His and Hers VII

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This week’s question is:

What is something your spouse has taught you?

Mrs. Happy’s response

When I first considered this question, I was thinking mostly in terms of life lessons, or even practical skills that I’ve learned from Curt since we’ve been married. I thought long and hard about it for a few days, and this morning it came to me in a half-sleep while Curt was stroking my hair and telling me how beautiful I am: He taught me how I need to be treated. When I was younger, fantasizing about my future husband, I thought I had pretty high standards. This man would have to be cute, intelligent, funny, considerate, affectionate, etc., but I never quite envisioned how exactly he should make me feel, nor did I recognize it when it actually occurred during our happy “just friends” phase. Curt treated me like a queen. He would always put my needs before his, and I could count on him for anything and everything. He showered me with compliments, affection, and affirmation. I could go on and on about all the ways that he exceeded all my expectations, but I couldn’t possibly do them justice. The bottom line is that since those very first moments of our friendship, I have felt increasingly more beautiful and more precious than in any other time of my life. I never would have known I could feel this way had Curt not taught me that it is possible.

Curt’s response

Short answer: My wife taught me how to be a husband.

Longer answer: My wife taught me how to love a wife and, specifically, how to love her. Before we got married, I was afraid I would be a terrible husband. I didn’t even know how to begin taking care of someone, or even whether “taking care” was part of my job. I just knew that I wanted to build a life with one particular woman. In the months leading up to our wedding, we went through eight weeks of pre-marital counseling and spent as much time together as we could. During that time, she communicated how I made her feel in various situations, sometimes good and sometimes not-so-good. I learned to avoid making her feel bad and, more importantly, how to purposefully make her feel loved. I’m still learning, and it’s my favorite lesson ever.

Divorce and the Christian

I recently had a conversation with some friends about biblical issues concerning divorce—if and when it is acceptable, whether God condones remarriage, whether a divorced man should be allowed to serve in the church as a deacon or elder, etc. A lot of interesting things came out of that conversation. More interesting still was a post on Dr. Warnock’s blog that I read shortly thereafter. In it, he quotes from a book by Jay Adams concerning the biblical principles involved when two married Christians decide that they can no longer live together. Mr. Adams is of the opinion that churches should excommunicate someone who refuses to be reconciled to their spouse:

“Let us say that a husband who is a professing Christian refuses to be reconciled to his wife. Perhaps he has even left her. Reconciliation has been attempted by the wife. If she continues to insist upon reconciliation (according to Matthew 18), but fails in her attempts at private confrontation, she must take one or two others from the church and confront her husband. Suppose she does and that he also refuses to hear them. In that case she is required to submit the problem officially to the church, which ultimately may be forced, by his adamant refusal to be reconciled, to excommunicate him for contumacy. Excommunication, Christ says, changes his status to that of a heathen and a publican, i.e., someone outside of the church (Matthew 18:17). Now he must be treated “as a heathen and a publican.” That means, for instance, that after reasonable attempts to reconcile him to the church and to his wife, he may be taken to court (I Corinthians 6: 1–8 forbids brethren to go to law against one another) to sue for a divorce (only, of course, if the excommunicated one deserts his partner).”

That’s harsher than anything on this subject that I’ve ever heard taught in a church. But if you’re so inclined, go read the whole post and let me know what you think.

Priorities

My wife works in a therapeutic environment. Every morning, the staff gathers for a team meeting that always concludes with a sharing of feelings. During this time, each person lets everyone else know how they’re feeling and makes a request for any specific support they might need throughout the day. Recently, one of the staff took a week-long vacation, during which she stayed home with her three children who had a five-day break from school. The day she returned to work, she told everyone what a hectic, chaotic week she had just experienced. She said, “But when I walked into this building and I saw how beautiful and tidy everything is, heard the soothing music playing, and smelled the scent of the aroma therapy machine, I said to myself, ‘Ah…I’m finally home again.’” The rest of the staff, with the exception of my wife, nodded their heads and muttered their assent.

When Mrs. Happy came home that day, she told me about her coworker’s sentiment with incredulity, and of the others’ reactions with a shock that bordered on horror. When your place of work provides a haven from your home, she said, your home is seriously screwed up. I have to agree. I’m afraid, though, that it’s all too common.

There’s probably a technical psychological/sociological explanation for this, but I know that when people feel unloved and/or powerless at home they sometimes compensate by throwing all their energy into work. When a man feels ineffective as a husband and father, he often dedicates himself to being an excellent employee. His job becomes the most important thing in his life. I thought that phenomenon was specific to men, but in light of my wife’s experience with her coworkers, I guess not.

The irony, I think, is that someone with a strong family makes a better employee—happier, healthier, more content, more sympathetic, and having a better perspective on things. When priorities are in order—God, family, country, job—life is just so much better.

RLTBâ„¢

I took the day off of work today. My days off tend to be busier than my days working. Real life trumps blogging today.

