3 Myths About Marriage That Ought To Be Debunked

marriage

I got married just over a year ago. So I’m far from an expert on this topic. I mean, I’m not even acclimated to using scented hand soaps yet. Therefore I present these propositions as just that: a means for beginning some conversations.

Because marriage is meant to be a personified example of Christ’s love for the Church, God’s faithfulness to us, His people. Inasmuch, it behooves married couples to live in transparency. For when we don’t take intentional steps to lift the veil on our relationships, we contribute to a Christian culture that holds the blessings and trials of matrimony hostage. We present the testimony of marriage as something that can only be witnessed within a marriage. And nothing could be further from the truth. Christian marriage is supposed to be a light; we shouldn’t pull down the shades on its rays.

And so I want to lift the veil. I want to start some conversations. Thus, here are three myths about marriage that need to be debunked:

1) Marriage is easy.

Marriage is anything but easy. This week, my wife and I have had not one, but two knock-down, drag-out arguments. I’m talking the kind that starts with:

Annnnd usually evolves into:

So yeah. Those kinda fights. Both these required hours of talking, forgiving and apologizing. This isn’t too abnormal; we dedicate several hours a week just to ironing out a few rough spots in our marriage, chiseling away at the obnoxious kinks we each have.

When we were engaged, I had many people tell me “just hang in there, marriage is so much easier than engagement.” And that’s true. Engagement is like being forced to sit cross-legged on a bed of hot coals and read the same page of Twilight over and over again…all while someone holds a margarita just out of reach. But if I could tweak the phrasing just a little bit, I’d say that marriage- when compared to a dating or engagement relationship- is not so much easier as it is richer. Engagement is like putting hours of work into a delicious meal that you can’t eat quite yet; marriage is the feast finally spread out before you.

I hope the testimony of my marriage is never: “look at this! Too easy!” Rather I hope and pray that our marriage displays and proclaims that love is work. It can be tiring, it can wear you down, beat you up, and mold you; in a word, marriage crucifies the you you used to know. Marriage teaches us that this creates a wonderfully terrifying thing. Love is patient, kind, transformative, adventurous, risky, selfless and beautiful. Of all the things it is– it isn’t easy. Rather, a marriage lived out should proclaim that the cost of loving another person is one’s own self-entitlement. It’s not easy. But, at the same time, it’s wondrous beyond words.

2) In-laws, finances and past sins are the greatest source of marital tension.

The monster-in-law personae is cliché and yet pop culture still loves to assert its inevitability (because King of Queens wasn’t enough).

Likewise, there’s hoards of statistics that illustrate how many couples have more disputes about money than anything else. And, being Christians, many of us have been informed (with limited tact) that our sexual sins will haunt a marriage.

All of this is true…but only to a point. Because none of these make or break the marriage- though they are often the scapegoat. Instead, the most vital component of marriage is communication. Good communication can buoy a couple through the greatest trials of life; the ability for a couple to hear and be heard (the former being of primary importance) is the tipping point in a marriage. Without good communication, the smallest bill can cause an eruption; guilt from one’s past can impede and strangle; dealing with one’s in-laws can spark tidal waves in all directions. Communication is key.

And it should be noted that communication goes beyond the actual act of talking. Physical touch and intimacy is communication; how much time is spent out with the guys is communication; taking out the trash is communication. All of these things say something to your spouse. Their absence, presence or tone have the power to uplift or impede a marriage.

3) Sex is the best part of marriage.

Sex is a wonderful and good thing. But it is easily idolized in Christian relationships. Much of this is because sex is the forbidden fruit of dating relationships; almost every other aspect of marriage can be experienced, even if just to a lesser degree. But sex is always held- with painful depletions of tact-at arms length.

Because of this, it’s easy to (subconsciously) elevate sex to greater degree of importance than other aspects of a marriage. And this can set a couple up for a world of trouble. What if sex isn’t as great as you imagined it to be? What if sexual intimacy actually comes across as a bit awkward- even difficult- at first? When we expect sex to be -not just the cherry atop the sundae- but also the entire sundae itself and the rest of the relationship simply the bowl in which it sits, we can find marriage to feel a little empty, cheated even.

