Out along the edge is always where I burn to be.
The further on the edge, the hotter the intensity.
A few days ago, Brett and I were returning from a day out in the country. As usual, he (Maverick) was driving, and I (Goose) had the GPS. And, as usual, the scene turned comically tense. You would think that after twenty-seven years of marriage, we would have this whole 'navigate-as-a-team' thing down, wouldn't you?
Great balls of fire. No.
After we passed the point of dispute, Brett said, "I have a new 'date' idea for the couple considering marriage. Drop them off in the middle of nowhere with just a car and a GPS, and see if they're still talking when they get home."
Last week, we married off one of our daughters. It was the culmination of two years of Alex and Josh getting to know each other, and us (more specifically Brett) getting to know Josh. There were questions and answers. There were long conversations. There were books.
As the wedding approached, I suggested that they depart the reception to Kenny Loggins' Danger Zone. People who didn't get it frowned. People who did (read: married people) snickered. Instead, they departed to the music of our laughter and cheering. It was all good.
Still, I don't think we take marriage seriously enough as a culture, and by that, I mean the church culture. We lump it in with the other commodities of adulthood: job, house, car, spouse. And we treat it just about as reverently. Actually, when we factor in career counselors, home inspectors, and lemon-busters, we take marriage less reverently. Sorry, peeps, those are the hard facts.
But marriage is dangerous business. And all the book studies in the world will prepare us for marriage about as adequately as birth classes prepare us for childbirth. (ha.ha.ha.) It is good to prepare, but until it is finally upon us, it is all theory.
Then we say, "I do."
Welcome to the lab, kids. This is the part where you are going to blow something up. Trust me on this. All of us can remember when we blew something up. More likely, we probably remember more than one occasion where we blew something up. But here's the deal. Resolve to have a Thomas Edison approach to marriage. Edison, according to legend, said about inventing the light bulb, "I didn't fail two thousand times. I found two thousand ways not to make a light bulb."
When you blow something up, and the dust settles, you'll be tempted to wonder, "Did I make the right decision? My marriage has failed."
No. It has not failed. You just found another way not to make a good marriage. Add that one to your stockpile of wisdom...and get right back in the lab.
And get back in there with the right lab equipment.
"When you said (that thing that really hurt/angered me), what did you mean, because I know how I heard it." Two people who have spent their first two decades living for themselves coming together as one flesh can be a communication disaster waiting to happen. But it doesn't have to be. You'd be surprised at how quickly a disagreement can be diffused by first clarifying.
Keep short accounts.
Be slow to get offended, but when you do, be quick to talk about it. Be quick to repent. Be quick to forgive.
"There" is that place that we don't want to talk about. "There" is that place your spouse is never allowed to address. "There" is that place guarded like Fort Knox. You need to go "there" for precisely these reasons, or it will become an infection site in your marriage.
Sometimes, your "there" will sneak up on you. I didn't even know I had a "there"--until Brett pushed on it. Neither of us saw it coming. But it is a deep "there", and we've had to re-visit it several times. Sometimes, "there" will flare up again. Or it will be Truth-resistant. Sometimes your "there" will take vigilant, repeated detoxifying. Wash it with the water of the Word, and submit it to your spouse's inspection. That is what it means to walk covenantally. And your marriage will be healthier for it.
Do apologies correctly.
'I'm sorry' is appropriately used when something bad happens to someone you love, and you are extending compassion.
I'm sorry you lost your job.
I'm sorry your friend abandoned you.
I'm sorry your mom died.
But 'I'm sorry' makes an insipid apology. Woman up. If you did something to wrong your spouse, say so:
"I was wrong for throwing out your One Bad Pig cd. Will you please forgive me?"
There's something humbling that comes when our lips have to say, 'I was wrong.' And more humbling still with, 'Will you please forgive me?' More than that, though, you acknowledge to your spouse in very specific terms that you sinned against him and that you take that very seriously.
And when the situation is reversed and your spouse apologizes, don't say, 'It's all right.'
No. It was not all right; it was a legitimate offense. If it was all right, you would not be standing there having that conversation. Say, 'I forgive you.'
Then end with a great big smooch. And maybe a pat on the butt.
Christian marriages should not be dangerous places. They shouldn't be, but in the Now and the Not Yet, they are. That's why they also need to be places that positively overflow with grace. Your spouse will give you reasons to extend unmerited favor. And you will give him reasons, too. Extend it.
Gonna take it right into the Danger Zone.