Once Upon A Marriage: Week One
I've been on vacation all week with my family--the first long vacation that we have had together in I don't know how long. It's also the first real, honest to goodness road trip that my wife and I ever attempted with both of our boys.
We drove to North Carolina to stay at my in-laws house for one day and then drove to Pittsburgh where we hung out and enjoyed the city for a day or so, ate at an amazing diner in Buffalo, NY, and then made our way up to our ultimate destination: Niagara Falls. We did all of the tourist-y stuff at Niagara--everything we could think of at least. We laughed, played, ate awesome meals... it was easily my favorite family vacation ever.
Then we had to drive 14 and a half hours back to NC.
Did I mention that my wife is 28 weeks pregnant and has a broken foot?
Did I mention that there were two boys...ages 15 and 5... in the same car... in the back seat... for 14 and a half hours?
Did I mention that my littlest boy had not pooped for five days?
And that we were driving for 14 and a half hours?
And that my wife is pregnant with a broken foot?
I didn't think I mentioned these things.
Now I am sitting here in NC working quietly in my in-laws mountain house. It's just finished raining. My wife is happily taking an afternoon nap, and my father-in-law took my boys off for some sort of adventure.
I want to tell you something... I would not trade any moment of the trip that we just took for ANYTHING. And I mean all of it. As miserable as we were during the last 8 hours or so of that last bit of the road trip--and we were pretty dang miserable---it will be etched in my memory forever, and in a good way.
I am getting ready to preach a four-part sermon series on Marriage and Relationships. God has really been working on my heart about this. I see so many marriages in my congregation and in my circle of friends and family that are struggling. I see so many people who are in committed relationships, who are laying the wrong kind of foundation---one that will crumble and fall when the storms of life come.
I really believe that one of the ways that we can strengthen our society and our communities is to help couples strengthen their relationships... to help those who are contemplating marriage learn the most important things about how to make their relationship last... and to help those who have been wounded in broken marriages and relationships find healing and restoration...
Relationships can have their mountaintop moments---their Niagara Falls, two-day, blissful, tourist-y moments. They can also have their fourteen hour car rides.
But if we have the right foundation to our relationships then we learn to love it all.
I'm starting this sermon series from the beginning: Genesis 1, 2 & 3 to be exact.
I'm also starting this sermon series from the beginning of our relationships where we bring all of our desires to the table. Every relationship begins with desires.
We have desires about what kind of life we will lead with our beloved. We have desires about the kind of house we will have, when we will have kids, how many kids we will have, what kind of career we will have, how our career will dovetail into our beloved's career with no complications, what sort of car we will drive, how our finances will be handled, which holidays we will spend with which set of in-laws, what sort of clothes we want our beloved to wear, and whose friends will be invited over and when...
But at some point in the relationship, all of those desires can quickly turn into expectations, especially if we continue to live in our "Youniverse" where "I" is at the center of everything.
And when expectations aren't met, then relationships and/or marriages can suffer. People leave when their expectations aren't met. Or one partner becomes more dominant than the other and forces their expectations to be met, like it or not. Or one partner decides to conform to the other--out of love, frustration or apathy.
On Sunday, I will be lifting up the story of the beginning of all things as related to us in the Bible. You see, in the beginning, God created human beings---men and women--as the fullest expression of Godself. When our relationships have God at their center, when we realize that the "other" in our marriage is created with the imprint of the Almighty on them, when we begin to realize that we are not the center of the universe... then we have the makings of a foundation.
My wife and I have been married for nearly 19 years. We are already planning our 20th wedding anniversary party and ensuing 20th honeymoon. We go on a honeymoon at least once a year. We've done that for every year we have been married. My wife and I read books on how to be a better spouse. We attend conferences together and we do some pretty hard work when it comes to maintaining great communication.
But we still fight once in a while (she doesn't call them fights). We still get mad at one another from time to time (I've found that no one can tick you off like the person you are madly in love with). We don't always do what we should or say the things that we really need to say in order to convey respect, love, devotion and passion.
That's why in addition to all of that other stuff we also pray together. We talk about the Bible together and we live our life of faith together. God is at the center of our relationship, and even when one of us isn't feeling particularly godly (usually me), the other keeps the faith. When one of us is getting tired of the 14 and a half hour drive, the other keeps remarking on the beauty of the scenery and the fact that one day the boys will be grown and gone and we will long for the day we rode and fought and laughed and loved for 14 straight hours...just us.
I recently had a really boorish, legalistic and sad "Christian" woman comment negatively on how I referred to my wife as "hot" on my blog. The truth of the matter is that I refer to her as hot all the time--to my friends, to my family, in front of my congregation on Sunday morning.
She's hot. I thought she was hot the day I met her when I was 13 years old. I will still think it when we are 85.
But more than that... I think she's the greatest gift God has ever given me. And I will be eternally grateful to God for her.
When you build the foundation of your marriage/relationship using God's building materials... you get to say things like that.