"Death-proof" Your Marriage: The Four Voices to Guide Us Before Death Parted Us

Well, this is a bit different for me.  It is Saturday and here I am typing.  My oldest is at work and my daughter is sleeping in.  The former is in his senior year of high school and the younger, thanks to our county and state’s creativity, will be enrolling in college.  I am so very proud of both of them.  They are each their own person - unique and amazing.  They have faced so much adversity and overcome so much to be where they are.  

You have no idea.  No, I mean it: you do not.  Very, very few people do.  Out of respect for both of them, I have protected their stories.  They own them.  Their stories are just that: theirs’ and they will be the ones who will really tell it.  Heather and I played our roles as best we could, and now I am working on trying to prepare the launch pad solo.  That is my story.


In this season of discernment, I have been focusing this week on the breath prayer: “Light of Life, I can’t see.  Be light to my feet.”  As I sense the Spirit’s leading this week, I have come to face some ghosts in my soul and to see a couple of steps in front of me.

One of the things has been reflecting on the incredible marriage Heather and I experienced.  We didn’t do it without some hard work, hard times, and hard prayer but we did not do it on our own either.  As a pastor and certified marriage counselor,I have been blessed to take a glimpse into a number of relationships in 20 years of ministry.  I’ve seen good and bad.  

There is so much to write on but today, I want to identify the “voices” that spoke into our marriage, those people and writings we used that made our marriage work.  What you have to know is this: we did the hardest lifting before we ever got married.  When we made it to the altar “on time,” we had done the work we needed done.  Here is where the rubber met the road.


Dr. Joy was a professor and mentor of both Heather and I.  We both loved Don and, as all students do with teachers we loved, we laughed a lot at Don’s expense (sorry Don!)  BUT Don’s teaching on the steps of “pair bonding” were our guide and we did this right.  Heather and I did not skip a step.  Period. Immaturity often reigns even in grad school and but thankfully Asbury Theological Seminary had a “sex doctor” who has mentored many couples.  My students in youth ministry will know these steps because I taught them all the way through my ministry.  I am thankful for Don and Robbie’s care and grace with which they have served the Church these many years and are continuing to do so.


Good marriages don’t just happen, they are bonded together.  Our’s was.


This was the premarital training we used and what I was trained and certified in.  They have stayed on top of things and continue to support those of us who are caring for couples.  There are Prepare/Enrich counselors almost everywhere.  I think Heather secretly loved it every time I went through this course with couples.  The reason?  I came home a better husband and father because of it.  


I know so many who have gone through this and it is one of two books I consider recommending to couples.  It applies and is not only helpful for couples but parents and there are copies of this for children and teens now.  You may not always get this right, but for Heather and I, we tried to be attentive to living this out.  And I’ll tell you something else.  I know it was a “fight” to keep me away from Heather but I knew what most didn’t: her love language was “quality time.”  Of course I was going to fight to be with her to the end, even in my own imperfections.


This is the second of the two books I recommend to couples.  Usually, with younger couples, these are important topics not often covered or talked about...sadly.  Often the title scares people: “WHAT?!?!  I’m not planning on an affair!”  Of course not so DON’T let it slip in.  


Going back to Dr. Joy’s book, his work is based on that of anthropologist, Dr. Desmond Morris who writes a simple and profound statement, our culture has a hard time with:


“To say that ‘marriage is a partnership,’ as is so often done, is to insult it and to completely misunderstand the true nature of the bond of love...In a partnership one merely exchanges favours; There is no ‘give and take’ in true loving, only giving.”   


Can I get an “amen” from my fellow widows/widowers and caregivers?


There was nothing easy about this week either.  It was a hard week for my spirit and soul.  It was a fruitful week too, both on this aspect but also in additional areas of listening for the Holy Spirit’s leading for next steps.  I look forward to returning to some of this, especially the subject of Bonding as we are sorely missing healthy, scientifically and theologically sound, reflections on building relationships and marriages in our age.

I am left with a rather peaceful calm I did not expect.  Discerning the prayers the Spirit is leading us to pray versus the prayers we want to have answered is not an easy task.  It is far easier to fight for our own passions or allow worry to dictate or just push the practice of prayer to the side completely.  Don’t.  This is what I meant by LEAN IN - trust in the Lord with YOUR heart - not others who claim to have God’s heart.


Image used with permission: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/weddingrings-5-1482258

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