Posted by: crosspeace | October 2, 2009

Just Married

Several weeks ago I was riding behind a pickup truck full of fishing rods, beach gear and all sorts of things dedicated to a relaxed time at the beach. On the tailgate the words “Just Married” were printed in a hand painted script that was already beginning to fall prey to a few showers and time in the sun. It looked like a marriage well along the way to leaving the honeymoon stage and heading into the day-to-day state. I hoped they had a wonderful time and I could see through the window of the truck that they were sitting close together, probably holding hands and were still in that dream state that all honeymooners must some time awake from and do things like getting up in the night to put out the dog or eat cold cereal on the way to work or balance a checkbook that someone forgot to record a check. You know, regular things. Not so much handholding after a day of smooching and fishing on the beach of the Crystal Coast.

A newly married friend wrote me a note which brought this memory of the “just marrieds’ back. It was a slightly wistful note about discovering that some of the letters on the back to the pickup truck of their marriage was beginning to show a small bit of weathering. It’s a place all of us old marrieds have gone and feels a little like it used to feel a couple of days before the end of summer vacation; sort of a mildly sickening feeling in the stomach. It does not put you in bed but it does take the fun out of another hour on the swingset. When I saw my friend’s note and remembered the newlyweds’ truck I thought of the words Just Married.

Just Married when announcing a new marriage is exciting and hopeful and makes sentimental women (some men too, perhaps) tear up and say things like, “Isn’t that sweet?” For a day or a week the new couple are the Prince and Princess of the universe and everyone smiles and wishes them well. Another “just married” is the sort that reveals a sense of tired resignation. Sort of like, not only have I been there, done that and bought the T-shirt but now the tee shirt is worn out and my belly sticks out around the bottom. No one says “Isn’t that sweet” at this Just Married. I suppose they will on the couple’s 60th anniversary as the celebrated couple gum their wedding cake and ice cream and everyone fawns over them for a few hours. The fact is that both of them know that there has been a whole lot of stuff that is not very sweet that has happened to get them there to that point. There was a whole lot of “just married.”But I think most of them understand there is a sweetness unavailable to the newlyweds and most others who have not had the experience.

While I think there are times that we all feel “just married” in the everydayness of our relationships they do have the potential to take us places where we otherwise would not have gone. Marriage is difficult and when it becomes clear that the person we married is not really the person we thought we were marrying there comes a sense of disappointment and betrayal that for some is the beginning of the end. But if we, somehow, through prayer, tears, angry words, forgiveness and Grace work through this we find that the person we married is far better and far different than our weak imaginations ever could have provided for us. We not only marry the other person but we have the benefit and carry the burden of their pasts, parents, successes, failures, exes and all of the stuff that makes them who they are. We do not discover these things on the honeymoon. It is only available over time and experience.

With patience, determination, a dearth of options, and Grace we also may find that we are not who our imaginations told us who we are. We may find that we are far more childish, unattractive and selfish than we ever imagined. But we also may find that we are truly heroic, generous, forgiving and more talented than we ever would have believed. Our experiences together gives us the ability to trust in the other persons behavior in a situation even though we may not like it. For those of us who like a little control in life the predictability of another is a sort of comfort. Even when our spouse’s responses are preditably goofy or just wrong. On good days we are able to laugh about it. On bad days, at least we were able to see it coming and hold a sense of pride in our being prophetic.

My wife and I were looking at a horrible news story the other day about a guy who hit his wife in the head with a hammer. “If you get mad at me, please don’t hit me in the head with a hammer,” she said to me. She knows I wouldn’t. I had taken a picture of her holding a boa constrictor in school recently I told her I might take Bobo the boa and freeze him and club her with him and then the evidence would thaw and slither away. We laughed. Both of us are secure. She might get mad at me, scowl, say something I don’t like but I can trust her. She can trust me. We are just married. There is nothing worth upsetting that for.

God calls us into a perpetual “just married” trusting state with Him. We know his history in scripture. We get to become a part of His very large and dysfunctional family. We get to live and grow in this adventure of relationship and become formed by it. It is seldom easy and often frustrating, for all parties concerned, I am sure. But it is the best game in town. Just as in my own life spent as a single person I never had the opportunity to learn the truth about myself, without this relationship with God I could never learn the things this relationship means in my life. The nice thing about this relationship with Him is the fact that he will never “pack His bags and go home to mother.” NEVER. He will always be there and will always pick up where we left off. My earthly marriage is a model of that and, while fragile and sometimes even painfully ordinary, it is a gift. Marriage is sacramental because God is present within it’s ordinariness in the same way He is in the ordinary water of baptism or bread and wine of the Eucharist.

I think “just married” is a great bumper sticker for couples old and young and for the church.

P.S. In a future blog I want to explore “Just Married” from the perspective of marital relationships. How indeed can we live justly within our marriages? What is justice within the context  of Christian marriage. Need to think about it though.

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