Saturday, September 8, 2012

Molding Me


NOTE: I am discussing a concept from a book I haven't read. This is because said book hasn't been released yet. I have no idea if this is the meaning behind Mr. Thomas' book or not, so if I'm out in left field and come across as two sandwiches short of a picnic, don't blame him and still read his book because Gary Thomas is THE MAN!

But you should still read my blog because people who are two sandwiches short of a picnic are frequently highly amusing! 

Gary Thomas has a new book coming out in January. Sacred Search, written to the unmarried crowd, basically deals with this question: what if it’s not about who you marry but why?

This idea has been rolling around in my head for about six months now.

Not about *who* but *why* . . .

I don’t spout opinions about marriage because I’m not married. And I don’t think about marriage much because if I did I might discover I really want to be married and then I’d have to put forth some effort, i.e. finding a dude to marry, who can handle that I am bossy, and messy, and chatty, and can hear everything, and take things far too personally, and procrastinate, and sometimes border on irresponsible. I also lose my patience with the snide, the hypercritical, the angry, the moralistic, and people who think they know everything because, after all, don’t they know I KNOW EVERYTHING???

Oh, and I completely flip out if I feel controlled on any level. And although I don’t like flipping out, it will happen inevitably. Good luck with that.

And for someone as extraverted as I appear, I really am so much of an introvert communication regarding anything which matters is incredibly difficult.

And I’m this weird combination of liberal and conservative most people don’t “get”. And when I vote, I have this personal litmus test for candidates, which doesn’t really value platforms (another topic for another day, my friends). And I don’t care to argue about it either. I don’t like to argue because I want people to like me far too much.  

Oh, and I don’t want to be bothered for about an hour after I get home from work. And don’t initiate discussions with me regarding anything irritating between the hours of nine in the evening and seven in the morning. It simply is not safe.

I am shocked and appalled at my awfulness upon proofing the above. But I think it’s pretty accurate, except I’m also funny and kind and generally patient and hard-working and giving and not particularly materialistic and slow to anger and above and beyond helpful and concerned for people in addition to all the other crap. 

Plus, at times, I am suspicious I might be incredibly brilliant.  

It’s a package deal my friends. This is because I’m human.

So basically, what I’m getting out of this concept is in a marriage both people are bringing in a mountain of “stuff”—good, bad, and otherwise. The sacrifice is both parties have to learn to deal with the other’s “stuff”—good, bad, and otherwise. The benefit is gaining the companionship of someone who is willing to deal with your “stuff”—good, bad, and otherwise.

At least in theory, anyway—I’m assuming the system isn’t perfect.

Now granted, I haven’t read the book because it hasn’t come out yet, but the whole idea is just something I haven’t considered, well, ever, in regards to marriage. I’ve just always assumed it would be incredibly difficult for me to be married because I’m not perfect, a fact which isn’t thrilling, and since everyone seems to have it far more together, they have perfect marriages and relationships with ease.

I, on the other hand, shouldn’t even try because I would fail. And I can’t fail because I just simply don’t like the idea I’m not perfect, because, after all, everyone else is.

At least that was the lie which tumbled in my head for many, many years.

A while back I was talking to a friend about the book of Ruth. She said it possessed advice on so many things, including dating and relationships. For a while I disagreed with the statement because personally I can’t get behind the whole threshing floor scenario (again, another story for another day my friends), but maybe that isn’t the advice embedded in the book of Ruth. Maybe it’s bigger.

The reality is Ruth needed a “kinsmen redeemer” in her circumstance. And so do I. Maybe I need to be neater, more responsible, develop a level of assertiveness, and a sense of what I value beyond the values of the group. Maybe I need to learn to accept people for who they are, as opposed to feeling offended for how they've offended my sense of value. Self improvement for the sake of another person would be painful, but a stagnant life isn’t what God intends for us.

And now, more than ever, I am confident love is a greater picture than a giddy feeling or a jolt of sheer electricity as he runs his hand down your back . . . that, my friends, is hormones. 

Or static electricity. Sometimes it's hard to tell. 

I’m not saying I’m confident marriage is in God’s plan for me. I’m just saying at 38 the idea isn’t quite as daunting as before. 

3 comments:

  1. I'm not sure what the book espouses, but here's my well-informed and completely biased opinion on marriage. (I am happily married, and have been for 6 years.)

    1. Who you marry is very important. I married by best friend, someone who I genuinely like as a person and who likes me. We like to do things together - whether it's eating dinner, of hanging out (he's sitting next to me now while I write this), or traveling. And, you know, the other stuff. Liking the person you marry on a very fundamental level will also get you through your rough times. (Because everyone has rough times, including us.) My husband and I are both independent people who don't "need" the other person around as the basis of our identity. At the same time, if he were gone it would be like cutting off my arm. He is my greatest advisor, my dearest friend, and the love of my life. I wish everyone could have this experience.

