Sunday, July 30, 2006

We Clean Up Good

My wife and I at a friend's wedding in mid-July ... we clean up good, don't we? I was actually standing up with the groom, hence the tuxedo. But the whole experience - plus the fact my son has a steady girlfriend - set me to thinking about my own marriage, and questions I wish someone had asked me before I got married.

No doubt nothing would have changed, Bonnie's a wonderful woman and I have ABSOLUTELY no regrets, but these are some things I wish someone had made me at least think about before we knitted and knotted our lives together.

Do you understand everything will change? Can this person change with you?
Between the ages of 18 and 24, everything changes. Every. Thing. The way you look at the world, your social circle, the way you handle money, the way you look at the rest of the world, the way you eat and sleep, your views on religion, politics, sexuality, and every other big issue and in the middle of all this change you have to figure out where you fit in to the big picture of life for the next 50 years.

There's an old joke that says "a man marries a woman thinking she'll never change, and a woman marries a man thinking she can change him ... and they're both wrong." At the time most people get married, their life is already in a constant state of flux and growth and change ... and now you're adding another whole life into that mixture. You'd better both be sure you can make those changes together and come out the other side as stronger, happier versions of yourselves.

What goals do you have in life? Can this person help you achieve them? Can you help him or her achieve his or her own goals?
If not, better to wait. Because marriage is forever. At least it's supposed to be. You want to climb the Himalayas? Does he? Does she? If not, there's a dream gone bust and a regret that will simmer in the back of your heart until an innocent disagreement over the way you brush your teeth erupts into a full-blown marital World War III.

Old hurts and missed chances have a way of popping up and ruining a relationship unless you are able to thoroughly and completely let go of them. And that's a dang hard thing to do.

Do you make each other laugh? Can you carry on a conversation all night long? Apart from the snuggling and social activities and dates, do you long to be near this person?
In short, is this person your friend? Your best friend? Because the passionate flames will turn to smoldering embers soon enough and there's only so much money to keep you occupied with activities and dates ... in the end, there's just the two of you. If you can't find happiness - and by that I mean true contentment, the joy of just "being" - with this person, then perhaps you still haven't found the right one for you. Keep looking.

How do you feel about children? When do you want them? How many?
It's amazing to me that most couples only have a vague idea for an answer to this question. "Yes we want children. No, not right away," are about the only answers I hear. Do you understand how much wiggle room is in those statements? Define "not right away," for starters. One year? Two? Ten? Is this how the other person defines it?

See earlier paragraph on being able to change with one another.

Finally, can you keep your word?
Because that's what it all comes down to: making a commitment to this person for the rest of your long, long life and sticking to that commitment through thick, thin, and all the gooey stuff in between. The marriage vows kind of cover all the territory here: richer-poorer, sickness-health, better-worse, forsaking all others until death do you part. Those words should strike terror into your heart that only a complete and utter trust in your own fidelity and integrity can quench.


Those are the questions I wish I'd been asked. From this end of the calendar I know the answers. 23 years ago, maybe not so much. But I sure would have liked the chance to think and talk about these questions with my fiancee. Who knows how she would have answered? Who knows what would have happened?

What kind of questions do you wish you'd been asked?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day, 2006

I wrote this in Mark Mail today:

I never quite know how to feel on patriotic days. I am an American by birth, a Christian by second birth, and those two sometimes walk hand-in-hand and sometimes, by necessity, are poles apart.

As an American, I'm proud of our accomplishments, ashamed of our excesses, horrified by our abuses, and yet confident of our future.

As a Christian, I feel much the same way, actually, only with a good deal more humility and not nearly so much pride, and I am more than confident, I am absolutely convinced of an eternal destiny and a bright, heavenly future.

I saw a sign outside a church I passed yesterday that set me on to this thinking. It said, "American and Proud, Christian and Humble." That is the unique dynamic in which we find ourselves - Christians, I mean - living.

Personally, I'm not sure I know how to do that. Any ideas?