My Reaction To (*most*) Evangelical Books On Relationships & Marriage

I know they’re out there. But I, personally, have trouble finding a theologically deep, well-written (!!!), thought-provoking book on marriage, celibacy, dating, relationships…etc. Which is simultaneously sad and frustrating.

So if you have one that you recommend, I’d love to hear it. I shant judge you (even if I do judge the book). So let’s hear it.

Because I’m running out of windows.

Advertisements

Locked From The Inside

At least once or twice a week I dash out of my apartment having forgotten something vital to the day’s schedule: computer charger, cell phone, lunch, paper with impending due date and, on the most invigorating of occasions, my keys. Most of the time when this happens I am lucky to find that my forgetfulness is two-fold and I’d also failed to lock the door; so the catastrophe is short lived. But sometimes I’m not saved the grace of ineptitude and my keys sit behind a locked door.

Such was the case on one recent occasion when my wife and I were going out for the evening. We’d gotten all the way to our car in the parking lot when I realized our keys weren’t in my pocket.

“Can you hand me the keys, babe?” I asked her, hoping for the best.

She looked back at me with a expression akin to frustrated parents of toddlers that consistently fail to grasp the concept of potty training.

“You said you had them.”

“Did I now?”

“Yes. Right before you made sure that I locked the door.”

“Huh…”

I wish I could say the world was beautiful and leave it at that. But I cannot lie. And as much as I cannot lie, I can hardly open my eyes without having to confront the persistence of evil that blots itself upon the beauty surrounding me, like cigarette burns on a wedding dress. I open the fridge and find death and decay has begun its work on some cheese or an expired bottle of milk. I read news of an apartment building that burned to the ground two towns over, flames licking the life out of seven residents in the middle of the night. I walk down the street and the carcass of a squirrel attracts maggots on the side of the road; flies zip their death dance around it’s crushed and bloody skull. If I lean in, and look close, I see no beauty in it’s startled eyes. I just see hell.

Our human inclination is to build walls of rationality to keep out the invasion of hell in our world. We install security systems and buy insurance plans, look both ways before crossing the street and take multi-vitamins to slow our own decay. Meanwhile we’re all bracing ourselves, waiting for the next cannon shot of evil to breach our walls: a dreaded phone call,a tornado touching down, or just a harsh and sinister word from a voice in our own heads. We grant ourselves sanitized excuses for self-preservation and lock the door against the very idea of hell.

C.S. Lewis, reflecting on the work of John Milton, stated his belief that the gates of hell are locked from the inside. They’re locked and for extra emphasis we hung a sign on the outside that says “Keep Out!!!” scratched in a color eerily similar to that of our own blood. We push ourselves to deny the hell that required the cross. But in attempting to lock hell out, we also lock out the reality of heaven and our unceasing need for grace. We lock out ourselves.

My fear is that I have not only been dulled into losing sight of the beauty that surrounds me, but that I have also lost sight of the pain. Normality is an anecdote for reality, a numbing shot into my conscience so I can keep my hand near the frying pan without thinking anything might happen. I do not like to believe hell is real though it exists all around me.

And if the artist’s role is to proclaim the beauty that often goes unseen, then they must also give credence to the bleak pain surrounding us; they must sound the alarm of horror that goes unheard when we stroll through life with headphones on. Writers, prophets, pastors, painters and poets are all discredited if they sing only of beauty; like an opera singer who can only function in the major key.

The screaming agony of the cross is the easel upon which the picture of grace is painted. The two must never be separated and the former cannot be ignored.

I had to make a call to our landlord and wait for fifteen minutes to get back into the apartment. After retrieving the keys, I returned to my wife who was waiting patiently by the car and I tried to grin in a “I may poop my pants but aren’t I oh-so-very cute?” manner. She smiled back gracefully.

And isn’t that what it all comes down to? Isn’t that our only hope? For we’ve locked our hearts from the inside, inundating ourselves to the beauty outside, content with the evil within.

