Tag Archives: marriage

Too Young For This

“You are one of the old guys!”

I know it’s rare that we catch our aging in progress; it’s difficult for us to notice the process taking place. There’s often a moment of sudden, painful clarity. 

The above quote was one of my moments. 

“You should talk to one of the old guys,” I believe is what I said just before the fatal blow to my youthful pride. In the middle of a conversation with military coworkers, I thought of myself as roughly their peer, in age and experience. One young woman informed me ever so gently that this was not the case.

I joined the Air Force early, at age 17, which required a parent’s signature to approve. So I have often been the young one in any group. Once that changed, the reactions shifted to “whoa, I didn’t realize you’ve been in the service that long.” Even those eventually ceased.

I’ve already done my 20 years. Two days from now, I will finish my 22nd year of active duty. My hair is going gray (so my daughter likes to remind me), I sometimes limp, and I serve on a no-running profile, so age has taken its toll. 

Speaking of the daughter, one of the surprised reactions I get is at the fact that I have two teenaged children. Maybe most folks have better sense than to start so young, or maybe there’s still a touch of “I didn’t know you were that old” left. 

But today after flying for twelve hours, I got my own surprise reaction when my daughter’s Facebook profile revealed she is engaged to her boyfriend of over a year.

Gah!

There is a ring in the middle, among the pearls.

Now this is nothing out of the blue–they’ve been talking and plotting for quite some time. But a distant concept that “someday soon after I turn eighteen I plan to marry him” is different than a public proclamation of “this is happening.”

I will turn 40 just before she turns 18, so it’s not like I can say I’m still young. I’m just not old enough for this quite yet.

After its reign of terror through Hollywood, the music industry, and the Cincinnati Zoo, 2016 struck one last, very personal blow.

Bring on the new year, this one sucks. 

…but maybe not too fast. There are only so many more moments left, like snowflakes falling on a warm winter day, melting and vanishing before they touch the ground.

Eye to Eye

I’m sure if you’ve seen Disney’s Frozen, you’ll remember this exchange:

Anna: We complete each others’–
Hans: Sandwiches!
Anna: I was just gonna say that!

What? Really?

Being away from home on business can be stressful, especially leaving behind Wifey with our four always-wonderful, never-exasperating, easily-managed children. (Two of whom are teenagers. God help us.)

When we were dating, Wifey and I would go for long walks and talk about everything and anything. (Aww!) Sometimes when we’d struggle for a way to express a thought, the other would spout out the word or phrase.

And Wifey would joke that we were “eye to eye.”

Wifey plays the violin, and I play piano. We’ve learned over the years of playing together to sense where the other is going. Ok, I’ll be honest, I think I just play whatever I want. But she knows how to complement it perfectly, how to tell when I’m about to shift to something different.

In our frequent practice, we stay in tune to each other. In frequent communication, we keep that “eye to eye” connection.

I’m happy to say this experience has popped up time and again over the years, even while apart. Wifey has supported me all along, and we keep having these “eye to eye” moments. And 16 years as a military spouse is no joke!

Early on, it might have been “ear to ear” as we took advantage of the once-a-week 15 minute morale call.

With reliable email, exchanges sped up exponentially, and sometimes our emails back and forth would contain the same words or ideas.

Instant Messaging and chat rooms used to be a thing ten years ago–remember that? I don’t think we ever said “Chat to chat” but the connection remained.

And now Facebook Messenger and cellphone texts still afford us those opportunities to stay in tune with one another.

But I know there have been those times where we haven’t played in a while. I go one way musically, and she goes another. Or we can’t find our parts and end up doing our own thing.

Same with communication. When we get caught up in routines, stresses, or personal interests, there are those moments of disconnect. Usually this leads to confusion and lengthy discussions where we try to figure out “What the heck is going on in your head?!”

Sometimes it leads to arguments.

There’s a spiritual parallel: how “eye to eye” am I with Christ? Am I connected frequently enough that I can follow His lead and stay in tune with Him? Is His Word fresh in my mind, answering my questions and finishing my sentences?