Here is this week’s His and Hers question, which my wife and I will each answer on Friday:

What is something your spouse has taught you?

Easter music

According to the book 101 Hymn Stories, from which you can read an excerpt online, a Swedish preacher named Carl Boberg wrote a poem titled O Sotre Gud in 1886. From the Hymn Stories site:

“His inspiration for this text is said to have come from a visit to a beautiful country estate on the southeast coast of Sweden. He was suddenly caught in a midday thunderstorm with awe-inspiring moments of flashing violence, followed by a clear brilliant sun. Soon afterwards he heard the calm, sweet songs of the birds in nearby trees. The experience prompted the pastor to fall to his knees in humble adoration of his mighty God. He penned his exaltation in a nine-stanza poem beginning with the Swedish words O Store Gud, nar jag den varld beskader.”

Those words, translated as literally as possible while maintaining a semblance of verbal rhythm, mean Oh mighty God, when I behold the wonder. Boberg presumably published the poem in a periodical that he edited. Years later, he heard his poem being sung to the tune of a traditional Swedish song. The song was later translated into German, then into Russian.

Two English missionaries learned the Russian version while working in the Ukraine. They saw the song affect believers and non-believers alike in powerful ways. Their later travels in the majestic mountains of Sub-Carpathian Russia made them want to share their experiences and the song with their English-speaking friends and congregations, so they wrote new English words inspired by the song and by their awe of God’s handiwork. While not a literal translation, it expressed the same deep reverence for God’s power and the grandeur of His creation.

They wrote two verses dealing mainly with nature and one verse of praise for His gift of salvation. After the second world war, a fourth verse was added to express hope for eternity. Two words in the modern version of the hymn were changed at some point: works changed to worlds and mighty became rolling. Now it is one of the great hymns of faith, praise, devotion, and adoration. I struggle to sing it without crying. For me, it was the centerpiece of the music in my church’s Easter service yesterday.

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed,

CHORUS:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin;

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And now you know…the rest of the story.………good day!

Marriage links for the week

I’m adding a new link to my sidebar this week. Marriage Restored Weblog is a blog maintained by Ben Wilson, who acts as Director of Pastoral Care at a church in Colorado and also gives seminars, in partnership with his wife, on healing marriages that have been harmed by infidelity.

Irene offers her thoughts on the benefits of arranged marriage.

Jeremy at Parablemania writes about why he believes the Bible teaches directly against Christians marrying non-Christians.

Joe Carter of the evangelical outpost shares his thoughts on the biblical ideal of marriage in response to an article in Psychology Today about the current state of marriage. Key quote (from the PT article): “Marriage is not supposed to make you happy. It is supposed to make you married. When you are all the way in your marriage, you are free to do useful things, become a better person.”

On the ChristWeb site, Rev. Scott Welch poses the question: “What are your children learning about Marriage, Family and Divorce in School? …Our children are being taught about these subjects everyday in the classroom, on the television set and the playground. The good news is you are a more powerful teacher and influence on your children than any of these others.”

I’m not sure what to think, much less to say, about this: A soldier in Iraq marries his bride in Italy via two stand-ins in Montana. The rare double-proxy wedding is legal in that state.

A 37-year-old woman expecting her fifteenth child accepts an award for young mother of the year in Arkansas.

If you have any intelligent thoughts on who would win in a fight between Superman and The Hulk, please share them with Bryan so that he can enlighten his son.


I received another Where I’m From poem this week. Please check out the page and see Where Carrie’s From. If you haven’t already done so, write your own. It’s fun, therapeutic, and educational. Before reading others’ poems, I had never heard of kielbasa. It’s a Polish sausage.

His and Hers VI

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday (though I forgot to do that this week). On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This week’s question is:

What trait first attracted you to your spouse? How do you feel about that trait now?

Mrs. Happy’s response

Hugs, hugs, hugs! Hands down, no doubt about it, Curt’s hugs are the most wonderfully endearing trait that he possesses. When he and I were “just friends,” he would hug me at the end of every get together, whether it was at church or after a long night of card-playing or movie-watching. I remember one Sunday morning that I was feeling particularly lonely and insecure, standing on the outskirts of a group of friends, and as Curt was talking to some of them, he simply reached out his arm and pressed me to his side in a gesture of absolute unconditional love and acceptance. He has a rather small frame, but that hug would just envelop me and assure me that all was right with the world, especially his adoration of me.

Now that we’re married, Curt has a much broader repertoire of ways to show his love and devotion every day, but the hugs are no less important. In fact, functionally the hugs have become more varied to adapt to different situations. There’s the hug for greeting me at home after a long day, the hug for support when I’ve had a terrible day, the needy hug when he’s had a terrible day, the hug after an argument that says “I’m not upset anymore,” and the sleepy hug that ushers us into bedtime, just to name a few. In addition to absolute unconditional love and acceptance, the hugs are now gestures of a sweet familiarity, a solid protection, a tender intimacy, and a warm comfort. And as sure as he is nearby, they are always available. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make sure I’ve spoken accurately.