But then again, I got my keys back. And pain, hell and suffering, may be real. But grace also exists.

And it has never been locked away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When My Wife Leaves Town

I accomplished something marvelous today for which I am quite proud. You see, our sink has the uncanny ability to change temperatures on the dime with no sense of moderation. Thus, while washing dishes the temperature either hovers around scalding or plummets to the level of a glacial lake; there seems to be no alternative. But tonight I managed, with the dedication of a man who obviously has no life and the tenderness of touch Michelangelo himself didn’t utilize on the Sistine Chapel, to bring the water to the idyllic level of warmth for washing dishes, whence it actually remained. I was so overjoyed that I danced around the apartment, soapy hands and all.

All this goes to say that my wife left town today and I’m here alone. This afternoon, I drove her to the airport for a visit to her family. On the way home, I wondered what I might do with all the freedom: eat junk food, leave the toilet seat up, etc… etc. Then I realized my first order of business had to be a quick stop at the pharmacy to refill a prescription. I may as well be seventy.

When I arrived home, I sat down at the table running my fingers along the top. It was a Friday night, but without my wife around, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. I glanced at a stack of books I’d wanted to read, but they didn’t seem so appealing with no one around to share my favorite quotes. I thought about watching a movie, but with no one to laugh with it seemed like a moot point. I picked up my phone and rang a friend

“Hello?”

“Hey man!” I said like coming up for air.

“…Hey? What’s up?”

“Not much,” I looked up at the ceiling, then tried to lower my voice to a tone of man sitting on the couch in boxers and tube socks downing a six-pack of beer. “My wife’s out of town so I was thinking of making some grub and watchin’ a manly movie. Wanna join?”

“Uh.. yea…sorry,” he said, as one might apologize to an puppy that’s begging for a walk. “But I’ve got plans…with other friends.”

“Oh.” My tone deflated. “Okay. Welp. No worries! I’ll just be here, uh, enjoying the, uh, movie! Cool. Have fun!”

“Yea… but wait-”

“Yes? What? You changed your mind? You want to come over?”

“No, I was just gonna say: don’t burn the pizza.”

Click.

Needless to say, none of this was quite what I’d expected.

It’s safe to say that I am an independent and introverted individual. I recall one particular summer as a single lad spent guiding on the coast. I rented a small room from an elderly gentleman and passed most of my evenings completely alone. I chuckled to myself during sitcoms, jotted down favorite quotes in my journal, and celebrated small victories, such as learning to cook mussels for the first time, by blogging about it for the enjoyment of somewhere around three readers (not counting my mother). Life was good; I was, for all intents and purposes, happy.

So when it was decided that my wife would leave to visit her family for a weekend, I wasn’t exactly worried. As much as I love her, I figured a weekend to myself might be somewhat rejuvenating. Yet there I was sitting at my kitchen table drumming my fingers like a kid home alone during the middle of summer vacation, bored to smithereens.

For there are people in life, no matter how much we try to deny it, to whom we become attached. Like handprints in soft cement their impressions are placed into our hearts and we are permanently changed. I cannot say this is always an enjoyable feeling, this pressing into my heart, any more than I can say that I like returning home to an empty apartment. But such is the conundrum of love: a changed heart is a broken one, in some way or another. And love, though it is also a choice, can happen as involuntarily as a flower bending to the wind.

And so I find myself facing the imminent necessity of acknowledging the handprints in my own life. It’s the acknowledgement that saves me from apathy towards those I love, those I need, the most. My wife sits at the top of this list; and if there’s anything I’ve learned from a night of drumming my fingers atop the table, it’s that her handprint is the most prominent on my heart.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go flip the toilet seat up and eat a frozen pizza in my boxers on the couch. Afterwards, I’ll probably do something equally reeking of masculine debauchery. Like finish the dishes.

The wife’s out of town, you see.