Why do I love thee? Let me count…

It’s funny how sometimes a person can make an offhanded comment that just settles
in my mind and won’t go away. In introducing part of her list of 100 Reasons
Why I Love My Husband
, Lori said

I realised I ought to change the name of these lists. These aren’t reasons
WHY I love my husband. I can’t say WHY I do, I just do. I do because I can’t
help
myself. I do because of everything, I just love him. But I can easily say what
kind of things I love ABOUT him.

She’s absolutely right. I made my list of 100 Reasons, but they
really were just 100 Things. Would I still love her if her neck were
suddenly
not long, graceful, beautiful, and fun to kiss? Yes. Would I still
love her if she stopped loving games? Yes. Would I continue loving her if she
lost her impeccable fashion sense? Absolutely. Would I persist in loving her
if she lapsed into a ten-year coma? I like to think so. I would still love
her if all the items on my list went away. A harder question is whether I would
ever have fallen in love with her if those hundred things
had never existed.

If she had been in a coma when I met her, I probably would never have loved
her the way I do now. I would have had neither reason nor opportunity
to build a relationship with her, to pour my own life into hers. I would not
have been able to discover all the many wonderful idiosyncrasies and imperfections
that make our severe intimacy possible. I would never have seen
the profound depth of her compassion for others. In short, I would never have
really known her.

As I mentioned in my last post, the moment I fell in love with my wife may
have been the moment I realized she valued me. I guess the beginning stages
of love are selfish that way. But the more I knew her, the more I valued her,
and now I love her more than my own life. I love her so much that on May 23,
1998, I proclaimed a lifelong vow in front of 100 people who will (or should,
anyway)
hold me to it. My love has only grown since then.

For all of Adam’s faults, he at least recognized the value of his wife the
moment he first laid eyes on her
. It took me a while to see the breathtaking
wonder of my Happy Friend, but I finally came around. Now she grows more
beautiful and wonderful every day, and in ways far more numerous than the hundred
I listed.

Not an island

I had a friend once who worked with a woman whose husband was a youth minister.
My friend told me about some discussions he had with this young man, and the
things this youth minister would say always left me shaking my head in bafflement.
I remember one conversation in particular in which my friend asked this youth
minister what he thought of Promise
Keepers
. According to my friend, the YM said, "Well, I guess some
men feel a sense of inadequacy and feel like they need support and encouragement
from a group of men. There’s nothing wrong with that, I guess, but I personally
don’t need it."

For the record, I’ve never read the
PK book
or been to a PK rally. However, I have always sought out other Christian
men—not only those who are dealing with issues similar to my own, but also those
who have been through it before. I think men do themselves and their families
a great disservice when they neglect
to meet together
and
fail to encourage one another. We men need to be sharpening each other as iron
sharpens iron
. We need to be celebrating marriage together and showing other
men what a joy marriage can be.

Along these lines, a question recently arose concerning how many men read
this blog. I know there are some, because they leave comments and sometimes
send e-mails, but I suspect there are more. One reader suggested I do a poll
just to see how many male readers there are. I’m not quite industrious enough
to research poll services or technologies, but I think I would like to find
out how many men visit here. So, I’ll just ask that if you’re a man and you
visit this blog regularly, please leave a comment with your first name, your
city of residence, and anything else you’d like to say.

A twinkle, a hint, a promise

I made a gross oversight in neglecting to include Jeff’s
homage to his loved
one
(and, it is assumed, future wife) on his blog.
His description of daily distraction strikes a familiar chord with me. I remember
the times when, as he says, "I can think of nothing else. She is
my beautiful girl. I see her in my thoughts.…She brightens my very existence."
I remember closing my eyes and seeing her image burned into the backs of my
eyelids, hearing her voice when I read silently, and wondering if she could
possibly have as much as a single imperfection.

One of the criticisms most often leveled at monogamy, marriage, and long-term
relationships in general is that such sparks never last. Even people who value
marriage say things like, "That feeling of being in love is just
a feeling, and feelings fade. It takes commitment and a willingness to work
if you want
to
make a marriage
last." When you put it like that, marriage doesn’t sound like much fun—first
the sparks, then the wedding, then it’s work, work, work till you die. Who
needs that?

Well, I’m here to tell you that sparks are just emotions, and emotions ebb
and flow. Sparks flash brightly, then go away. That’s why we call them sparks.
If I may extend the metaphor, it takes a spark to start a fire. Fires burn
as long as they’re tended; if tended correctly, a fire will never die. It may
burn hotter at times, and at other times may consist only of glowing embers,
but those embers can be fanned back into flames if flames are needed. The spark
at the beginning is brilliant and beautiful, but it is only a tiny glimmer
of what can follow. When stranded out in the cold midnight of a hostile world,
do you fire up a sparkler or spark up a fire?