Or has it been a bit since we last chatted?

When it comes to time and relationships, quality is born out of quantity. I can’t come in and declare “I have two minutes for intimate conversation, starting timer NOW. Go!”

But frequent connection makes for a closer connection.

And there’s never been a better instant messenger service than prayer.

40th Anniversary Poem

My parents married on March 9th, 1974, on a 70 degree day at the end of “winter.”

A while back, my Mom found a copy of a poem I (apparently) wrote in 1996 for a special anniversary for my great-uncle and great-aunt. Mom loved it.

I read it with a few more years experience, and hated it.

So I cringed when my Mom asked, “Could you do me a huge favor and write a poem for our 40th Anniversary?”

After all, it was doubtful I and my family could even attend. We were in the middle of moving overseas for my next duty station.

I think my response was, “Uhhh… yeah. Sure.” Followed by a few weeks of oh crap, what am I going to write?

40th anniversary… 40th… 40… 40, 40, 40… where have I heard something about 40 before?

And then it all clicked. One quick book search for references, a little thought and organization, and about an hour or two of putting words on the screen, and voila!

Icing on the cake – due to paperwork delays, we were able to attend the spectacular party my brother and sister-in-law organized. And after he read a set of touching Q&A responses from an interview with my Mom and Dad, I got up to read this poem to our mostly church-going crowd:

20140316-190815.jpg

As I think about this particular date
And we take time out to celebrate
In a day and age when marriage
Has a fifty fifty chance
And eight years is the average length
Of marital romance
I recall Sunday sermons and it strikes me
That 40 is a number of significance
For this anniversary of a special memory
And a marriage that has made a difference

For Forty days and nights rain fell
On Noah’s ark of wood
And no doubt you have tales to tell
When times were not that good
When storms of life brought pain and strife
To toss you to and fro
You clung together, husband and wife
And waited for the rainbow

Forty years of wandering
Before the Promised Land
Like times you’ve been left wondering
If God forgot His plan
If dreams and hopes you once saw clear
Would ever come to be
And yet we now have gathered here
For forty years of marriage, walking faithfully

I think of Moses in his tent
Before the glory of The Lord
For forty days he sought His Face
And trembled at His Word
I think how often as a child
I saw you both in prayer
And learned true peace and wisdom
Will only be found there

I read that 40 days and nights
Goliath mocked and taunted
Until the man you named me for
Stood up to him, undaunted
And I think of those naysayers
Who never thought you’d stay
Who choked or snickered, Joked or bickered
“Those two? What?” They’d say
But you stood your ground on the Rock you found
And the house stands to this day

Like Elijah fed by God’s own care
Who then ran for 40 days
I know you’ve seen His mercies there
Throughout these four decades
To give you strength to run the race
To find by grace a hiding place
A refuge of repair

Our Savior 40 days in desert
Showed us to rely
Not on ourselves or on this world
But Father God on high
And with the ups and downs of life
I watched the way you live
Not choosing safe or easy ways
But trusting God to give
Enough to get through each new day
New mercies for each morn
A living testimony saying
This is life reborn

For 40 days the resurrected Christ walked and revealed
That victory is won and sin’s fatal wound is healed
For 40 years God chose to show His victory in you
A picture of the Bride and Christ, a window He shines through

Yes, it’s clear to me
And I hope you see
That 40 is a number of significance
For this anniversary of a special memory
And a marriage that has made
a difference

Conditional Virtues

whatthePatience is a virtue.

And so are a lot of other things, it turns out.

Ancient Greece had four cardinal virtues: temperance, prudence, courage, and justice.

The Church has three: faith, hope, and love. Alternatively, some look at “the fruit of the Spirit” Paul put down in his epistles: love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Buddhism has its Noble Eightfold Path, Hinduism its Dharma or moral duty, Islam has a long list derived from the Quran, and so on.