Curt’s response

I had a unique relationship with my wife in college. She was young, cute, and sweet, and I had no romantic interest in her. At that point in my life, I would customarily obsess over the romantic possibilities of a relationship with any woman who had even one of those characteristics. I think God must have put a damper on those feelings where she was concerned so that I could get to know her without an agenda, as a person rather than as a possible wife. So it took me a while to see her as a long-term possibility. One of the things that first attracted me to her personality was her compassion and her recognition of humanity in others.

For several years before we married, my wife and I ate lunch together regularly, at least when our class schedules allowed it. One day, she didn’t show up for lunch. I waited twenty minutes and saw no sign of her. I then left our regular meeting place to see if she had gone to any of our three regular eating spots. Not finding her anywhere, I returned to the meeting place one last time only to find it completely unpopulated. I figured that she had found something better to do and didn’t get a chance to tell me ahead of time. I’ve had plenty of experience with being blown off by friends who don’t realize that I have feelings underneath my well-composed exterior. By the time I entered college, I had resigned myself to the fact that my personal emotions and attachments mattered very little to other people. I didn’t think that she would leave me high and dry like that, but I had grown accustomed to disappointment.

I left our meeting place to find a spot where I could eat alone. About a minute later, I heard someone call my name from a distance. I turned around, and there was my wonderful friend running toward me with all her might. She apologized profusely and told me that she had gotten hung up after class with a professor. She said she felt horrible and was worried about how I would feel when she took so long showing up.

That’s a small thing, I guess, but her concern about my feelings touched me deeply and endeared her to me forever.

I still love that about her. She’s always acutely aware of what others are feeling. She’s the only person in the world who can consistently discern what I’m feeling. That’s a rare trait in a friend, and it’s even better in a wife.

American marriage

Jeff (of Peachwater, Tx.) e-mailed me the other day letting me know that the NPR program This American Life devoted its entire show last week to what it called “The Sanctity of Marriage.” None of the three segments in the hour-long program has anything to do with sanctity, but they all three take an unflinching look at marriage, divorce, and commitment from a worldly perspective. There’s very little encouraging or celebratory in the program, but it’s interesting nevertheless. Have a listen if you’re so inclined.

Together time/Time together

In the months leading up to my wedding, I worked at a dynamic, high-profile political consulting firm doing a tedious, low-paying, dead-end job. I desperately wanted to find work more suited to my skills that would also pay a salary more suited to supporting a family. I began looking for such a job, but halfheartedly looking since I would rather undergo a week-long oral surgery than subject myself to the fruitless labor and dashed hopes that always accompany my job hunts. I actually considered quitting my job, thinking that would force me to seek better employment in earnest. I had some money saved up, so it wouldn’t have been entirely irresponsible. But I couldn’t bring myself to give up my only source of income just as I was about to become a husband with bread-winning responsibilities.

Two weeks before my wedding, my boss called me to his office. He knew I had been looking for a job. I had his blessing. He knew that my job was below my abilities and that I had no desire to continue on in political consulting. He told me he wanted to restructure the way my division of the company worked, and that since I was the senior employee in that division and was looking to leave, he didn’t want to do anything drastic until I was gone. So he offered me two months pay in one lump sum in exchange for my resignation. He pointed out that this arrangement would allow me to do my job searching full time and still stay afloat for a while and would also allow him to proceed with his plans for my division of the company. I discussed the decision with Soon-To-Be-Mrs. Happy, who at the time worked as a teacher’s assistant at an elementary school drawing a paycheck even lower than mine. She agreed that I should take the money, leave the job, and look for another. So I did.

We married at the beginning of the summer of 1998. Our wedding took place on the first Saturday after Mrs. Happy’s school adjourned for the summer. We spent a week on our honeymoon, then returned home to an apartment we had set up. I then began fervently looking for a job. The fervor wore off after a few days of fruitlessness. It took all summer, but I finally was hired by a computer company in Austin to write technical manuals.

I am sure that some people familiar with my situation at the time questioned the wisdom of voluntarily terminating my employment on the cusp of husbandhood. I questioned it myself more than once. But I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. Not having a job meant that, in a sense, I had a three-month honeymoon. I was not working, my wife was not working, and we were able to spend every day together getting to know each other as husband and wife. It was a stressful time, but I look back on those days with fondness. I miss them.

We now count ourselves lucky on the rare days that we’re able to spend three or four hours together talking and laughing and immersing ourselves in each other’s company. Now we have to make more of an effort to set time apart for each other. Sometimes that means letting other things go. Sometimes that means missing a favorite TV show or missing a day of blogging. But it’s something we have to do if we’re going to continue to be Mr. and Mrs. Happy.

This week’s question

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. Here is this week’s His and Hers topic:

What trait first attracted you to your spouse? How do you feel about that trait now?

Also be sure to visit this week’s Christian Carnival for some of the best in Christian blogging.