Back when we were dating and we had to part company for the evening, Mrs.
Happy sometimes asked me, "Are you going to miss me?" I always answered, "The
only time I don’t miss you is when we’re together." She still asks the same
question, I still answer the same way, and I still mean it, only more.

Movie manhood

-
I want you to do me one favor.

-
Yeah, sure.

-
I want you to hit me as hard as you can.

-
What do you want me to do? You want me to hit you?

-
C’mon, do me this one favor.

-
Why?

-
Why? I don’t know why. I don’t know. Never been in a fight, you?

-
No, but that’s a good thing.

-
No, it is not! How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been
in a fight? I don’t want to die without any scars.

Infamous lines from an infamous
movie
. It examines the current state of manhood in light of the blurred definitions
of
gender roles in modern society and, therefore,
personal relationships. Fight Club is all confused angst and bitter
soliloquies, but it expresses some authentic emotions. Contrast that with another
movie starring Brad Pitt. Troy is
all about larger-than-life men doing hypermasculine things, knowing exactly their
role and reveling in it. These men shaped history, steered kingdoms, fought battles,
and died gloriously. Troy is not a great movie by any standard, but I must confess that
it forced me to contemplate my own life in relation to Hector and Achilles.

It’s not really a fair comparison, I know. These men were mythic in their
proportions, probably because they
now exist only in myth. But they fought wars, knew no fear, and faced extreme
circumstances head-on without even blinking. I, on the other hand, have never
been in a fight and have never been called upon to defend myself or my family
from anything scarier than a couple of stray dogs. If the heroes of the Trojan
war were real men, then what am I?

When I examine these guys a little more closely, though, I see something different.
Why did they fight? Hector fought because
he was the crown prince of Troy. He fought for his people, though I think he
fought mostly for his own sense of honor. <<Note: Spoilers
follow.
>> Achilles kills Hector in
one-on-one combat because Hector killed his cousin
on
the
battlefield.
Hector’s fight did nothing to protect
the citizens of Troy. In fact, it robbed them of their strongest leader. It
robbed his wife of a husband and his son of a father. He could have refused
the fight. He could have yelled
over the wall, "I’ll see you on the battlefield." Or even, "Here’s
an arrow in the ankle for your troubles." But he accepted Achilles’ challenge,
for no reason other than his own code of honor, which I think boils down to
pride,
which
is a terrible
reason to fight and a worse reason to die.

Achilles, on the other hand, fought for nothing but his own glory. At first,
he didn’t want to fight in the Trojan war. He despised his king and hated the
idea of fighting under his command. His mother, an immortal nymph, told him
that if he did not go to war,

you will find peace. You will find a wonderful
woman, and you will have sons and daughters, who will have children. And
they’ll all love you and remember your name. But when your children are dead,
and their
children after them, your name will be forgotten… If you go to Troy,
glory will be yours. They will write stories about your victories for thousands
of years. And the world will remember your name. But if you go to Troy, you
will
never come back… for your glory walks hand-in-hand with your doom. And
I shall never see you again.

And that’s why he goes to war: to die so his
name
will live on. But what good is your name to you when you’re dead? It
might do good to others if you die for a cause, but to fight and to die for
nothing
but your own glory can’t be the definition of manhood.

What is the definition of manhood, then? When King David was about to die,
he gave his son Solomon some excellent
advice
:

I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself
a man. Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His
statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according
to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that
you do and wherever you turn.

Of course, following God and keeping his commandments is not restricted to
men, but only by following
and obeying him can I be the man and, by extension, the husband and father
he intended me to be. Which in turn brings to mind the greatest story ever
told.
Jesus
sacrificed
his life
to save
mine,
and he
did
it purely
out
of love
without
bitterness
or resentment. He is the ultimate role model, the ultimate man because—unlike
Achilles—he really was both God and man. He was the physical manifestation
of everything a man should be because he followed God perfectly. His glory
walked hand-in-hand with his obedience…and his victory. That’s why, when
confronted with a momentous decision, I never ask myself, "What would Hector
do?"

