Friday, December 31, 2010


"I think we should just be friends." Those words have always loomed as a guillotine to any romantic interest. Their weight has crushed many hopeful hearts. They're meant to soften the punch, but they always feel like the kiss of Judas. Just friends? That's it? Well, I have more than enough friends, just look at my Facebook page! But at second glance, I'm beginning to see that I've underestimated the value of friendship in the realm of romance. I've always segregated the two. Now that I think about it, I'm quite the dunce, after all she is called a girlfriend.

I've heard many people say that you should marry your bestfriend. I realize now that my perspective on love had always been so unrealistic and immature that that sage advice never made sense to me. But now I actually believe it. Micheal W. Smitty was right when he sang those ol' campy words "Friends are friends forever if the Lord's the Lord of them." Romance comes and goes, but friendship remains. In 2 Samuel, David said of Jonathan "Your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women." Apparently, what David had with Jonathan and didn't have with women was a deep friendship. Yet, I think it is possible to have that kind of friendship in a marriage.

As I'm trying to decide what kind of a person I should marry, what I'm really doing is deciding on what kind of a friend I want to have for the rest of my life. I now realize that the qualities that I look for in a friend are very similar to what I am looking for in a wife. I think that he who finds a true friend finds a good thing. So the question is what is a true friend? I think that wedding vows mirror the covenant of a true friendship--"for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part." A true friendship is unconditional. A sincere friend will love you through your insanity, your failure, your crap. When your world falls apart they will help you put it back together. You can lay down your armor around your friends and know that you're safe. You share a language of unmasked honesty. A good friend is a vault for your secrets, and will go to battle for you when anyone speaks ill of you. A real friend enjoys your God-given personality, quirks and all, and they won't try to change you into someone else. They believe in you, they invest in you. You are on a journey together and will never leave the other behind, come what may. You will both fight for the friendship as if you are fighting for your very lives. You will wrong each other and you will forgive gratuitously because the friendship is more important than being in the right.

I now realize that venturing further into friendship is to be on my way to sublime love. Jesus said "No greater love has a man than to lay down his life for a friend." That's as good as it gets, finding someone who will die for you, and you for them. In hindsight, I've known a lot of people, but I've had few real friends. Some friendships aren't really friendships, some "friends" just take and take and they'll stick around as long as you give them what they want, or be who they need you to be. Oddly enough, it is very possible to build a relationship on selfishness, where there is an unspoken agreement that if certain conditions aren't met then love will be withheld. But that's not love, and that's not friendship. Anyway, I hope to marry a real friend. Or rather, I hope to be a real friend to her. It goes both ways. As the ancient proverb says "He who desires friends must himself be friendly."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What Is The Point of Marriage?

Our generation's version of love is broken. The well is poisoned and we all keep drinking from it. When something like marriage is working less than half the time, it is in need of more than minor adjustments. As a culture, this calls for a massive, messy gutting. This calls for a complete reprogramming in the way we understand love and relationships. If we stubbornly keep venturing farther down the same road then we are going to get the same results, it'll just get worse.

It's odd to me that most married couples seem to gauge the success of their marriage simply based on how many years they've been married. Each anniversary is another gold star. If they've been married 30 years, then it's considered a success by most standards and everybody claps. But to us singles, it always sounds like they're riding a mechanical bull, and that it's all about how long you can stay on. Apparently, you're supposed to get married and then just hang on for dear life as you're whipped around and whoever stays on the longest wins. At least that's the impression I'm left with. And when that's my impression, it makes me wonder if I really want all that added turbulence in my life, it sounds nauseating. Afterall, marriage is not a command, it is an option according to the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. Some people portray marriage as if it is a trial that you volunteer for. They speak of marriage as if it is God's instrument of torture to make you a better person. However, I'm not convinced that that was God's intent. If that's the case then it seems like some sort of nasty prank. I always thought it was supposed to be a blessing. Nevertheless, life presents plenty of character-building trials whether or not you're married.

