Saturday, March 27, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

When I sit down to find news articles that celebrate marriage, I go to Google News and type in a search for "good marriage." After I have gleaned all I can from that, I type in another search for "happy marriage." Both searches return quite a few hits, few of them having anything to do with the union of a husband and wife. It seems that marriage exists in the news more as a metaphor than as a reality. I find articles about how Princeton and Edmonton, NJ, complement one another in their contributions to technology, how an on-air personality found the perfect venue for his talents, and how Apple's PowerBook and OS X work so well together. I also get hits on stories containing sentences such as: "The couple seemed to enjoy a good marriage until shortly before the shooting."

Were I a sociologist, I could probably draw an insightful conclusion from the fact that the news media seems to value marriage more as allegory and irony than as a social and spiritual institution. That is certainly the case this week, as Google has given me nothing that speaks positively about actual marriage.

Sometimes I find good material on other blogs, but the problem there is that most of the current conversation about marriage focuses on the gay marriage controversy. There are some exceptions (pretty much everyone in my Personal Blogs sidebar links), but the general lack of marriage celebration on the Internet can be a little disheartening.

If you have a link to an article that speaks positively about marriage, please leave it in the comments.

Friday, March 26, 2004

His and Hers IV  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage.

What was your initial impression of your spouse when you first met him/her?

Curt's response

I moved to Georgetown, Texas (just north of Austin) during the summer before my junior year in college. I lived with my grandparents all that summer, and when I visited their church for the first time, my future wife was in my Sunday school class. She made no impression on me at all. Her friends made a big impression on me, though. They were the friendliest, most accepting group I had ever met, almost immediately accepting me into their circle as if they had known me since grade school, as most of them had known each other. Throughout that summer I got to know them all fairly well. At summer's end, though, they all dispersed to their various universities, leaving only me and the Happy Acquaintance alone with only each other for company.

I remember the first time she did make an impression on me. She taught Sunday school one week during my first summer in Georgetown. Before class started, she and I were in the classroom with three other people: another guy, a frumpy girl, and a tall, well-groomed, impeccably dressed and highly attractive girl (all college-age, of course). What made me take notice of the eventual Mrs. Happy that day was the way she treated each of the other girls. The frumpy one she treated with a mixture of respect, interest, and recognition of humanity. The tall, well-groomed, impeccably dressed and highly attractive one she treated with a mixture of respect, interest, and recognition of humanity. With the frumpy one, there was no hint of superiority or condescension. With the other, no hint of jealousy or intimidation. I don't believe I had ever noticed someone so comfortable with themselves or confident in their existence.

The second time she made an impression on me was more superficial, but almost as powerful. We went to the lake with the Sunday school class one weekend, and I saw her in a bathing suit. I remember thinking that her everyday wardrobe really did not do her justice.

She made many more powerful impressions on me over the next few years, and continues to do so. But my experience with her taught me that first impressions can be overcome, and thank God for that.

Mrs. Happy's response

Yes, indeed—thank God that first impressions can be overcome, because my first impression of Curt was that he was a total dud. I have but one vivid image of his first morning in Sunday school—he was sitting stiffly in a chair, with every bendable limb positioned at 90ยบ. His oddly pointy facial features seemed permanently fixed in an unnaturally serious expression. In fact, he was the most angular person I had ever seen, and geometry was not my favorite subject.

It wasn't until we started eating lunch together in college that I really started to see Curt as a person—the warm, sensitive, loving man that he is. As our friendship grew, his angles softened and we became inseparable, complementing each other in every way, and that is how we remain to this day.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

RLTB™  

Yesterday I intended to write about why my wife's drawing affected me so deeply. The problem is that I don't think I can really analyze my feelings about it without picking them apart and maybe losing them. I can say, though, that every piece of art my wife creates reflects her heart, and that picture is a beautiful reflection. Also, I have no idea how she's able to capture the essence of dusk with only black ink and white paper.

I'm bringing this up again because I'm short on time and ideas for writing. This will have to be a day when real life trumps blogging.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Someday  

 

My wife recently did this pen-and-ink drawing while contemplating our future. I think it may be my favorite work of hers yet.

This week's question  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. Here is this week's His and Hers topic:

What was your initial impression of your spouse when you first met him/her?