Even Ben Franklin, no particular bastion of religious devotion, had his own list of moral virtues.

The key to virtues is that, without fail, they are meant to be practiced regardless of how someone else behaves.

We treat others with love even if they are hateful. We respond with kindness when someone snaps at us. When others would be arrogant, we strive to be humble; when others prove unreliable, we demonstrate diligence and faithfulness. Self-control and temperance do not depend on how wild or disciplined someone else may be.

We practice these virtues because they help us be our best selves. They give us the tools to respond to life’s struggles and difficulties with grace, maintaining dignity in spite of opposition.

Now our society is dealing with the debate over same-sex marriage and whether to recognize it as a right in America. Pitting long-standing religious traditions against the ability to openly express love and fidelity – that’s not just a spark near the fireworks. That’s a nuclear meltdown in progress. The trouble is there’s also a lot of prejudice and ignorance on the religious side, and there’s a lot of defensive lashing out due to past hurt on the same-sex marriage side – understandably so. On top of all that, there seems to be enough hate on both sides to go around.

Which is especially sad since we’re all supposedly talking about expressions of love.

There will always be political disputes and debates, but there doesn’t have to be so much vitriol in our rhetoric.

That brings me to this popular virtue I keep hearing about, called Tolerance.

Tolerance has come to mean that we must not only accept differences in others but also approve of them. When we speak of tolerating a thing, we simply mean acknowledging it, accepting the fact of its existence. I have pain in my foot following surgery. I can tolerate the pain. That doesn’t mean I approve of it. Even the term “acceptance” gets used as if to say “endorsement.” I accept marijuana is used throughout the United States and is even legal in some states. I do not endorse its use.

Equality means treating everyone with respect.
Equality means treating everyone with respect.

Treating each other as equals means tolerance is not a one way street.

If tolerance is indeed a virtue to which we should aspire, then it cannot be limited to those with whom we agree. We cannot demonize the other side as if everyone is either Westboro Baptist Church or NAMBLA. We cannot jump to conclusions and rush to judgment about what motivates supporters or opponents of same-sex marriage.

No, I don’t believe the activists are out to destroy the families. Most of them are just trying to have a family of their own. And no, I don’t believe most of the opponents think anyone is less than human or not worthy of dignity and respect, contrary to popular belief. Yes, there are too many bad apples. We tolerate their right to speech, even ignorant speech. And we counter their ignorance with prudence, temperance, and respectful disagreement.

We cannot justify intolerance and hatred toward others because “they were intolerant first.”

That’s not how virtues work.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” 

Likewise, if we only tolerate the tolerant, then what sort of virtue is it?

We’re always going to have important discussions in America, on subjects where both sides are very passionate. We owe it to ourselves to focus our energy on the viewpoints, not the participants… on virtue, not venom.

Think of the Children

I’m usually a pretty calm person, especially when it comes to dealing with other people. It takes a lot for someone to really get under my skin.

I do have my moments. Technology that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, for example, is like turning on a flamethrower in my chest. (I’m looking at you, Microsoft products, with all the ways you try to ‘help’ me by complicating the simplest tasks.)

My dog peeing everywhere, just brazen and unashamed. Yeah, that gets me ‘perturbed.’

But mostly, I keep calm and drink my coffee.

One thing that does get on my nerves is when people spew venom in the name of Christ.

I really hate it when they use children as their excuse.

I really, really hate it when they look right past their own faults to point at the faults of others.

You can’t expect mercy for your sins while proclaiming judgment on everyone else’s.

(I probably hate that because I’m often guilty of that myself.)

So… at some point or other I got signed up for a “defend marriage as one man and one woman” page on Facebook. I only recently noticed some of the stuff they post in pursuit of their cause.

I’ve gotten into it with the faceless individual(s) behind the page. Every now and then, someone says something completely asinine, and I feel compelled to share a reasonable voice with a logical counterpoint to the ignorance. It would be one thing if people were having thoughtful discussions and clarifying how their beliefs intersect with government and freedom and tolerance and all that. Most everyone I know is willing to admit we may not all agree, but we can disagree in a civil manner and hopefully all learn something from the debate.

