Yearly Repentance Day

Well, eight years ago* (yes, on April Fool’s Day), I convinced a woman to make her life miserable. Don’t get me wrong, when I proposed, I specifically said “I can’t promise you happily ever after, but I can promise you that it will be interesting.”

I’ve taught her to be long-suffering, what the meaning of perseverance is. Given her practical experience in what a Dark Night of the Soul is. Eight years of her putting up with my Mojo Jo Jo or Mr. T “does bedroom banter” routines (“I pity the fool who won’t get naked right now!”). Eight years of my bursting into the bedroom singing the best of Jimi Hendrix (“cuz I’m a voodoo chile …).

Eight years of poetry dedicated to her (making up for the premature eulogies I kept writing–I’m a horror writer. Eulogies ARE romantic to me). Eight years of my version of parenting (starting with the birth of our son, Reese, part one AND part two, followed quickly by the birth of Malcolm) and her being lost in our testosterone fest.

In short, she’s managed to put up with me. For eight years. Eight LONG (for her, anyway) years.

So today’s my one day of the year where I make her hate her life less. To this day, her friends comment on how she used to be sweet, nice. Then she came to the dark side (hmm, literally and figuratively, now that I think about it).

My kids, on the other hand, are more interested in the fact that today is also April Fool’s Day. I keep telling them that without the anniversary, there would be no them or their bad jokes. Instead, I have to put up with them telling me that there’s a spider on my head.

*I meant to post this yesterday, but I actually got busy doing anniversary type stuff. Plus, I have to submit anniversary blogs for pre-approval after last years “It’s been seven years and I’m a-itchin'” blog got vetoed.

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Friday Night Date Place – Singleness is a Sin

“I’m going to speak of the sin I think besets this generation. It is the sin of delaying marriage as a lifestyle option among those who intend someday to get married, but they just haven’t yet. This is a problem shared by men and women, but it’s a problem primarily of men.” Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky

This wasn’t the first time I head of this school of thought. There is a prevalent attitude, in action if not in word; in fact, I heard it from a pulpit not too long ago. The implication seems to be that we aren’t taking marriage seriously. I would contend the exact opposite. I guess we’re overlooking the fact that our parent’s generation did marriage so well. What happened to not entering into marriage lightly? Or a person simply not finding the right person yet? It’s almost like they are advocating “you better settle for whoever by the time you’re 30” as if marriage was the point of life. Their indignation at this generation of singles flies in the face of their belief in the sovereignty of God. Unless they are going to say that it’s God’s will that you get married by your early 20s: “If you’re 17, 18, 19, 20, in your early 20s—what are you waiting for?”

Here are the plain facts: According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the first marriage for a white male is now at age 27.5. For white females, the age is slightly lower. This amounts to a delay that often has devastating consequences. With puberty coming at earlier ages than ever before–certainly in the early teens for most Americans–the period of time between sexual maturity and marriage is now stretching out into something like an average of ten to fifteen years. The accompanying statistics related to premarital sexual activity parallel the statistics related to the delay of marriage. Can anyone be surprised?

The assumption that the delay is due to “young people” sowing their wild oats, every body’s doing it, and no one is capable of learning the discipline of chastity. I get that there is a generation of folks who refer to said singles as “younger folk” and who are more comfortable with the days when women stayed home and fulfilled their established role in life, however, this is also a symptom of the school of thought that has turned the family into an idol. Yeah, I said it. Too often, the singles of the church are neither reached out to nor truly appreciated, but treated like second class citizens within the church (because you haven’t fulfilled your role as a man or woman until you’ve gotten married and had children). Singles have all of this mythical disposable income since they don’t have a family to support and they are always available to run the church nursery so that real Christians can hear the sermon.

As one who believes wholeheartedly in the biblical pattern of complementarity and in the male responsibility to lead, I charge young men with far greater responsibility for this failure. The extension of a “boy culture” into the twenties and thirties, along with a sense of uncertainty about the true nature of male leadership has led many young men to focus on career, friends, sports, and any number of other satisfactions when they should be preparing themselves for marriage and taking responsibility to grow up, be the man, and show God’s glory as husband and father.

