I have a great marriage. It gives me a deep sense of fulfillment, a sense of being loved and accepted. I never feel alone.
Sunday mornings are really special for us. I start by singing a few songs about how Laurie makes me feel and how beautiful she is. Then I spend a little time confessing my struggles from the previous week—things like wasting her money, flirting with other women, a few dates with strangers. Nothing too serious or unexpected.
After the songs, I talk about our marriage for about twenty minutes, reminding myself of how loving and forgiving she is, and how I need to be more committed. Then I sing another song to lock it in.
I’m pretty good about keeping in touch during the week. I spend thirty minutes each morning reminding myself of how great Laurie is, and how much she loves me. I even spend some time sitting next to her, hoping that she might say something. She’s pretty quiet, but that’s what makes her so mysterious. If she whispers, it’s always a thrill.
One of my friends claims that he talks to his wife all the time. He actually wrote down what she says. When I read the words, I imagine Laurie saying them to me. They sound like something she’d say.
Mostly Laurie works behind the scenes, helping me to feel secure, keeping the money coming in, keeping food on the table. I always thank her before I eat.
Besides the day to day, we also have a lot of great traditions. In the winter, we celebrate Laurie’s birthday for an entire month. In the spring, we celebrate how the two of us got together. It took a lot for her to make it happen, actually—a lot of suffering. Pretty brutal stuff. I usually spend more than a month trying to pay tribute to her suffering in my own way, making sure that she knows I don’t take her love for granted.
Before I start, though, I like to take a few days and let loose. I usually go to someplace like Vegas, open up my wallet, and pay no attention to what comes out. Sometimes I share the fun with a woman friend. Then I come home, sit next to my beloved, and promise her that for the next forty days I will cut something out of my life to reflect on her suffering.
She seems to like that. At least I think she does. Like I said, she’s pretty quiet.
In her diary, Laurie promised that she won’t be quiet like this forever. She plans to be a lot more active and talkative in the future, which is what I’m really looking forward to. In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to keep this thing fresh and positive, keeping our appointments during the week, following the calendar, trying to keep her frown upside-down.
Okay, I admit it. I’m being more than a little facetious with this one. And I’m challenging myself as much as anyone else. Building a relationship with a transcendent, invisible being is not easy. Sometimes the religion helps. Sometimes it gets in the way.
The transition from Fat Tuesday to Ash Wednesday always leaves me cold. We overindulge because we are about to under-indulge? Yeah, I know, I’m just no fun when it comes to Church traditions and rituals. I established that a couple of posts ago.
But still, when I see people revel on one day, then force sobriety and reverence the next, I can’t help thinking of verses like these:
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me. I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you. Even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Isaiah 1:14-15
I hate, I despise your religious festivals. Your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:21-24
I once led a community group with a church in Hollywood. In our first meeting, we went around the room introducing ourselves, talking about what brought us to L.A. As you can imagine, the tone was light, the conversation was fun, and everyone left feeling good about the group.
The second time, I asked everyone to talk about their relationship with God. The answers went something like this: “My parents were Baptists, so I was raised in a big church. In college I went to a smaller church with hymns and liturgy and all that. Then I got married and went to my wife’s Methodist Church for a while. Then we moved to Hollywood and found this church.”
After going all the way around the room, I had to rephrase the question. I didn’t want to hear about their preferred denominations, or how or when they were baptized, or whether or not they believed in eternal security. I wanted to hear how they connected with God and how that relationship has developed over the years.
As you can imagine, the energy in the room was muted, nothing like the previous week.
We all know the phrase, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” I think sometimes we need to remember what a genuine relationship looks like.
The international sensation, Jesus Calling, should be a giant wake-up call for the Church. To me, it says that millions of people are desperate for a deeper intimacy with Christ, but feel the need to share Sarah Young’s personal experiences to get there.
Do we really need to experience the indwelling life of Christ vicariously? What does it take for our relationship with God to be as alive and active as our human relationships? Is that even possible?