On Love and Mawwiage

As an impressionable young college student who was still something of a baby Christian (I was saved at 14, so maybe by college I was a preschooler, ready to learn letter sounds?), I heard many a chapel speaker say confidently of marriage: it's about commitment, not feeling.

May I please tell you, ten years into a marriage my young college self didn't ever want to have, that marriage is about both feeling and commitment? After all, why does one commit in the first place? Does that reason not involve both head and heart? As I stood at the sink washing dishes, I mentally composed this blog post. I was delighted to find that my last post was on a similar topic, even though I wrote it almost a year ago. I feel that in our years of marriage,

 I have learned some things, both from watching others and from living with Andrew:

1) I had the privilege of spending time with Andrew's maternal grandparents while both were still living (his grandfather passed away a couple years ago). In his last years, Andrew's grandfather didn't remember many of his family members, even his own daughters. And as I watched Andrew's grandmother care for her husband, I was stricken with the idea that when we marry, we don't usually actually picture what "in sickness" may look like. But how beautiful it was to see one spouse care for another, especially in very difficult times. This, I think, is what marriage is about.

2) Feelings happen. Denying them or belittling them does nobody any good. In my own experience (full disclosure: I'm blue-green, but mostly blue), I cannot move past an emotional reaction until I acknowledge my feelings and figure out where they came from. Then and only then can I look at the facts. Sometimes, this means I clean the house or otherwise distract myself from deep, meaningful conversation with my husband for a couple of days - not to avoid a conversation or put my feelings in a box, but to sort the feelings from the situation before I say something in anger that I really don't want to say. My husband is human, as am I. I like him like he is, but sometimes the little things seem to outweigh my perception of who I know he is, so I find it helpful to step back and evaluate and reweigh those little things against the larger picture of who he is. Yes, that means feelings. No, it doesn't mean the feelings always win. This, I think, is what marriage is about.

3) Having children has changed the dynamics of our marriage, the amount of chores we share and how they are distributed, and sometimes the boys flat out zap all my energy, leaving me feeling less like a woman and more like a caregiver. This is when date nights help - not when they are done out of obligation, appointment, or habit, but when they are needed and appreciated and altogether more organic. And yes, Redbox and a bottle of wine after the kids go to bed counts as a date night. I've also found that I struggled with staying at home with the boys not because I didn't want to be there, but because I didn't want someone else's dogma deciding that doing so was my place as a woman. While becoming a mother has helped me to reach new levels of empathy and understand God's grace more deeply, it's been a challenge to my inner militant feminist. But thankfully, Andrew and I have never been the couple that puts on airs or roles for each other. We are who we are - known and accepted.

I don't know that my former impressionable college self would have agreed with some of my current thoughts on marriage. She probably would have thought they were thoroughly unromantic, and she'd be right. But she also didn't know anything about how man-woman relationships work (plus scientifically her brain wasn't finished leveling out).

If I could sit my younger self down, I would tell her how well-meaning those chapel speakers were, and that they probably didn't mean to imply that marriage is only about choice and commitment and therefore is an arbitrary force of will. What I think they meant to say is that college students away from home for the first time shouldn't necessarily assume that because they really really like each other that marriage is the only logical conclusion. It was for Andrew and me, by the way, but it isn't that way for every couple. Marriage should not be entered into without heaping amounts of prayer, reflection, maturity, and knowledge about each other. The feelings alone aren't enough to make it work when the kids have been crying all day, the checkbook is overdrawn, and the two of you can't agree on what to do with the tax refund you haven't even gotten yet.

C.S. Lewis said that “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” I would say marital love isn't only an affectionate feeling, but an ongoing desire to share every part of your life with your spouse, and to encourage him or her to be the best person possible, at whatever cost to onself.

And my younger self would roll her eyes and go to Taco Bell. But at least I would have tried.


