Ode to Marriage

The rain is banging against the tarp, filling the concrete house with a dull roar. Just the sound of it causes my bones to shiver. I promised myself a cup of coffee as long as I diligently planned the week’s English lessons. Then I opened a blank document and forgot my promise.

There is something about having a sheet of white on my screen that makes my fingers want fill it up with random thoughts. This time my random thoughts are about marriage.

What do I know about marriage? Very little since I’ve been single for nearly 30 years. Yet, being in a culture that points to marriage as necessary for one’s spiritual journey makes me contemplate this more than I would were I still in the States.

In one perspective, life begins at marriage. The unspoken idea is that one cannot be happy unless they have a significant other.

Then there is the perspective that life ends at marriage. Think about how countless movies and books end with a couple finally realizing that they are right for each other. Why do the books and movies end there?

And then, even more real to me in this culture is the perspective that once a woman is married, she becomes her husband’s servant and is bound to her home. Her only joy after marriage is having children.

At times, I’m envious of married couples who step into this new world together and get to experience things as a unit rather as individuals.

To me, that’s one of the most beautiful things of marriage: companionship. I told my classmate my thoughts and she looked at her husband and smiled: “Yes, that’s true. But once you’re married, you don’t DO as much!”

I suppose there’s a flip-side to everything. That’s why I won’t stress out about my marital status. The preparation for anything is in seeking God’s face.

These are my disconnected, rainy day thoughts.

How far is heaven?

Was it even open?

The handle turned beneath my eager fingertips. It was!

I hadn’t been to the library in months. I wasn’t even sure why I’d come today except that I wasn’t ready to leave town and go home. I wanted to be alone. It was one of those days: interruptions at every turn; repeating everything I said at least once; everyone expecting me to be a team player when I just wanted to grab my journal and disappear until next week.

That’s why the library was such a good place to vanish for an hour. Here, the shelves were lined with stories of people who had lived and breathed life’s struggle. They had faced the same problems I faced today. I felt a camaraderie with these characters beyond the lettered spines on floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

“Are you looking for something in particular?” A librarian approached me, even as I was still inhaling the tawny scent of explored pages.

She seemed satisfied when I said, “No, just looking.”

I fought the urge to just stand and soak in the stories. I was in the fiction section anyway, so I slipped over to the next aisle. Art. Music. History. Sewing. Biography. Religion. I pulled books off the shelf to page through them before adding them to the growing stack tucked in the crook of my elbow.

There were books for sale- 5 cents each- that town citizens had donated to the library. I browsed that section and found a book about heaven.

Heaven.

I wove through the displays of cheap romance novels and heaved my stack onto the check-out counter.

“Do you need a sack?”

“No. Thanks. I have one in the car.”

“Can I get the door for you?”

“Thanks. I got it.”

I loaded my car and was on the way home–beside the elementary school and the reduced speed limit signs–when I remembered the book about heaven.

I had only forked over the nickel to give the book away. I didn’t read books about heaven. The incessant chatter of an afternoon radio show interrupted my emerging thoughts. I hit the power button.

“Why?” I said aloud. “Why don’t I think about heaven?”

Was it that I was comfortable on earth? Hardly! I was always yearning for something.

“But what is it?” Was I yearning for heaven or the “next big thing” in my life wherein lie coveted fulfillment? Couldn’t I pretend that it was all just a subconscious longing to be with God?

Or was it more like a choice of where I based my citizenship?

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seem them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.”

(Heb. 11:13-14)

On the drive home, the dusty wind and thick, angry raindrops reminded me of life’s trials. But somehow, with the hope of heaven, trials didn’t look so scary.

No longer practical or safe

I needed guidance so I asked for a sign. He showed me Gideon’s life: how a normal man became radically obedient to God and consequently did things that didn’t make sense. Neither would my life make sense, He said.

Then He took me through the woods to a clearing overlooking the water. The sweet musk of rotting wood and damp leaves pervaded the quiet space. There He told me that in staying safe, I would miss a deeper relationship with Him.

I came home, burdened with thought. Isn’t it natural to want to be practical? After all, God gave us brains with the intention that we use them.

Gideon’s army was about 1/6 of the Midianite army; using every available man would have been the only practical thing to do outside of waving a flag of surrender. Yet God said, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me'” (Judges 7:2). Like the children of Israel, am I boasting my own strength? Dare I weed out my self-sufficiency to see that it is not I who prevails but He who is within me?

And as for safety, it’s second from the bottom in the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Humans need to feel safe even before love, esteem, and self-actualization. Of course, I’m not acknowledging Abraham Maslow as the expert on all things psychological; however, his study reveals the human desire for safety. We rarely put ourselves in danger’s way unless we somehow feel in control. To always be safe is like the fetus who never exits the mother’s womb. Never will he grow and mature into a child, teenager, adult. Never will he taste life’s richness unless he becomes unsafe. Am I ready to face the world outside of the womb?