Saturday, September 13, 2008

Anniversary Thoughts

I'm stealing this idea from another blogger frankly, not only because it is my 1st anniversary to my wife this week, but also because I have been thinking about marriage and vows a lot lately.

this is a fairly random collection of thoughts, so watch out. Something that has always influenced the way I think about marriage came from C.S. Lewis. I remember (correctly I hope) reading Lewis reflecting on emotion and wedding vows. He suggested that while a relationship begins with a rush of emotion, love and passion, but these emotions, like any other, wane. And they need to. To live on a constant high of passion would not only be exhausting, but distracting. If we governed our lives totally on passion the basic necessities of life, like washing dishes, doing laundry and going to work, would not get done. Which is why, Lewis suggested, we have marriage vows. The give us a sense of stability for that time when our emotions and passions have subsided. While love is an emotion and therefore can blossom and fade as an emotion, Lewis suggests the love of a christian marriage is an action, the willingness to serve and sacrifice and remain faithful to another, always with compassion and respect, even when we don't feel emotinally like behaving that way, all of which provide the foundation for that passionate emotion to blossom again. (this is how I remember what Lewis said in Mere Christianity. Lewis scholars might differ with me and someone borrowed my copy so I can't really check.)

'My guts are full of shit!'
If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing the movie 'High Fidelity' with John Cusack, his sister Joan, and Jack Black in the funniest and strongest performance of his movie career, please go find it somewhere. It is brilliant and funny and poetic and poignant.

John Cusack's character has just experience another breakup with another girlfriend as the movie opens. He goes on a quest, finding all of the other girlfriends who have dumped him to find out why his is destined to be single. He finds out that largely it is his own fault, because while in one relationship he allows himself to wonder if a better one might be out there, and fantasizing about how much better it could be. His emotions were his guide in other words and he finally states his discovery of the mess his emotions have got him in by saying, 'I've been following my gut all these years and recently I have come to the conclusion that my guts are full of shit!'

Notice the commone theme. Emotions are not the best guide for our decisions and behaviors, especially in marriage. I'm not trying to describe some victorian novel marriage based on convenience and economic and social standing, but I think I have come to the conclusion that emotions do not always lead us toward happiness.

In my first year of marriage (well, my second marriage, her first) I have learned how to manage my emotions in the safe container which is my wedding vows. I have been happy and angry, exstatic and sad, passionate and exhausted, calm and stressed, whimsical and cranky and I have learned that largely that all of these emotions come from within me and not from my lovely wife. I say that because I have worked with some men in my ministry who were unhappy and who decided that their unhappiness was largely because of their wife and their marriage. But once they left and divorced, they were no happier!!! I have worked with married men and women married who met someone else who made them 'happier.' Happier until that relationship became less of a hobby and more of a career if you catch my meaning. When it ceased to be a fun distraction and became the prime focus, it wasn't any happier anymore.

so I have learned that emotions don't guide me well. My wedding vows protect me from my emotional highs and lows. We work out our emotions together, manage them as a team and speak honestly about them, because we know they are not the only thing holding us together, our wedding vows are too.

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