The straw that broke the camel's back was this:

The local Christian station that I really enjoy listening to, especially with my sponge-like boys hearing every little thing, even when you think they're not listening, has been running a 1 to 2-minute spot about how there's a current movement in psychiatry/psychology away from acknowledging fact in favor of only acknowledging feeling, specifically in the area of marital conflict resolution. The supposed idea is that to introduce any type of fact into an argument is to invalidate the other spouse's feelings, so in effect this makes the facts irrelevant. The radio announcer goes on to say that the Bible tells us to test disputes by using one or two witnesses, 'in other words 'facts'," to come to a resolution. The claim made here is that feelings are wrong and facts are the Christian way to resolve disputes.


Before  you read further, I should tell you that I think this will have to be more than one post, so consider this the first in a series, and I can't promise the series will be written quickly. But I will finish, which means I must start.

In BSF this week, we read 1 Peter 1 & 2. One of the study questions asked us to look at verse 23 of chapter one and then explain in our own words what it means to be born again. The very next question told us to share how this process has occurred in our own lives. I was so glad they asked. I'll share with you what I wrote:
"At the age of fourteen, my mother, brother, and I joined a church after years of visiting different ones. I had been in a dark and sad, lonely place until that day, when I felt the Holy Spirit wash over and indwell me, and I was changed."

That's how salvation happened for me, folks. He just changed me. I was not the same person on the inside after that. I've never gone back to that dark place because of His grace and mercy, which began working in my life in the realest, most intangible way that day in 1996. I understand that for others salvation is a different experience -  more of a conscious turning from one mindset to another in ultimate surrender to who He is. But for me, years passed - maybe until college - before I could confidently state that I was saved that day, because it happened in such an inexplicable way. I remember the rush of exhilaration I felt and the tears I cried on my mother's lap because I felt so overwhelmed by what was happening. But I didn't know what to call it until I was able to look back at my pre-adolescent versus my adolescent years, see the difference, and boldly accept what He did in me that day.

The point I am making is that salvation was a feeling for me before it was a rational doctrinal principle I could stand on. This doesn't make it any less real or significant. It's just the way it happened for me. With that said, I'll save more of my thoughts on faith vs. feeling and why I think it's a lose-lose battle in later posts. Til then, here are some verses to chew on. Perhaps you can add to them?

  • Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Matthew 18:16 (I think this may be the verse the radio announcer was referring to.)
  • Romans 8:26
  • 1 Corinthians 3:13
  • John 11:35
  • Jeremiah 17:9
  • 1 John 3:16
  • 1 Peter 1:22
  • 1 Peter 4:8
  • Psalm 37:4
Before I leave you entirely, I do want to make it clear that I don't think feelings should rule our lives and that we should let them run rampant and do whatever they dern well please, but there is a middle ground between being controlled by feelings and being controlled by reason. Is it so crazy that the Lord Himself should be given control even over our emotions as we exercise the self-control to which we have access through His holy Spirit, and as a result of our submission of our entire lives to Him? To me, that's not ceasing to feel or acknowledge feeling; it's just letting Him have my feelings along with everything else.


I haven't spent

much time today in somber, reflective thought like a good Episcopalian probably should. I have thanked God for His sacrifice and spent quality time with my family, enjoying Andrew's day off instead of cleaning, scrubbing, painting, and laundering it away. And somehow I think that still counts.

I've read most of one of Lauren Winner's books - Girl Meets God - at the suggestion of our pastor and friend, who has read and was impressed by Mudhouse Sabbath. A couple of years ago, I got this serious case of Jewish-people-envy. I felt like there must be so much more to the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, than Protestants such as myself could ever hope to grasp without viewing Scripture through the lens of Judaism. I was sharing my thoughts when Jim Watson introduced me to Ms. Winner's righting. And it was like-at-first-sentence. So when Tamryn linked me to a post on a blog she reads, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a book review of a new book by Winner.