Not everyone seems so inclined.

This little tragedy of grammar and graphics got posted on my wall today:

I’m not posting this because I agree with the image. First off, I can’t agree with incorrect word choice and terrible cut-and-paste graphics…

I don’t know why, but I happened to read the ten comments on the picture.

It was like a religious frat party, with people giving each other textual fist bumps by reminding everyone about God’s original plan for marriage and how sad it would be when the child eventually says, “I wish I had a father.” Someone ridiculed the smiling faces, conveying the tragic nature of this hypothetical union and its dangerous impact on the child’s development. Someone simply responded with, “Oh, barf!!!!!”

I’ll leave aside the fact that there are children being raised by gay couples around the world and not all of them are collapsing under the burden of self-loathing or grief. Both sides will point to various “experts” with studies that “prove” that gay couples raising children is “no harm done” OR there is irreparable damage. Whatever. Let’s just agree that there are a lot of kids out there who are going to grow up with two mommies or daddies (yes, this is a proper time to use the plural ‘daddies’).

And they’ll be just fine.

There was one voice of reason, who made the outrageous and satanic comment that “Making fun of gays is not going to help. This is a serious issue and a heated debate which deserves a thoughtful response. Insulting people is only going to burn bridges.”

One voice out of ten.

You can’t hear my sigh, but trust me, it’s a long one. (My wife can attest to this.)

The response from the page?

“We don’t believe putting adult lusts above the needs of children deserves consideration.”

Those dirty gays, sacrificing the souls of impressionable young kids on the altar of desire! /sarcasm

Full disclosure: I’m Christian, if you didn’t get that yet. I believe what the Bible says, though I understand a lot of it comes down to interpretation and theological debate. And the Bible seems to clearly identify homosexual activity as a sin.

But that’s not all it addresses.

What do I mean by that? I’ll let my response on Facebook to that picture speak for itself:

“Putting adult lusts above the needs of children is terrible, but people do it all the time. It’s just their sins are heterosexual. Or perhaps just gluttony, or alcoholism. Maybe it’s simple neglect. Maybe even it’s how some parents worship their work or ministry by devoting all their time and attention to those things while forsaking their responsibilities to their children.

“Maybe it’s the arrogance of adult Christians who forget that they’re looking down on the needs of some children out there, children who think they’re gay, who know they’re different from most everyone else, who absolutely know without any doubt that the Church is the very last place they’ll find love or acceptance (and I don’t mean acceptance of sin, but acceptance of them as a human being worthy of Christ’s sacrificial love expressed through us).

“Maybe our need to communicate how disgusting homosexuality is gets in the way of God’s desire to communicate to THEM how incredibly powerful and merciful and life-changing His love is, and maybe it gets in the way of His desire to communicate to us that in His holy sight all our sin is just as repulsive and ‘barf-worthy’ as theirs. ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ doesn’t mean much if we don’t do it.”
I don’t want to abuse God’s mercy or call sin ‘righteous.’ That’s not within my purview.

I haven’t torn out any passages in my Bible that claim homosexuality is a sin.

The difference is that I’m paying attention to the rest of the passages too.

14 Years

On June 28, 1998, my wife and I shared personal wedding vows and said, “I do.”

We were in the backyard of Jami’s grandparents’ house in Pueblo, Colorado. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon with a clear blue sky.

We had planned to take Communion for the first time as a married couple after the marriage was finalized and the vows were declared. The pastor we asked to officiate the wedding was not comfortable with us taking Communion outside a church building, so we spoke with a close friend who was also an ordained minister, and he performed that portion of our wedding.

As “luck” would have it, we took Communion as two individuals at the church service that morning. So we had this nice bookend on our wedding day — receiving the symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for us as two separate individuals, and then later that same day, receiving the same symbol as one flesh in the sight of God and men.