So while sexual intimacy and fulfillment is a wonderful and necessary part of a marriage, it should never be viewed as the end-all, be-all. Instead, marriage must be ordered in such a way that our end goal is love for another human being. Sex is one of many means to this end, but hardly it’s epitome.

Love is simply intricate. And every marriage revolves around something. Sometimes it’s physical attraction; other times it’s money, or shared experiences and goals; other times is an emotional connection between two people. The problem is that all of these things are fickle and unstable, at best. Attraction fades, emotional connections wear out over time, bankruptcy happens, quality time is monopolized by the demands of a family. In a matter of time the central identity of a marriage can easily disappear, leaving the rest of the relationship to collapse as well.

But when we base a marriage around the well-being of another person we allow and acknowledge the inevitable presence of Christ within our marriage. It is Christ who- and this is Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaking- is the mediator not just between ourselves and God, but also ourselves and others. A prioritization of another person, especially within framework of marriage, inevitably results in living life through the mediation of Christ. Christ becomes the filter for our actions. He forgives our anger and transforms it into empathy. He hears our miscommunications and translates them into sincerity. He oversaw the creation of our bodies, and ignites the passion that brings them together. In a word, a marriage centered on the goal of serving the other person, is centered on Christ; Christ who takes our mutated, imperfect and selfishly tainted thing we call ‘love’ and presents it as a microcosm of Christ’s love for the church.

This is a beautiful thing; one of the greatest mysteries of creation. So great, in fact, that it takes a lifetime with another person, a lifetime of relying on the meditation of Christ, to even begin to understand it.

In such a manner, a marriage becomes a story. And not the story of two people. Rather, it transcends itself to the story of Love Incarnate that is being played out within all of creation. And it’s story is greater than a lifetime of spousal love can even begin to imitate. It’s the story of Love that mediates for all, forgives for all, and is in the process of transforming everyone into it’s likeness.

And that, I propose, is a story worth telling.

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Always Second Chances: Boyfriends and Girl Friends

Below is the another discussion from the combined effort of myself and a co-blogger by the name of Debbie to write on questions and issues in Christian dating. After last week’s article, Debbie decided she might keep me in the mix for weekly dialogues on different issues. Our hope is that this maintains ongoing discussions, introspection and personal reflection for how we, as Christians, ought to handle the crazy world of relationships. 
YOURS TRULY: 
So I just started writing for this blog run by a girl named Debbie. She’s pretty cool. Furthermore, it’s been great to discuss topics with her, swap insight and generally work together. Throughout this process she’s become what you might call… a friend. At least to me. She might still want to keep me on the outskirts of her social circles. But to me she’s a friend.

The thing is, I have a girlfriend, a very, very, awesome girlfriend. This presents itself with a number of questions: what is the appropriate manner in which I pursue friendships with other girls? Can we hang out one-one? What about doing homework together? Is that inappropriate? Are there rules across the board or is it specific to each person?
My primary concern in this situation must be honoring, preserving and strengthening my relationship with my girlfriend. Especially if we end up getting married; my relationship with her is the most important I have. This does not, however, require that all other relationships end. Furthermore, while our relationships with significant others/spouses are the most important, there is still importance in friendships with those of the opposite gender; they are, in fact, a necessity. I mean, I could work out of my house in my pajamas, become a recluse, read old novels, and watch sitcoms for the rest of my life  but my girlfriend told me that wasn’t really an option. So then I must realize that I will always be dealing with girls other than my girlfriend/spouse, and I must know how to do so in a healthy and honoring manner.
DEBBIE: 
I don’t know… Sean Connery in Finding Forrester seemed to manage the ‘ol hermit approach pretty well. I felt inspired.

It’s a weird topic, and honestly, I find it much easier at times to befriend guys who have girlfriends/wives than I do single guys. Why? Because they’re ‘safe’. If a guy in a relationship is friendly and appears interested in communicating with me (you’d be surprised at the number of Christians guys I encounter who are in relationships where it seems like they are not allowed to communicate with the other gender), I usually thoroughly enjoy my friendships with them. I enjoy them because they aren’t complicated. I know they don’t think I’m trying to hit on them and I clearly know they aren’t trying to hit on me. But, there also needs to be some sort of boundary….

