Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Our 36th Anniversary - 5 Random Thoughts

(Linda and I in Israel)

August 11, 1973 - Linda and I got married in DeKalb, Illinois. Today we'll celebrate 36 years of covenant togetherness by going swimming (at a beautiful outdoor pool located on the shores of Lake Erie), eating together, strolling and shopping, and maybe catching a movie. I have some random thoughts...

1) On marriage - it's a covenant relationship, not a contractual relationship. "Covenant" is like two pieces of paper super-glued together, only parted by death. Life-allegiance is pledged before God, to one another, and to one's tribe. What then matters is - are the man and the wife truthful people, people of their word? Marriage-as-covenant takes such things seriously. When one covenant partner tears away from the other great psycho-spiritual damage is done. For evidence of this see the recent Time magazine article on marriage, as well as U-Columbia's Judith Wallenstein in her book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study. In covenant-marital partnership much is at stake, and much is to be gained.

Contractual relationships, on the other hand, are like two post-it notes stuck together. Not so much is at stake, eternal promises before one's tribe have not been publicly declared, and when one partner pulls away from the other the other remains largely intact, perhaps to affix itself to another post-it-note-person.

2) In covenant marriage much can be learned that cannot be learned in cohabiting (shacking up for a season). In marriage the norm is that opposites have attracted. This explains "infatuation" as the feeling that the other has qualities I do not have and I am made "complete" by the other. While opposite-attraction remains in healthy marriages, opposite-tensions emerge. One wakes up one day to find that the other isn't normal like me. We don't see eye-to-eye on everything! For relationships this is normal and this is good, because without such tension character growth will be stunted and we'll remain "forever young" (eternal adolescents) in a bad way. Linda and I have grown immensely in marriage, and a lot of it has come through facing interpersonal conflict and working through it, learning deeper meanings of the word "love" along the way.

3) Humility is necessary. Linda and I have confessed to one another and forgiven one another innumerable times in our 36 years together. This is more important than communicating clearly. We still struggle with this. But we work at understanding each other. Which leads me to think...

4) Important in marriage: to understand, and to be understood. Deeper love understands and feels understood by the other. To love is to understand; to be understood is to feel and be loved. Again, real understanding requires humility. I am from Mars, Linda is from Venus, and as such we don't think alike all the time. It takes effort to understand the one you love so much yet who, at times, appears to arrived on your earth from a distant planet.

5) The importance of sharing a high ideal. When Linda and I got married we were both musicians. One day a friend told me "I see that your music has brought you together." False. Music, as wonderful as it is, won't hold a marriage together in covenant when the earthquakes of life hit. The higher the shared ideal, the stronger the marriage will be. Two people passionate about life's purpose and their own raison d'etre stand a far better chance of making it than the couple that merely shares a passion for sex. For Linda and I the idea is God and following Jesus. Of course we both think there is a God and that God has come to us in the form of his Son. But note this: even if that were not true it would remain that our life together is focused not on our own personal happiness (which I think never works) but on something outside of our own selves, even to, at times, the detriment of our own happiness. We sacrifice for the sake of the greater cause, which all marital couples do when they passionately believe in one. Note: this makes all the difference in marriage! Lack this, and the many tiny irreconcilable differences begin to eat away at the marital soul.

I'm always thankful to God for bringing Linda into my life and she, to my occasional amazement, is thankful for me!

FYI: if you are interested Linda and I will lead and teach a marriage conference we're calling "Drawing Closer." October 23-24, 2009. Call 734-242-5277 for information.