A taboo everyone talks about

I have a couple of thoughtful posts percolating, but tonight I have no time
to write anything
substantial without stealing time from my wife. I would, however, like to direct
everyone to ireneq’s blog and her post about porn
and masturbation
.
It’s refreshing to see a conservative Christian discuss the issues so frankly
and openly and from a Biblical perspective, and at the same time
heartbreaking to see a sister in so much turmoil. Her struggle reminds me of
what seems to be one of the most convoluted passages in the Bible:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do
the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the
law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that
dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in
my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability
to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not
want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no
longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law
that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight
in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members
another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to
the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will
deliver
me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve
the law of sin.

Romans 7:15–25

I just want to say for the record that I agree with Irene: pornography
and masturbation, even for an unmarried person, are destructive forces with
nothing to redeem them. Many marriages have been destroyed because of them.
And here’s
something I wish I had known during my single days: sexual habits a
person forms before marriage do not magically disappear upon
the exchange
of
wedding
vows
. Thought
patterns
continue unabated. Destructive physical patterns continue to be a problem.
The way you look at and evaluate members of the opposite sex doesn’t change.
And even if you can stop looking at pornography, the images you have seen cannot
be
purged
from
your
mind.

I’m not saying bad habits are incurable; I’m just saying that
marriage doesn’t cure them. And the longer a habit persists, the harder it
is to break. Anything that draws your attention and energy away from your spouse
(whether current or future) hurts your marriage. It’s better to go into a marriage
with healthy habits than to have to correct ingrained behavior while trying
to build a family.

A slightly morbid thought

There’s an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where everyone talks
about who their spouse should marry if they die. (Sorry for the poorly constructed
sentence there, what with the abundance of pronouns and the confusing mesh
of antecedents, but I’m too tired to fix it. Hopefully the meaning is clear
anyway.) So I asked my wife who she thought I should marry if she dies. We
discussed several options, but I don’t think any of them would really work
out. I couldn’t come up with even a passable option for her upon the event
of my death. I mean, I’m not really good enough for her myself, and there’s
no one better for her than me.

I can’t imagine marrying someone else if my wife dies before I do, but I don’t
want to be alone. I can’t stand the thought of my wife marrying someone else,
but I don’t want her to be alone if I die before she does. Meh. Death fulfills
the obligation
of the marriage vows. I
figure
the
one
who’s
dead
won’t care one way or the other.

Worth the paper it’s printed on?

When I was a child, I used to sit and think a lot. While other kids ran around
doing things, I would sit and think. Sometimes I would imagine, sometimes I
would ponder, and sometimes I would follow a stream of consciousness. One particular
scenario I often thought about was what would happen if I were stranded on
an uncharted desert island with no hope of rescue, and what if the only other
person on the island were a woman. Would we try to carve out a comfortable
life? Would we focus all our efforts on leaving the island? Would we build
a house in the trees and train monkeys to be butlers?

As I got older, the questions grew in number, of course. How would we get
food if we had no weapons? How would we get water if there were no natural
streams? Would the woman even like me? One question that bothered me more than
any other, though, was this: Could we marry if there were no one to marry us
and no license to make it legal? And if not, would it still be a sin for us
to have sex?

I thought of this when I read the following interview (excerpted) by the Associated
Press with Johnny Depp (via FamilyScholars.org):

AP: You’ve been in a relationship for many years now, so what’s the secret?

Depp: Trust, have fun, respect for one and other. Respect
for one another’s privacy. Respect for what the other person does in their
chosen profession.
Obviously
a whole lot of love. Vanessa was like a bolt of lightning.

AP: So she knocked
you out?

Depp: Well yeah, because there were no pretensions. She has her
success on her own terms and when we met it wasn’t like she was anything
other than
this sweet,
cool, funny girl. I’d never experienced anything like that before. She
gave me these two beautiful kids.

AP: Is marriage an option? What does
it mean to you?

Depp: Marriage can be whatever you define it as. For example,
I don’t feel like I need a piece of paper that says I own her and she owns
me. I
think signing
a piece of paper doesn’t mean anything in the eyes of God or in the
eyes of people. The thing is, if you are together and you love each other
and are good to each
other, make babies and all that, for all intents and purposes you
are married.

I should say that at some point in my teens I came to the conclusion that
if no other human being were around, God could serve as a witness between two
people who pledge their lives to one another. (And lest anyone think me altogether
holy, I should also confess that at some point in my teens, my desert island
imaginings
became
decidedly less
innocent.)
Furthermore, if two people make such a vow, they are married in the eyes
of God and may
live
together
as husband
and wife the way he intended. In that respect, I would agree with Mr. Depp,
that a piece of paper in and of itself doesn’t actually "mean anything." The
fact that so many people have that paper and choose to ignore it further undermines
its objective value.