...to read the complete article, go here.

Keys To A Theologically Correct First Date

First dates can kinda, sorta, mostly suck. You’re usually anxious, sporting sweaty palms, wet armpits and a nervous twitch in your right eye that makes it look like you’re constantly winking at your date mid-conversation. There’s always the mandatory questions: “So what’d you study in school?”, “How many siblings do you have?”, “What do you do for fun?”, and “Mhmm yes, the weather has been a bit queer “ (read: old English, not a political statement) “lately hasn’t it?”.  These are all (naturally) followed by an awkward silence and the dreadful realization that you both have nothing in common, this is going nowhere, you still have to pick up the tab (why didn’t chivalry die with feminism?) annnndddddddd your fly has been open the entire time. It only takes a few of these to realize that vows of celibacy have their perks.

celibacy Of course, Christians have their own set of rules and stigmas that bring an entirely new set of pressures in the form of an anxious chorus in your mind:

I wonder where she goes to church?

What’s he think about pre-millienialism? Infant baptism? Rob Bell?

What if she’s not in the same denomination as me?

 Could I date a Baptist?

Anglican?

Church Scientist?

Hahahahaha okay, let’s be serious.

Do I let him kiss me…or is that too far? Hold my hand? Touch my arm? Okay! He totes totally just touched my arm!

Do I tell her she looks beautiful? Or hot? Or is that improper? Or wait…is it okay that I think she’s pretty? OMG AM I LUSTING!?!?!!?

 With so many questions swirling in our heads, it’s a wonder most of our dates don’t result in spontaneous combustion from at least one side of the table. But the thing is, dating doesn’t have to be so difficult, and it doesn’t have to be so damn nerve wracking. You just need good theology.

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Give me a moment…

When I sit down across from someone, whether it be on a date, at church, the library…basically anywhere but the DMV, I have to realize not necessarily who, but what it is, that I’m sitting across from. They’re not just a human being…they are a human being.

confused

Meaning they’re not just a pile of skin and bones that evolved into walking and cognitive abilities which will now roam the earth, work from 9-5 and (if they can get past a first date) one day pass genes down the line before retiring to Florida and dying of old age. No, they are a human being whose existence will bridge into eternity. image_of_godThere, sitting before me, twiddling their thumbs and trying to think what three books they’d read if they were stranded on a desert island, is a foreshadowing of something of greater and more mind-blowing significance than I could ever imagine. They’re a human being, made in the image of God Himself.

Of course, that all sounds fine and dandy unless we can grasp what it actually means. This is a realm in which Christian’s tend to objectify.

“Objectify!?” you cry, “you must be talking about the pornographers and sexually deviant masses!!!”

Nope, I’m talking about us: Christians. For we have developed a wonderful and very apt ability to point the finger at secularism and, with many a “tisk tisk” and shake of our heads, condemn the objectification of pornography and Beyonce’s halftime show. This is not to say that we are wrong in our identification but that we still have a log in our eye.

Because too often we have “a date” for the night. We’re gonna meet our “date” at an agreed time, swap customary information, chat over a meal, try to send the right signals and, if it goes well and they like Neil Diamond enough well, then maybe we’ll have another “date” the next night. If things progress, they’ll become “our girlfriend/boyfriend” and maybe our “fiancé” or “spouse”. If things go poorly, well then, they’re just immature, stupid, childish, selfish, hurtful, liars that we label our “ex”. Am I being nit picky about our terminology? Perhaps. Am I proposing that we stop calling it “dating” and start calling it “courting”?