If I'm being honest - and why should I be? I mean, they don't call me Honest Q for nothin' - I took my time reading this brief post(and have yet to finish Winner's book as well), and I've purposely not spent much time reading Rachel Evans's blog because it's almost too much for me to hope for, that someone else asks the hard questions and doesn't always find the easy, pat answers sufficient, that there's a kindred out there who shares her feelings and doubts freely, who wants to know God deeply and not just settle for the quick answers and the commonly held interpretations of Scripture. It seems so rare to come across such a fellow deep thinker and Christian in life, that I stop just short of believing it's possible to connect with such a someone across the interwebs, in such a deep and personal way.

In related news, I revealed to Andrew this week that I've figured out I'm a bit like a turtle - hard protective shell, likely to withdraw into it at the first sign of trouble, a slow but deliberate mover, unlikely to bite or hurt others unless provoked but equally as unlikely to let my true and unprotected self hang out there for too long before withdrawing to make sure I remain protected. (I even sleep like a turtle, with the covers almost completely over my head...)

I've been trying to process a lot lately, trying to reconcile my sometimes-doubt with my ever-present faith in a God who's bigger than I can ever understand. I think Winner addresses some of the same issues in her newest book, linked above. And if I may leave you with a parting, Easter-tide thought: I often struggle with the idea of God's justice, trying to reconcile the wrath and anger of God in the OT as opposed to the grace and love given in the NT, and the thought occurred to me one day that if I cannot understand the gift of God's grace and sacrifice, how can I hope to understand His justice?

Just a thought. Happy Easter, peeps.


I probably

shouldn't have left you hanging so long with that last one. It was rather heavy, wasn't it?

My bad.

I did attend Keri's funeral, and the pastor of NBBC spoke about the healing Jesus did at what was essentially a funeral, since Lazarus died before Jesus arrived to heal him. The thing I never caught about that story that the pastor pointed out was that Jesus wept with Lazarus's family - even with the full knowledge that He would heal Lazarus, and that not only would Lazarus have eternal life after the resurrection of all the dead but that he would live again on this earth after Jesus brought him back to life. It was just the message I needed to hear, and was a stark contrast to the typical celebratory Christian homegoing service. Though much mention was made of Keri's life here on Earth as well as her current rejoicing in the presence of Christ Himself, the appropriateness of grief at her passing was given a place as well - rather than just a passing mention.

Last week, I joined BFFJ in Dallas for her - ahem - 20-10th birthday, a session during which we each got a mockingjay tattoo, and a viewing of the just-released Hunger Games movie. (All of which were awesome, btw)

Since coming back from that weekend - which included both fun and work - I've had lots of balls in the air to juggle, and I may or may not have had a meltdown during an inappropriate time last week. With that in mind, I'd like to share with you some of the phrases I use when I need to give myself a pep talk. I find repeating each of these phrases in my mind is helpful when I start to feel overwhelmed.

  • Be quick to listen and slow to speak. (My cousin Candace reminded me of this just the other day - post meltdown. I could have used this advice beforehand, but I should appreciate it more now that I have a bad experience in my rearview.)
  • My children are a joy and privilege to raise, not a burden to be borne. (During the long days and weeks when their behavior is off for whatever reason, potty accidents are more numerous than potty successes, and naptimes seem to be silly things I once dreamed of rather than actually happened, I have to tell myself these words. And take a deep breath. And hug my children instead of yelling at them. And the truth is that so many women wish they could have children and cannot, and that even those who had children wish they had healthy ones, and even still others wish their children were half as well-behaved as mine sometimes are. It's all about perspective. And this particular phrase helps me to change out of my pity party pants and into my big girl pants.)
  • Freedom, beauty, truth, and love (What can I say? I may have learned this grouping of words from the Moulin Rouge , but when I think of this phrase, and the powerful symbolism of the mockingjay, I can't help but remember what it means when Paul says that it is for freedom Christ set us free.)