I wonder if marriages are failing because many are unclear about the point of marriage. If we don't know the vision, then we don't know the goal, and we have no reference for success. And at that point, we reduce marital accomplishment to the number of years a couple stays married. Once again, we only consider a marriage to be a failure if divorce happens. And again, that criteria seems funny to me because we wouldn't evaluate the excellence of someone's life simply based on how long they managed to stay alive. To be fair, relationships are difficult to assess on paper. We like our numeric systems. And so we measure relationships using years as a unit. That way we can put in into Excel and add it up and graph it.

Be that as it may, this brings me back to my initial question: What is the point of marriage? I have some thoughts of my own, but I want to leave it up for discussion. . .what do you think? Is it to help us understand Jesus's love and commitment toward the church? Is it to help us serve God better? Is the point to have sex and "be fruitful and multiply?" Is it to make us happy? Is it a self-improvement method? Is there something else to it? In addition to my first question, what do you think God deems as a good marriage?

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Do You Think?

Last night, a group of us were talking about dating and marriage. It's always a topic where everyone has something to offer and something to learn. I learned that a girl wants a guy to tell her right away if he is at all interested in her. That was news to me, I guess I always thought that I had to have my feelings clearly defined and my intentions mapped out before having that talk. But apparently I was wrong.

It's curious to me that even though dating and marriage are such a big deal, God didn't give us a whole lot of instructions about the whole thing. There is so much left to the imagination, so many questions unanswered, so much room for so many mistakes. We are like children playing with sharp objects. How do you know who's right for you? Is there one right person for you? How do you know if you're in love? What's the right way to go about dating? What's the difference between "pursuing" someone and stalking someone? Most people have passionate opinions about all of this, and its difficult to separate fact from fiction.

Recently, something shifted in my heart and I think it's good. Something settled. It dawned on me that I've been looking for someone that doesn't exist. This whole time I've been looking for a girl who's perfect. I've never met her and I never will because nobody's perfect. And the more I think about it, it would be a terrible idea to marry someone who's perfect because it would make me feel like the beast in the relationship. And why should I expect that other person to be perfect when I'm not even close? I've realized that I've had a double standard. It's actually quite selfish, come to think of it.

Anyway, rather than killing the romantic inside me, I'm forcing him to look long and hard at the real world. It seems like we've bought into the idea that being "in love" is initially the most important thing for developing a satisfying relationship. But I'm beginning to question that whole concept. I'm not sure that it's real. What if falling in love is not like winning the lottery or being struck by lightning? What if falling in love really is a choice? What if it is something that you invest in and work at and master?

We live in a culture where we think we are always the victims and we are always shifting the blame. Especially when it comes to love and relationships. We see love as something that happens to us. And so we wait for the day when the stars align and we are kissed by a love that wakes us from our slumber. But maybe it's within reach, maybe it's not somewhere out there but maybe it's within us. Maybe it's not something that you wait for, but maybe it's something that you work toward. And maybe it has less to do with the other person than we think. It's funny how each one of us think that we are the main character in our love story, and we just assume that the other person will be glad to play a supporting role. It's interesting how celebrity marriages don't look all that different than normal marriages. Everyone's got a celebrity complex in some way.

These days I try to imagine myself married to this or that girl. God sometimes gives me a glimpse of a possible future. But often times it's not too far removed from the present. It seems that the present is a peephole to the future. In the realm of relationships, I take a close look at my friendship with a particular girl. If there is frustration or confusion or drama in the friendship right now, then that will most certainly be a liability in a future marriage. It's not anything that we couldn't work out but it's just good to be aware of those things beforehand so that I know what I'm getting myself into. On the other hand, if there are special blessings about our friendship right now, then those would also carry over into our marriage.

I've been weighing which is more valuable, peace or passion in a relationship. Peace in the midst of all this chaos is so beautiful it's haunting. When there is peace, you just know that God is there, the One who calms storms and silences demons. I think if I had to choose between peace and passion then I would choose peace in a relationship. Maybe that's not a popular choice, but I've never really trusted the majority vote. Not that I don't want passion, I do. But feverish passion has never been a reliable compass for me. For me, the peace of God has always fullfilled its promises. It seems like all the good marriages have lots of peace and all the bad ones have lots of passion. Often, what begins as a swooning blaze ends up burning down the house. I've never heard of peace doing any damage. For the record, I love passion and I consider myself to be passionate. Actually passion comes easy for me. But peace is something that is harder to come by, and that's why I want it.