Marriage Truth - Service Changes Things

We’ve come to the end of this series on Marriage Myths. I appreciate your responses. Genuinely. But, it’s just about time for the Collective to return to a bit of creativity, a bit of collective sharing. The Marriage Myths are destructive, sure. But what about Marriage Truths?

Marriage Truth No. 1 – Service changes things.

I’m taking my lead from Amber. She’s right good.

***

When the walls of occupation fell inward, I was left stranded somewhere between ministry and the law. A darker version of myself, I swirled like a wall cloud but you stood strong. Do you remember that night you met me at the door, took my books from me and led me to the bedroom? My bible and guitar were in the corner and the room was dimly lit with candles. You told me that supper would be ready in an hour, asked me if I’d like a gin. I said, “probably not yet,” and you nodded, “okay.” Through the closed door, I could hear you humming “Just as I am.” The crackling of chicken fried steak echoed in the kitchen.

We grew into our marriage, that garment that first wore like a stiff-starched shirt. In our fourth year, you called me while I was away. “Today I went to a new church,” you said. “I don’t know where you’ll be going when you come home, but this is my new place of worship.” You dragged me to the smallish congregation that met in a middle school gym. The people poured into us, suffered our Reformed Theology, cracked our shells of cynicism, brought us cookies and homemade bread. Sometimes I think they might have saved us.

Two weeks ago, you asked me to go fishing with Jared. “Guilt-free,” you said so I grabbed my rod and a stale set of flies. We stood on the banks of the pond, Jared and I, and stripped woollies through a spring fed pond. The thud of a bass is less intoxicating than the flash of the trout, but it served me well all the same. Jared listened as I broke my dams, spilled stories into the pond. It was freeing, really. Story sharing is cathartic. I suppose you knew that, Amber.

***

Are you practicing quiet servant leadership with your spouse in the day-to-day? Or, are you beating your head against bricks, begging them to “for the love of God,” change? Consider servant leadership. See what happens.

“With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves….”

Marriage Myths -- Dirty Talk is Unhealthy for my Marriage.

I know this isn’t narrative, but hang with me here. It’s really just stream of consciousness. The biblical view of marriage is simple, really. Two people attempt a melding of sorts. But in context, it’s really much more complex. Often, mere coexistence takes the place of unity because unity requires complete honesty and there are things we’d just rather not discuss.

Embarrassing things.

Intensely personal things.

And chief among these? Sexuality.

Myth No. 3 – Dirty talk is unhealthy for my marriage.

Let’s be honest. We’re all adults here. Humans have God-given desires, lusts, and fantasies. That drive compels continuity, perpetuates the continuation of societies. Sexuality is not an accident.

But lately, I’ve heard the stories behind crumbling marriages. You’ve heard them too:

Story 1 -

When I first stumbled across those images on the internet, it was an accident. I felt I couldn’t tell my wife because it was embarrassing. Months later, I was nursing a full-blown addiction.

Story 2 -

There was this man at work and we started becoming too close. I swear I didn’t mean to, but we shared a kiss. I couldn’t tell my husband. In less than a month, it was an all out affair.

Story 3 -

I never talked about that man who molested me when I was a kid. I thought marriage would straighten out my confused issues with sexuality. It didn’t.

Secrets fester, threaten to undo. And perhaps, just maybe, some of you are living them. Do the hard thing. Talk dirty to your spouse. Tell them the hard stuff, the secret stuff that threatens your unity. Seek counseling if necessary.

And if your spouse seems sexually disconnected, ask if they need to come clean. And be willing to hear the truth and extend grace.

Marriage Myths -- We Don't Have Anything in Common

Last week I wrote about a marriage myth I’ve been hearing lately – I never really loved her/him. It’s been tossed around effortlessly by friends, folks looking for an out.

But is debunking that myth enough to protect a marriage? Evidently not. Truth is, if one lie doesn’t get you, another might. After all, Butch Cassidy drew a six-shooter not single shot Derringer. Or so they say.

Marriage Myth No. 2 – We don’t have anything in Common.

It’s the second myth we’ve heard too often, one used to justify separation and divorce. I know that relationships are complicated and people change over time, don’t get me wrong. But in those early years, there was enough commonality to lead both to the altar, right? That kind of commonality does not disappear over night.

Today I’m strapping on some relational Kevlar; I’m bullet proofing here. I’m Exploring this second myth and debunking it in my own marriage. And I’m writing it down because memorializing the truth in the good times protects you from believing a lie in the tough times.

And Mr. Cassidy, you can have my box car, but you can’t take my marriage.

***

When we were in our early twenties, we created commonality. You played Ben Harper, told me to get past those bawdy lyrics and listen to his slide guitar. I played Patty Griffin, asked you to listen to the layering in that song about Tony. We met in the middle, opened ourselves to the possibility that the other’s music was the best.

We fought hard to make common memories. On Valentine's Day you tracked down a risky present, made me drive into the back alley of a Memphis tattoo parlor so that you could pick up that Cuban Cigar at 10:00 sharp. I’m still not sure how you set that up, but I remember the excitement, the racing heart, the running getaway car. You handled it so coolly, knocking on graffitied back door and making the exchange with graffitied biker . It was almost too much for my twenty-one years of Baptist upbringing. That was sexy, Lady.

We were helpless wanderers, hapless explorers. We shared the common struggle of each other.

We made vows with God and each other. Till death do us part, we said. Then we walked out to a Gaelic tune.

The ties of covenant are our most permanent commonality.