no

My point is that, especially in the context of dating, we have a tendency of ceasing to view the other person as an eternal entity and instead cram their existence into a nice little box we can comprehend and place on the shelves of our egos. The person we sit across from in Starbucks, is first and foremost, a child of the utmost God and secondly is our brother or sister in Christ, which means we’re going to be together for a lllloooonnnnnggggg time. I’d rather not start off an eternal relationship with an attempt to whittle that person down to some identity I can label and carry around on my arm or add to my Facebook profile. But this happens all too often and I get tunnel vision. I lose sight of the eternal picture and instead focus on the immediate situation; I cease to see the person as anything other than who they are in relation to me in this moment. The failure to view another person as an eternal child of God doesn’t just result in terrible first dates, but leads to dysfunctional break-ups, damaged or destroyed marriages and terrible, God-awful, bubble-gum pop music

...that I may or may not listen to on repeat daily #confessions
…that I may or may not listen to on repeat daily #confessions

This brings us to a lil’ caveat. As Christians whose life is centered on Christ, we must make it a priority to only pursue romantic relationships with Christians. This is a position that I advocate and encourage for several reasons, the least of which being you will have much more in common. I mean, c’mon what’s a dating relationship without a common jab at the Left Behind Series, comparison of favorite preachers or mutual bonding over the high school rebellion stage?

Good. Moving on...
Good. Moving on…

Of course, unless you attend a Christian college, work in a Christian organization, or only date people whom your set up with by that nice old lady who sits in the front row and church and (God knows she means well) asks you if your “married yet” every g$@$% Sunday…. then you may not know right off the bat if the fine lad/damsel you who just agreed to meet you at Starbucks is a God-fearing Christian or not. While long-term committed romantic relationships with non-Christians isn’t the best of ideas…there’s nothing wrong with a cup of coffee and awkward questions for an afternoon. Furthermore, a first date is not shot to hell when you find out the person is not a Christian, although that can be

hawkwardbut I would strongly advise that your romantic aspirations come to a screeching halt. That said, I would also wave a finger at any gut reactions to whip out some Billy Graham pamphlets and go evangelize their (oh, so) hot self.

In case you wanted to see the worst idea since the Chicago Bears, Gigli and canceling The Magic School Bus on PBS.
In case you wanted to see the worst idea since the Chicago Bears, Gigli and canceling The Magic School Bus on PBS.

But if you find out that you’re date isn’t a Christian, what you have isn’t a train-wreck of an evening but yet another opportunity to interact with a being of eternal significance. We Christians have a wonderful knack for wasting such opportunities on our own intentions.

“Oh mah gawsh….I came into the evening hoping for a date and beautiful woman with whom I could whisper sweet nothings for years and years and what I got instead was a chance to show the love of Christ to another human being…”

deal with it
#seriously #obamasays

I realize that in writing this that I may bring upon myself the perception that I have half a clue as to how Christians ought to date. I really don’t. My assertions and suggestions are just as much of a shot in the dark as anyone else’s. The world of dating is a complicated, twisted, skewed and (more often than not) painful labyrinth of emotions and questions no one can ever maneuver perfectly. I’m no exception; my attempts at the task have hardly been something to brag about . Luckily, eternal grace envelops all of our lives…even the awkward dates and nasty break ups.

Furthermore, I’m convinced that for every awkward date, every broken relationship and all the tattered remnants of a romance I’ve weathered or caused, I’ve got a glorious, smiling and forgiving reunion waiting for me up in heaven. That’s the beauty of the common bond we all share; all of our petty conflicts will, upon inhabiting the New Jerusalem, boil down to a “hey…remember when? Man, were we stupid…”. I plan on having many of such conversations with some recipients of my less-than-successful romantic aspirations over a good, heavenly beer. And yes, they’ll have beer in heaven.

So when you sit down from someone on the first date take a deep breath and relax knowing that however awkward it is, however the relationship with that person ends, however many times you find yourself saying:

If you've ever been on a blind date that involves cheap Mexican food...this ought to be relative.

… you have an eternity of laughter, worship and true community to make up for it. Our promise of heaven is one that extends to every area of our worlds, especially our love life, and removes the need for objectification, stress and especially Taylor Swift. It’s not to say that all the questions swirling through your head aren’t good ones or that they shouldn’t be considered. They probably are and probably should…you just need to start with a proper view of who your date really is; you need to start with good theology.

Also, make sure your fly is up.