Do you know why it is the men’s fault? Primarily because it was women who raised the ruckus when he first talked about the sin of singleness. I guess we could blame the guys, but I suspect there’s a dearth of dating across the board. One of the things that plays into this extended dating time is that it is taking our generation(s) longer to find themselves. (My personal theory is because we haven’t had to. There’s been no major cultural event that has forced us to “grow up,” no major war (not like a World War or anything involving a draft), no Depression, no defining societal moment. It’s just a theory.)

That and Jesus was still single in his 30s. Couch that in “he had a mission” all you want, but the truth is that we all are to join in with his ministry and frankly, we are more able to be about kingdom work without the divided distraction of the idol of family. Some people take the apostle Paul seriously about not being hindered by marriage. Be content where you are. If you’re about the “hunt”, you miss opportunities to live life where you are. Be aware of the hunt, not focused on it. If someone comes along, good; if not, we have our work, our life, to be about.

Just a few thoughts.

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Friday Night Date Place – Vows Part II

As I said yesterday, these are the vows that my wife and I swore to six years ago today. Let me tell you, I like to think of myself as a good man, but each day I realize just how far short I fall in living up to these promises. Marriage is a sacred undertaking that we don’t take seriously enough.

As I await the future resurrection and glorification of the body, I must due to my present frailties, weaknesses, and continued sinfulness, not only say, and not only promise, but rather, I must vow to you before friends, family, God, and government, those things which, apart from the grace of God, I can not fulfill.

As Christ loves His Church sacrificially,
so I vow to sacrifice all for your sake
As Christ loves His Church supremely,
so I vow to ever delight in only you
As Christ loves His Church eternally,
so I vow to love you until my dying day

As Christ provides for His Church,
so I vow to provide for you
As Christ sanctifies His Church,
holy commandments of our God and King
As Christ serves his church,
so I vow to serve you with all humility and patience

And just as Christ has promised never to leave or forsake
His Church, so I vow to never depart from or abandon you,

For Richer or poorer
In sickness and in health
For better or for worse
Until death do us part

By my love, I hope to prepare you for the One whose love
I can only but hope to faintly imitate- the Lord Jesus Christ

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Friday Night Date Place – A Realistic View of Marriage

Alright, this is a leftover bit from my rant from last week. The question you may want to ask yourself before “why date?” may be “why marry?” Let’s take a brief overview of what it means to get married, what you are really in for. Things begin when you exchange one gift (singleness) for another (marriage). Actually, I could spend some time talking about that because as is, singleness is typically viewed as a curse, something we have to endure until we reach the “promised land” known as marriage. Let me tell you, that was a rough transition for me because I really enjoyed being single. I had plenty of friends. I was able to go out (and more importantly, be alone) when I wanted. And I was busy. In other words, I led a full single life. I think having a lot of interests, a sense of belonging/community, and a lot to do (the free time to minister as I felt led, for example–which I don’t have now, not because I don’t have the desire, but because my wife and kids would like to see me on occasion and they are the prime demanders of my time). Belonging and busyness are probably the secrets to being fulfilled while single.

I could be wrong though. Either way, I digress.

Marriage equals a loss of freedom. Suddenly, you are accountable to another person. Not just accountable, but expected. Expected. As in someone would like to be with you, invading your space all the time, and expects you to be there. Presence is a powerful thing to get used to. Don’t let anyone fool you: none of us know what we’re doing. As singles, we spent a lot of time and used up a lot of brainspace figuring out how things would be when we were married (the hardest dream to let die was the idea that marriage meant “sex all the time” – apparently the thing that married people do together most is watch tv together). Good, think about it, but just realize that the reality may not be what you thought it was.

Heh. One of the stories that my wife still recounts (with just a hint of bitterness if you listen closely enough) is how long it took me to get used to the idea that I wasn’t living life on my own anymore. Apparently, and who knows, she remembers these things better than I (with just a hint of bitterness if you listen closely enough), I used to randomly leave the house without telling her. She’d be talking to me one minute, I would remember I needed something at the grocery store and leave. Something I used to not think twice about. Until I got back home.

I’m still thinking about it.