    2. The reasons for marrying are equally important. Or, rather, the reasons NOT to be married are equally important. In my 20's I had a girlfriend who married a relatively wealthy guy simply because he was the world's idea of the "right" package and "because [she] hadn't done anything else in [her] life." I'll bet you can guess how well that's turned out. She's miserable, he's miserable, the kids are miserable. The whole situation is just miserable. She is not alone - a lot of people get married for all the wrong reasons, and there are a lot of wrong reasons. I also think a lot of people get married with a poor understanding of who they and their spouse are individually and as a couple. Where I see the most conflict around traditional gender roles and notions of beauty, money, and success. I strongly believe most women (probably all) shouldn't even think about getting married until their late 20's because they experience so much personal growth and development during that time.

    Anyway, mindful of this important lesson of my friend's experience, I married someone I wanted to keep hanging out with for the foreseeable future. (This phrase from another friend who was happily married.) Since I don't believe in divorce (for a variety of reasons that aren't meant to judge people who are divorce), I was careful about who I made this type of commitment to. I didn't get married to have kids, or have the "perfect" family, or because it was what I was "supposed" to do. We married because we liked each other and wanted to spend our lives together.

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  2. 3. Before we married, we developed a very long, highly rational list of things we wanted to sort out. His family background and mine are radically different, and as two very rational, highly analytical minds we wanted to sort through all the many questions we had about how we'd run our lives together. I'd also had a friend whose husband announced in the hospital room after their first child was born that she'd have to give up her career to stay home, or he would (and he made a lot more money than she did.) They'd never discussed these, and many other, important questions around how they'd run their lives. (Our church required us to attend marriage classes before we married, and in the company of other couples we discovered how rare our excel spreadsheet was. And how common our friends' situation was.) Our excel spreadsheet included finances (full disclosure), how we'd manage money (one big pot - this is a HUGE discussion), tons of things about children, "gender roles" (which I think is hogwash), how to handle in-laws (I have crazies on my side, and his have their own quirks), and how we'd deal with a variety of problems we'd seen our parents and friends go through. We even discussed things like how often to eat out (I prefer to eat at home) and how many pets to have (my first pet was a cow and I've always had pets, while he grew up without pets.) To a large extent, that spreadsheet has governed our marriage so it was important that we were honest, open, and vulnerable in creating it.

    4. As far as God's plan for you, I believe that is somewhat determined by you. While I didn't set out to find my husband (and had given up on dating after a bad relationship), when he arrived I was not trying to determine what I wanted. It was, perhaps, one of the only times I've just let things take their natural course. He asked me to dinner, and I didn't have anything better to do, so I went. He didn't piss me off during dinner (see above bad relationship), so I agreed to go out with him again. And so on... My husband is very different from any of the other guys I ever dated, and if I'd had preconceived notions about who I'd marry (like the checklist many of my friends had), I don't think he's have been on it. For probably 6 months, I couldn't figure out why I was dating him other than the fact that he was nice, funny, he treated me well (In a non-treacly, not superficial way), and I liked being around him.

    I hope that helps you along your way.

    Best,

    -angela


    P.S. One last note, I did not expect marriage to make me happy or for my husband to complete me. I think many people do, and I believe that's a fallacy. I was happy before I was married and I'm happy being married. I feel like I spent too much misguided time in my 20's "searching." The old say that it's the journey not the destination is true. Because once you get married, people immediately wonder when you'll have kids (2 years) and when you'll have another (2-3 years after that) and when you (as the woman) will quit your job to stay at home an be the perfect stay at home mom with the perfect family and the perfect life. And it's all just a load of hooey. My relative happiness has not improved since we married (though I am happy), and we've chose to eschew the "traditional" path to find what works best for us. I think it's turned out pretty well.

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  3. Love this post! I’m so glad to know another freak like me. Except I’m probably not as kind, compassionate and funny as you are.

    I think you’ve hit on something with the idea of our need for a Redeemer. I don’t know how many times Satan has told me that I’m single because I’m flawed. But then God reminds me that if that were the case, no one would be married. Everyone who’s married is marred (Rom 3:23). He goes on to explain that I’m single because He has incredible plans for me—just like He has incredible plans for married people (Eph 2:10).

    It wasn’t until I had a greater understanding of the gospel (I am more wicked than I ever dared believe, yet more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope) that I realized I don’t have to measure up to a man’s expectations of the perfect wife. That’s good news because I can’t measure up. I’m a broken, depraved sinner with no hope of self-improvement. That’s why I need Jesus to pay the price for me—a price I can never pay. The more I realize that, the more I’m humbled that He willingly died for me (Eph 2:8-9). He paid for my sin and gave me the hope of His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21).

    I find freedom in knowing I don’t have to be a better person so I can convince some man to marry me (or to convince God to love me). A husband loves his wife like Christ loves the church—laying down his life for her while she is still a sinner (Romans 5:8) so that she may become perfect, not because she already is perfect (Eph 5:25-28).

    Marriage is such a great picture of the gospel, isn’t it? Even to those of us who watch it from afar.

    Thanks for reminding me.

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