Also be sure to visit this week's Christian Carnival for some of the best in Christian blogging.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Welcome encouragement  

I have a friend at church named Kenny. Kenny is my age, as is his wife Lori. Lori leads the choir that I sing in, a choir that sang in front of the church congregation for the first time this past Sunday. After the church service I talked to Kenny for a bit, and he told me that the choir sounded wonderful. I told him Lori had been doing an excellent job leading us. His eyes brightened, his smile widened, and he took on a surpassingly joyful demeanor and said, "Curt, words can't express how blessed I am to be married to such an incredible woman." He went on to describe in detail how much he loves her, how she inspires him, how she completes him, and how thankful he is that God allowed him to meet and marry her.

We went on to discuss his impending fatherhood (they're expecting their child's birth in August). He told me of his thrill at seeing the baby's heart beat in the ultrasound. He told me about his excitement and anticipation of being a father. Mostly, though, he explained to me what an incredible mother Lori was going to be. Interspersed throughout it all, I was able to tell Kenny what an amazing wife I had as well. He drank it all in, seeing that we both shared a fathomless appreciation for our wives that is too uncommon in our society.

I have praised my wife to other men before. On those occasions I usually receive polite nods and/or snide remarks in response. I know that most people don't want to hear about how much I love her, but sometimes I just can't keep it in. Kenny, on the other hand, understood and shared in my joy. Hearing him speak so adoringly of his beloved encouraged me, as did his receptiveness to my words. Before Sunday, I hadn't had any sort of deep conversation with Kenny. But now I know that he's a kindred spirit when it comes to marriage, and I know that I can go to him when I want to share my joy with someone who'll understand.

I know men who love their wives with all their hearts. I know men who treasure their marriages. But I don't believe I've ever had a conversation like the one I had with Kenny on Sunday.

This is the point I was working toward yesterday before I got sidetracked. My marriage is succeeding, and I love my wife more than I could ever describe. I have lived in that condition for almost six years without any such overt and joyful encouragement from other men as what I received from Kenny. But his words truly refreshed me. That, I think, is one way that men definitely should encourage each other. We happy husbands ought to share our joy with one another and so build each other up and sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Unwelcome advice  

Before I was married, I attended a church in Texas that formed a weekly Bible study for men. It focused on Biblical principles of being a man, husband, and father. The third week's session dealt with sexual purity. At 22, I was the youngest man in the class by at least ten years and the only one not married. This fact seemed to give the other men the idea that the best use of our time was to spend the entire session, as well as the next, telling me that I shouldn't have sex before marriage. Most of the men had made that mistake themselves and regretted it, and they felt it their duty to save me from their miserable fate.

It annoyed me because, as I mentioned before, I was 22 years old—not 12. I had had at least ten years to deal with my feelings of sexuality and tempestuous desires. I had had at least ten years to learn how God intended sex to work. My parents, my Sunday school teachers, and my youth leaders had all done an excellent job of teaching me about moral values, right and wrong, and Godly lifestyles. By the time I reached the age of 22, telling me to remain a virgin was pretty much pointless. If I had previously cultivated no conviction against premarital sex, I would have practiced it long before then. If by that age I had not yet engaged in intercourse, it would have been because of a conscious decision on my part, requiring no further instruction on theirs.

It happens that at the time I had, in fact, never had sex, and that by choice. It happens that I continued not having sex until my wedding night, one month before my 26th birthday. It happens that I already understood the importance of engaging in physical intimacy with one and only one person. I suffered through the blissfully horrid temptations of my hormonal youth and on that point emerged victorious where my admonishers had failed. More than once, I wanted to tell people to just shut up, but another thing that my parents, Sunday school teachers, and youth leaders taught me was respect for my elders.

I left the group shortly thereafter. The other men seemed to have nothing to teach me that I didn't already know and understand better than they. I apparently had little to offer them other than an opportunity to feel superior in their past failures. I felt a great deal of disappointment because I had thought that a group of Christian men could meet and encourage each other, build each other up, and sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron. We almost did that one night when one of the men, on the verge of tears, confessed that he never told his wife he loved her. Another man warmly said, "Start tonight," then the leader quickly moved on to the next subject, which probably had something to do with my sex life.


I find now that I have veered off on a tangent and far from my original train of thought, an unfortunate circumstance that another blogger recently praised me for avoiding. I'll try to get that train back on that train tomorrow. Today, though, here's my conclusion: Older men have a God-given responsibility to teach young men to love God's commandments and shun the ways of the world, and also to foster their spiritual growth rather than pummel them with superfluous advice and drive them away from a potential source of valuable support. Again, that wasn't the point I intended to make when I started writing, and it may not even be a point that needs to be made, but there it is.