I think the value lies not so much in the paper as it does in the vows, and
here’s where Scissorhands and I part company. If marriage "can be whatever
you define it as," then it has no meaning at all. Sure, married people can
be together and love each other and make babies, etc., but I think that without
mutual ownership, there’s no actual marriage because marriage means giving
yourself completely to someone else.

Weddings and legal recognition are important to society because they reinforce
the validity and value of marriage. Vows and the keeping of them are important
to couples, individuals, and God, because that’s where the true meaning and
benefit of marriage lie.

[Jesus] answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from
the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall
leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall
become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore
God has joined together, let not man separate." Matthew 19:4–6

Marriage links for the week

Derek
and his wife
did the Completing each other’s sentences exercise
that Mrs.
Happy and I did a few weeks ago.
Mopsy also did it with her husband.

Steve Lynch continues his chapter-by-chapter review of Covenant Marriage with
chapter 3, which explores the
feasibility of covenant marriage
(as opposed
to contract marriage), especially in Western society.

Soldado de Oracion list the top
ten reasons God created Eve
.

Kim shares a minor revelation she
had during the final premarital counseling session with her husband-to-be.
She also wonders about omens
concerning the success of a marriage
. (Thanks to Irene for both links.)

Some kids are real brats. Other kids are…well…goodness. Read
this
.

Twenty-nine years later, Katy remembers the
first date
she had with her husband.

Some marriage quotes

I’m tired and lazy today, so instead of writing something, I’m just offering
some things that others have said. I don’t know most of the people quoted or
their general philosophies, so do not take their inclusion here as an endorsement
on my part. If you know of any good quotes about love and marriage, please
leave them in the
comments.

"What you are as a single person, you will be as a married person, only
to a greater degree. Any negative character trait will be intensified in a
marriage relationship,
because you will feel free to let your guard down—that person has committed
himself to you and you no longer have to worry about scaring him off."
—Josh McDowell, The Secret of Loving

"Love at first sight is easy to understand; it’s when two people have
been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle."
—Sam Levenson

"For two people in a marriage to live together day after day is unquestionably
the one miracle the Vatican has overlooked."
—Bill Cosby

"Marriage—as its veterans know well—is the continuous process of
getting used to things you hadn’t expected."
—Tom Mullen

"The middle years of marriage are the most crucial. In the early years,
spouses want each other and in late years, they need each other."
—Rebecca Tilly

"Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom
when we love the ones we marry."
—Tom Mullen

"Wen you’re a married man, Samivel, you’ll understand a
good many things as you don’t understand now; but vether it’s worth
while goin’ through so much to learn so little, as the charity-boy said
ven he got to the end of the alphabet, is a matter o’ taste."
—Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

The reason for the day

Today is U.S. Independence Day, the day when we celebrate the signing of the
Declaration
of Independence
from England. Perhaps the most famous passage in
the Declaration is this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among
these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Many people today—those who insist that government and God have nothing to
do with each other—seem to forget that this country’s founding fathers based
everything on the fact that individuals have rights because God created
us all in his image. When you insist that God
and any reference to him be removed from public life, you do away with the
very reason life has value and people have rights.

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to
Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the
birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every
creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

God created man in His own
image,
in the image of God He created him;
male
and female He created them.

God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be
fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the
fish of the sea and over
the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed
that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding
seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to
every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has
life, I have given every green
plant
for food"; and it was so.

God saw all that He had made, and behold,
it was very good. (Gen. 1:26–31)

Many people today—people who like to think marriage is whatever they say it
is—also
forget that marriage has value because it was instituted by God.
That’s
not
in the
Declaration
or
the
Constitution,
unfortunately,
but
that fact doesn’t make it less true. God created a woman to be a helper for
the man. He created her from the man’s flesh, and fashioned her so that the
two could "become one flesh" again.

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I
will make him a helper suitable for him."

…So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept;
then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD
God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man,
and
brought her to the man.

The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man."

For this reason a man shall leave his
father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one
flesh. (Gen. 2:18, 22–24)

I have never understood how atheists and agnostics don’t fall into utter despair
the moment they examine life and ask "Why". I have never understood why someone
who doesn’t believe in God would want to be married. I guess it must have something
to do with various combinations of materialism, hedonism, altruism, loneliness,
hope, and legal benefits, but in my mind none of those can stand against the
fact
that
nothing
means
anything unless it comes from God. I just pray that my child can grow up in
a world that worships God, or at least acknowledges him.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.
(Psalm 33:12)