With a hint of bitterness.

If I listen closely enough.

But I digress. And she’s not going to think this nearly as amusing as I do. I’m not saying that this was one of the first, and often painfully learned, lessons of my marriage in the first few months. I’m just saying. Before I got married, no one asked me where I was going, who I was going with, or when I would be back. On the flip side, no one cared either.

With marriage, your privacy is invaded on a scale that you haven’t seen since you were forced to share your room with your sibling. Your sin is fully exposed. Hey, I thought I was a pretty good guy until I got married, because there was no one around to see me all the time or tell me otherwise. I never realized what an ass I could be until I had another person around me all the time. (That’s not entirely true. I did have a pretty good idea, it’s just nothing you put on your dating resume.)

Marriage is a lifetime commitment. That’s forever for at least one of you. Marriage is a sacrifice of yourself for the sake of another. You surrender your personal rights as you strive to please another (I Cor. 7:32-34). Marriage is risk. There is no guarantee of happiness or fulfillment. You are always vulnerable to heartache or heartbrokenness. No one can hurt you the way, nor as deeply, a spouse can.

Marriage is work.
Marriage is work.
Marriage is work.

And you know what? Sadly, I have seen some wrong reasons folks have thought of as reasons to get married:
-tax breaks (though don’t get me wrong, that is why I decided to have kids)
-to make a home
-to have sex or children (as if that is the sole purpose of marriage – remember, there is always television)
-to end or prevent loneliness (marriage is no guarantee of that: there is nothing worse that being lonely in a marriage. At least when you are single, you can theoretically do something about it).

For the record, marriage:
-will not (necessarily) end your aloneness
-will not (necessarily) fulfill your needs
-will not solve your problems (note that I didn’t qualify that one)
-is not God’s plan for everyone (listen up church!)
-will not solve your lust issues (the one thing that NO ONE ever tells you when they throw the I Corithians “better to be married than burn” passage at you)

Basically, any reason outside of being with the person themselves is bad.

Let me come back to our idea of singleness vs. marriage. When did marriage become a reward? Seriously, when did we start acting like God was punishing us with a time of singleness to make us appreciate marriage when we got it. It’s that mindset that leads people to say things like, “one day, you’re time will come.” Are you freaking kidding me? If I’m my wife’s reward for something, she needs to be doing some heavy repenting. There’s no point in pursuing dating as some sort of mission to fall in love if most folks don’t even have a realistic view of marriage. I maintain that the idea of romantic love was one of the worse things to happen to marriage. People (women, there, I said. I ain’t scared of you.) have unrealistic visions of what dating should be. You spot each other from across a room. There is an instant, if unadmitted, chemistry. There is an exchange of witty banter, followed by a chase/hunt that triumphs over misunderstandings and adversity. Most of us expect to enter into marriage via falling in love with someone who makes our toes dance, who makes us tingle. Too often “falling in love” amounts to setting up alters to ourselves: when we lose that tingle, we think that something’s wrong or it is time to move on because we are no longer fulfilled or having our needs met.

Believe me, I wish that we as a culture respected marriage as an institution a lot more than we do. When we start tossing around phrases like “starter marriages” or when some countries have begun treating marriage like business contracts (people enter into marriage committed for X amount of years, with the option to renew), I can’t pretend that the unrealistic view of marriage is somehow limited to singles in the church.

You fall in love with an ideal, you divorce the reality.

A person’s “charming quirks” become irritating traits that become the daily bane of your existence. That most wonderful of women becomes a nagging lump. That man you spent hours just thinking about, you now try to forget the stunt he pulled last night. Her wit becomes biting sarcasm. His suave dress doesn’t match the streaked underwear you have to pick up and wash.

In other words, you better not be a damsel because we certainly ain’t knights.

[Since this is leftover ranting, I will link to a friend of mine for some added material. “Dear friend … I validate you.”]

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If you do decide to take the plunge into marriage, you’ll need to start off with some dating. Finding a date can be a time consuming process, unless you use an online dating service. When you decide to use an online personals website it’s important to use a dating website that has many search options that help you refine your search by things such as age, location and whether they smoke or not to help make sure you bond on the first date.