We shared peach brandy on our honeymoon night, slithered shamelessly into a rented bed. We woke to fresh coffee and a new start. We shared a blank slate, a multitude of possibilities.

We grew to love the deep south, the Spanish moss that hung like stagnant smoke from cypress branches, the way the sun wakes the Bayou, and how the wood ducks tie sky and water together. We watched flying squirrels at night. We watched my grandparents dance the jitterbug to Louis Armstrong.

We choked and gasped our way through burned out Christianity, each begging the other for a fresh taste of Jesus, each finding the inability to deliver. We were common in our failure, too. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.

We found the hope of redemption in a piece of key lime pie in Fort Lauderdale.

We found actual redemption in the arms of a right good church and the birth of our first son. Jesus has this infinite sense of timing, I think. We both know that.

We have grown together, have been saved together, are continually sanctified together. And ultimately, at the end of the day, we are in covenant together.

Last night, you dragged me out to see the Harvest Moon. We stood for less than a minute and looked into the sky, both in wonder. I patted your rear and kissed you on the lips. It’s those small moments that remind me.

We share the same hope of glory.

***

Finding commonality takes intentionality, sometimes. But intentionality is where the holy work of marriage begins. Have you taken a moment to remember your common experiences or celebrate your common interests lately? Have you written it down? It may take a little work, but debunking myths before they take hold is easier than repairing a marriage after the myths have rooted down deep.

And in the end, isn’t marriage worth all the effort?

Lagniappe - Debunking a Marriage Myth

Yesterday, I wrote about dispelling that prevalent marriage myth--I never really loved her.   There are others who have written their own love stories, erected alters to remember.   Spend some time on these links today, then sit down and craft your own story. Amber wrote our love story from start to finish here.  She took some risks, but it was worth it.

Ann Voskamp has this way with words.  Really.  Like magic.  She shares snippets of her love story here and here.

Terell and Kristen Welch wrote about struggle, forgiveness, and love here.  The vulnerability here is incredible.  Start with post 1 and work down to post 8.

Duane Scott recounts new love and the loss of a new chair.  Good work, Duane.

Ann Kroeker, writer, compiles a sampling of love stories here.  This post is incredible.  And while you are out it, check out the posts tagged marriage over at The High Calling. TheHighCalling.org Christian Blog Network

Spend some time this week on your own story.  It will be worth it. I promise.

Marriage Myths - I Never Really Loved Her

It’s a tricky thing, marriage.

I’ve heard too many stories recently. The thirty-somethings sit across the table from me in the coffee shop and claim that they never really loved their spouses. They were duped, or forced, or manipulated, they claim. They were merely sexually repressed, forced into marriage by archaic notions of purity. Not in love, no. They merely needed to consummate, or copulate, or whatever. That’s what they claim.

Yes, I know this is risqué business.

Truth is, humans are revisionists. Always have been. History is told from a distinct point of view. Truth gives way to perception. The difficult here-and-now colors the beautiful there-and-then in shades of mirage. It’s easier to say “I never loved” than it is to say “I forgot how to love.”

I think it’s important to remember truth, to not get bogged down in alternative realities. We must remind ourselves of what we once knew—"love never fails."

So today, I’m going to tell the truth. And I’m going on record to dispel Myth No. 1. And let me be clear: this is an active effort to protect my marriage.

Myth No. 1 – I never really loved her/him.

***

I had just turned twenty-one—a zealous boy who loved Enter the Worship Circle and hand-made acoustic guitars. I was a kid who craved an odd mix of hand-drums and economics. Uptight and laid back. A reforming legalist. A burgeoning grace wearer.

She was nineteen—a newborn Christian who had given up weed for Jesus. A ripped jean wearer. A sexy walker who made me quiver when she shook her hips. A girl who devoured scripture like it was fresh-baked. Like it was rustic. Like it was real.

She had this Alabama accent, the kind that said she knew Southern love’n. It made me crazy.

We once walked in sweater weather to the intramural fields, a fine mist hanging in the air. Only two weeks into love and she huddled close, clinging to my arm like a life-long lover. The drizzle blanketed us until it condensed and froze into ice chips on our wool hats. We made it through one-quarter of the football game before retiring to the coffee shop for Café Vienna, turtle cheesecake, and close talking. She shared her favorite new scriptures with me, reciting John 3:16 like it was fresh water. She was enamored with Jesus.

We went to this concert—Burlap to Cashmere, I think it was. She wore her ripped jeans, the ones that exposed her left knee cap when she sat. On Arkansas highway 64, I put my hand on her skin for the first time. It was dark in the car, but I imagine that she blushed hot pink. We awoke love that night.

We were engaged in two months. We were married in thirteen months.

We moved to Tulsa, hung tight to each other through the tight-rope of my new career. We suffered together through a murderous church experience. We clung tight in those early years, exploring the art of love.

And we explored well.

We snuck Champagne into our apartment—a blatant violation of our Baptist prohibition era. We ate strawberries and pretended that we could afford decadent hotel rooms. We lit candles. We said “I love you” in the dark. It was a bit cliché, maybe. But it was our cliché.

It would be a lie to say that I never loved you, Amber. I loved you from the beginning. Don’t ever let me spin an alternative reality.

***

Did you love your spouse in the beginning? Can you tell the truth? The lie is easy, but the truth will set you free.  Feel free to use the comments to dispel the myth. Or, better yet, write a post on your blog dispelling the myth, then tell us about it here.

I would love to hear your stories.