It was pretty awesome.

For fourteen years, my wife and I have stuck it out, working hard to keep up the commitment to those vows we made.

Reciting words is easy. Living them out, not so much.

We’ve had our moments.

I remember a time about a year after we got married. I had successfully hidden my video game habits from my geographically separated bride-to-be, but my new wife who was living in the same house quickly became aware of just how much time I spent at the computer or the PlayStation.

(Yes, now we’re going back in time to the 1st generation PlayStation.)

Needless to say, there were… tensions. My wife had some crazy expectation that I would spend time with her, but I was too busy playing Jane’s Fighter Anthology and such on my PC.

It took a couple years of straining her patience, but one day I came home from work to find all my games had disappeared. She had hidden them. Not only that… she had placed a ransom note next to the XBox to let me know that I was not going to get the games back until I spent some quality time on a regular basis with her.

I was livid… mostly because I knew she was right.

A few years ago, we got into a fight. For the life of me, I can’t remember why. But we were both on the offensive, throwing verbal jabs back and forth, trying to score a hit with our words, becoming meaner and meaner with each volley of words. 

Then, right after I shot some insult or angry rebuttal at her, she put her hand on my cheek, told me that she loved me, and kissed me passionately. I’m sure everything natural in her wanted to fire back and cut me deeply with some response. But she stopped me cold, completely disarming my hostility. How do you argue with that? 

You don’t. I didn’t.

We were able to stop and realize we’re on the same side. We were able to figure out how to proceed as a team instead of as rivals.

Again, I have no idea why we were fighting, and it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that she demonstrated remarkable love, something I can only hope on my best days to emulate. 

And of course, she’s had her moments of doubt, of fear, of failure, of frustration. She’s had those days where she needs to be reminded that my love for her isn’t based on some evaluation of her performance or how well she measures up to my perfectionist standard. My love for her is based on the fact that it’s her we’re talking about.

She puts up with being marginalized and ignored if it means that I get recognized. I try not to let this happen, because my wife is pretty awesome and undeniably talented in various areas. But she’ll step out of the spotlight if it means I get recognized for something I’ve done. 

She is truly the most unselfish person I know.

My Bordermarches story? She’s heard every version of that and then some.

“What if Lyllithe was a NINJA!”  No, dear.

“Maybe Lyllithe is a robot.” Really? That’s…. nice.

“What if the world was secretly an alternate universe?”  Stop watching Fringe so much, honey.

She puts up with a lot.

I think back to our wedding, and to my proposal long before that.

I had to keep it hidden, because I really wanted to surprise her. We would go for long walks and share our hearts as we spent time together. I waited for one of these walks as my opportunity.

It was April 2nd. I figured I better wait until the 2nd, because proposing on April 1st might send a bad message.

I had her ring on my pinky finger, and I was trying my best to keep it hidden. 

There was a small bridge where we sometimes stopped to talk and watch the stars. I paused there, to “tie my shoe.”

Then I told her, “I love you, and I want you for my wife. Jami Michelle Bennett, will you marry me?”

Oddly enough, I had a dream where I was trying to figure out the exact seventeen words I was supposed to say to propose. I don’t know why it had to be seventeen. It just did.

We’ve had our ups and downs, our twists and turns, our crashes and our wrecks.

But we continue on, because she meant it when she said, “I do.” 

And so did I.

I often say that I have no regrets, nothing I would go back and change, given the opportunity. It seems silly to me to think, “If I could, I would go back and choose X instead of Y.” We can’t possibly know all the ways that minor detail might change our lives. Maybe it would be good. Maybe it would be bad. Either way, it’s not possible, so why waste time thinking of things we’d like to change when we can be working to change our current situation instead?

But I would go back and change one thing.

I’d say “as” instead of “for” in my proposal. It’s grammatically more accurate.

I still love you, Jami Michelle Williamson, and I am glad to have you as my wife. 

On to the next fourteen years!

Mwak!