13 years of wedded “bliss”

“…I will go down with this ship and
I won’t put my hands up and surrender.
There will be no white flag above my door,
I’m in love and always will be…”

Marriage is hard work. Yeah, I know: “Gee thanks for that keen insight, Captain Obvious.” But, no, I don’t think enough people understand what it means to really “work hard” on a marriage.

The biggest obstacle, I’ve found, in marriages has a lot to do with what appears to me to be an obdurate unwillingness to recognize reality. I’m not saying there aren’t instances of a marriage that can appear epic and sweeping. Lord knows I’ve enjoyed (and hope to continue to enjoy) countless precious moments of bliss and delight during the course of these now 13 years of marriage to the former Candace Rae Daniels.

But a marriage must be rooted in the real, and must be established upon a foundation that takes into sober consideration that it is nothing more than a perfect institution that is occupied by woefully imperfect people. People are selfish, frail, melodramatic, fickle, and downright idiotic. I can say that because I’m a friend to man. Heck, some of my best friends are people.

I think a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess. Raw, natural talent does not enable you to play baseball as a pro or write great literature without enduring discipline and enormous work. Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature?

The Bible calls marriage a “mystery.” Its secret is this: it only works when it is based on self-denial and self-sacrifice rather than self-fulfillment and self-achievement.

Is the purpose of marriage to deny your interests for the good of the family, or is it rather to assert your interests for the fulfillment of yourself? Marriage only works on the basis of mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice. This is the only pattern of marriage that works. The pattern of the cross is the shape of a happy home. It’s more than a religious issue, it is simply the way the world works and marriages endure.

Of course, this kinda realism doesn’t sell ad revenue on the television networks or generate book sales for the romance novel industry. Self-denial and self-sacrifice are not the message of romantic comedies, reality game shows or sitcoms. But they are the message of the gospel, of which marriage is an embodied picture. It is time, especially for Christians, to rebuild our lives and relationships on this foundation.

My sweet wife is a remarkable woman. Everyone who knows her knows this, and often takes the time to point this out to her. But she has a tragic flaw: she is a “daughter of Eve,” and suffers the same metaphysical weakness that all of her race endure. Sin. My wife is not immune to sin.

I’m a pretty cool dude. I know this because my mom says so. My mom says I’m awesome, and she’s not given to flattery. All kidding aside, I know well of my own fallibility.  I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me. I am very proud, revengeful, and ambitious. I’ve more offenses at my beck and call than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in.

What is to become of a union of poor wretches such as these?

Tuesday, Sept. 4th 2012 marks thirteen years of marriage. Thirteen years of smiles, kisses, and embraces. Thirteen years of arguments, sarcastic quips, and angry silences. We’ve pushed and pulled each almost constantly over the years, and yet remain closer than ever.

I don’t want to say anything trite like “she completes me” because I think it’s a dangerous, though endearing, sentiment. I am a whole person myself, as she is as well. I am complete and well-equpped both psychologically and physiologically. The only area where I am deficient is well beyond her expertise. Though I love Candace with the entirety of my being, my existence and purpose is not derived from her…  or she from me.

That brings us back to reality. Y’see, the reality of reality is that we are all more than we see. None of us are wholly sufficient in and of ourselves. In order to be as great as we can be, we must first see ourselves as lesser than we are.

I love Candace, and I want to love her more and better with each passing day. I want to be as great a man as is possible, so to be a fantastic husband to her and a most excellent father to our children. But in order to do so, I have to seek beyond myself, for such transcendence is not found within any worldly man.

As another year of this sacred union is marked, I pray that He who is altogether lovely continues to bless and strengthen me. To never be content with the man that I am, or to even become preoccupied with the man I could be…  but to rest in Himself, and know that it is from there Whom all blessings flow.

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