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MARRIAGE (FIND THE ACRONYM!)

On the 15th April, 1995, the Rev. Jan Croucher (my wife) and I 'celebrated'
the marriage of our daughter Amanda, to John Southwell. The beautiful
service at the Heathmont Baptist Church in Melbourne, Victoria, began with
Amanda's four cousins - sisters who are all brilliant musicians - playing
Bach's Air on the G String. After the vows, a homily. Here's what I said:

~~~

It is a privilege and joy to summarize the 'wisdom of the ages' (and of 35
years of marriage) about 'how to be happy though married'. Last year I spent
three months writing a book about marriage and family, and read all the
'experts'...

I've delivered many of these homilies before, but only once at the wedding
of one of my children... John and Amanda, these thoughts are a gift to you
as you set out on one of life's greatest (and riskiest) adventures.
Actually, they're thoughts put together by both of us, your parents, on a
romantic outing to and from the opera Turandot last Wednesday evening...

Marriage, according to the experts, is about eight things:

1. HAPPINESS. However, if you marry to find happiness you're marrying for
the wrong reason. Happiness is where you find it, not where you seek it.
Happiness is serendipitous - a by-product of doing other worthwhile things.
As you set some big goals for your life together, you'll look back from time
to time and say of this occasion or that, 'Wasn't it great?' And by the way,
your partner can't 'make you happy': that's a decision you make for
yourself. Indeed no other person on earth can satisfy all your needs...
Ultimately, as the Psalms and Proverbs reiterate everywhere, 'Happy are
those who fear the Lord.'

2. ACCEPTANCE. This is the basic idea in the Christian concept of 'grace'. I
am loved by God before I change, before I 'deserve' to be loved. This
love-before-worth is to characterize our relationships as well. Indeed,
people grow and change more profoundly once they are accepted as they are.
So in marriage, don't impose a program of change on the other: accept him or
her as they are, and they'll be more likely to change anyway. Every culture
has a proverb which says something to the effect that 'the sun does not
command the bud to become a flower, but simply provides a climate of warmth
so that the flower can become the beautiful creature it was meant to be.'
The Bible text for us here is Romans 15:7: 'Accept one another for the glory
of God, as Christ has accepted you.'

3. ROMANCE. In our culture we 'fall in love' then marry. Romance, says Scott
Peck (The Road Less Traveled) is a genetic trick that nature plays on us to
hook us into marriage. Romance is to marriage as the colour of a car is to
the car: beautiful, but not necessarily functional to any significant
degree. True 'love' is a matter of the will: I _choose_ to love my partner.
Romance is emotional and sexual. Now romance is important: every couple
ought to do romantic things together. Last Wednesday night Jan and I walked
and talked along the South Bank of the Yarra: it was a magical evening: the
city lights and the moon reflected on the water; the temperature was mild;
we weren't in a hurry to be anywhere else. Last week a woman said to me, 'He
buys me flowers and chocolates. I like that. But I'd rather do interesting
or romantic things with him...' The Song of Solomon is a celebration of
romantic/sexual love...

4. DEVOTION. In the words of Genesis and Jesus, we leave father and mother
and cling to our married partner. In the vows you composed you said you are
dedicating your life to the well-being of your mate. Later, you will have
some difficult priorities to sort out. Like, 'Who comes first - my partner
or my children?' The classical Christian approach to this 'hierarchy of
loving' is: God first, spouse second, children third, everything else
(church, job, others) follows. However, in a well-integrated life, these
loves do not compete: they enrich each other, and are inter-related.

5. WISDOM. In the New Testament James invites us to ask for wisdom, and God
will give it to us. John, Amanda, you'll need lots of this substance to
survive a marriage. Males and females are not the same. Their bodies, minds,
emotions and logics are different! Gender-wise, and sexually, they are
different. Generally (but not invariably) women tend to have a more
finely-developed intuition; men tend to be linear-thinkers. Both are OK, and
complement one another: one is good for reading feelings, the other for
solving problems. Men need to work harder on figuring out the
agendas-behind-words. And I would encourage women to work harder at setting
goals...

