fall asleep because of the omission of those two cornerstone words, "sin" and "forgiveness".  I got thinking that maybe a few more stories in print might not be a bad idea, after all. 

What do you think?  I mean -- hypothetically speaking --  If you were to read some stories about married love on a blog, what sort of stories would you hope to hear?  Would you even want stories? (Maybe you'd prefer a list of tips and techniques?  Lord help us...) 

I'll wait to hear back from you.  In the meantime, I'll turn off the light on my nightstand and pray for good Love for us all.

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