6. OPENNESS. Should you 'tell everything' to your partner? My answer is
'Almost everything'. You may decide that something is hurtful and will not
be received or understood: sometimes you will choose not to 'link your mouth
with your mind': some things are best left unsaid.

7. RECREATION. You are allowed to enjoy your life: you will never come out
of it alive! Plan a day off together each week (the coming of children will
complicate those plans, however). Look forward to enjoyable and interesting
pursuits you both enjoy. But don't live for 'pleasure'. 'Play' is for
're-creation' - to strengthen you to go back into life to work. But you do
not live to work: you work to live. Many men, and some women, are bigamous -
married to their jobs as well as their partners. Then, in mid-life, they
have a 'crisis' - moving from significance to security, whereas the other
might be moving the other way. That's a time for seeking the help of a
counselor.

8. KINDNESS. The early Christian leader Paul had a brilliant insight into
husband/wife relationships when he exhorted husbands to _love_ their wives,
and wives to _respect_ their husbands. The worst fate for a woman is to be
raped and killed: self-respecting women feel aweful when treated as objects.
The worst fate for a man is to be shamed before significant others: men
sometimes commit suicide if their shame is too great. John and Amanda, if
you give gifts of love and respect to each other, you're in for a special
marriage.

Two final words: the opera Turandot is about love and death (the words in
Italian are similar). All true loving is a kind of dying: 'dying to self' as
the Scripture puts it, so that one can please the other.

And a thought from Richard Rohr, whose tapes you'll be hearing on your
honeymoon. (He's probably the best popularizer of classical Christian
spirituality in the English-speaking world: you'll enjoy him). He quotes
Meister Eckhart to the effect that all true spirituality is about
_subtraction_ whereas our culture says your significance is measured by all
the stuff - money, material objects, degrees, status, power etc. - you _add_
to your life. Don't buy into this heresy.

Marriage is all about being two good forgivers. And that's hard work. Notice
the acronym we made from the initial letters of these key words?

The Lord bless you each-and-both, and keep you in his eternal love. Amen.

Rowland Croucher

DISCUSS.


1. What is happiness? Why is it serendipitous?

2. Why is 'acceptance-before-worth' so difficult? Someone prayed 'Lord,
thank you that you love us before we change, as we change, after we change,
and whether we change or not' - and it was an 'aha' experience for many at
the Prayer Service. Why would that be?

3. Do you agree with Scott Peck's somewhat dismissive idea about romance?
What are the relative advantages of the Western approach - falling in love
then marrying - versus the traditional way: marrying the person arranged by
parents and tribe, then 'falling in love'? What are the real differences
between romantic love and realistic love? Share some ideas about romantic
things married couples can enjoy...

4. Talk about 'leaving and cleaving'. How can young marrieds be better
prepared for the exclusive, life-long commitment which a good marriage
requires? How can we learn to 'leave' the habits and bad modeling about a
marriage relationship many of us received during our childhood? (For
example: he comes from a family where mother rules, father is weak. He
therefore has serious trouble relating to the assertiveness of his wife, and
her expectations of him as a 'leader' in the marriage).

5. Are males and females different - in the way they think, solve problems
etc.? As the title of a book by Allan and Barbara Peace puts it: Why won't
men listen and why can't women read maps?

6. About half the Christian writers of books-about-marriage say there should
be no secrets at all between married partners. The other half believe that
occasionally something might more appropriately be kept from the other for
various reasons...  What do you think?

7. Try this generalization: 'Males often seek significance through their
work, as they try to out-perform their peers. Women mostly seek security
rather than significance - and primarily through relationships, and
mothering. Then the mid-life-crisis, when the situation is often reversed.
He comes to the point of asking "Is that all there is?" and wants a
relationship with his mate. But she has now made a life of her own and seeks
significance in other contexts.'

8. Why do men need the gift of respect so badly? And why are women so
fearful of being 'used'? How can 'the dance of marriage' resolve these
needs?

P.S. Did you find the acronym?

Rowland Croucher,  Revised April 2002.

 
rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
Email Jan and Rowland