Saturday, April 19, 2008

Our Marriage :)

After my last entry, Lindsay had mentioned she would like to hear more about how Jonathan and I have cultivated such a wonderful marriage. I have thought about it often, but seeing as it actually takes a while to write it, I haven't gotten to it until now. I'm going to dive right in.

Jonathan and I actually fell in love in July 2001, but my father asked us to spend time apart (what turned out to be 15 months) seeking God and pursuing other areas of growth in our lives. We saw one another maybe 4 times, but communicated little. That time apart was integral in us truly discerning the basis of our love. Was it Attraction? Infatuation? Fun? Enjoyment of the friendship? Through that time we learned it was God's Will we be together - he had joined us. And so we were able to withstand anything we'd come against, because there was a solid foundation of knowing this realtionship was not begun by us.

Once we started spending time together again, we talked extensively about how we would always remain "in love" - with him being away at college, with the military life that loomed ahead, with seeing so many other couples either fighting all the time, or satisfied with separate lives in their marriages. How could we keep this magical inloveness we had at this early stage when the pain and pressure of life assailed us too, somewhere in the future?

And here is where we gained wisdom vividly alive in written word. "A Severe Mercy" was Sheldon Vanauken's somewhat spiritual autobiography (although it encompassed entirely more). His relationship with his wife - before they even knew Christ - was probably the closest I'd ever heard of. They had this same desire and plan - to keep inloveness - forever. They carefully and thoughtfully talked about how they would accomlish this. So we gleaned from them. I include excerts below that we hung onto. We read this book together in our early months. Some may disagree with the statements below. They were founded by pagans, after all. But for us, they resounded with a deep truth and understanding of what we wanted our union to look like. It's not something we talk about to others ever - it's just our core beliefs. It is of course in addition to everything we know Biblically, in which I belive my audience and I are probably taught the same. We have Bibilcal principles for our marriage. Yet one can have a very solid Biblical marriage, and not have the emotional/actual closeness we were seeking/desiring. What I convey below is how we achieve the amazing closeness and inloveness and true best friendship we want with one another.
What emerged from out talk was nothing less, we believed, than the certral ‘secret’ of enduring love: sharing.

‘What is it that draws two people into closeness and love? Of course there’s the mystery of physical attraction, but beyond that it’s the things they share. We both love strawberries and ships and collies and poems and all beauty, and all those things bind us together. Those sharings just happened to be; but what we must do now is share everything. Everything! If one of us likes anything, there must be something to like in it – and the other one must find it. Every single thing either of us likes. That way we shall create a thousand strands, great and small, that will link us together. Then we shall be so close that it would be impossible – unthinkable – for either of us to suppose that we could ever recreate such closeness with anyone else. And our trust in each other will not only be based on love and loyalty but on the fact of a thousand sharings – a thousand strands twisted into something unbreakable.’

Total sharing, we felt, was the ultimate secret of a love that would last for ever. And of course we could learn to like anything if we wanted to. Through sharing we would not only make a bond of incredible friendship, but through sharing we would keep the magic of inloveness. And with every year, more depth. We would become as close as two human beings could become – closer perhaps than any two people had ever been. Whatever storms might come, whatever changes the years might bring, there would be the bedrock closeness of all our sharing. So we saw our way, horizon beyond horizon, ahead. And so it was to be. Later we looked back upon that day when sharing was born as the day when, we began to raise the Shining Barrier.

The Shining Barrier – the shield of our love. A walled garden. A fence around a young tree to keep the deer from nibbling it. A fortified place with the walls and watchtowers gleaming white like the cliffs of England. The Shining Barrier – protecting the green tree of our love. And yet in another sense, it was our love itself, made strong within, that was the Shining Barrier.

But why does love need to be guarded? We looked about us and saw the world as having become a hostile and threatening place where standards of decency and courtesy were perishing and war loomed gigantic. A world where love did not endure. The smile of inloveness seemed to promise for ever, but friends who had been in love last year were parting this year. The divorce rate was in the news. Were there any older people in love? It must be that, whatever its promise, love does not by itself endure. But why? What was the failure behind the failure of love?

We thought we saw the answer. The killer of love is creeping separateness. Inloveness is a gift of the gods, but then it is up to the lovers to cherish or to ruin. Taking love for granted, especially after marriage. Ceasing to do things together. Finding separate interests. ‘We’ turning into ‘I. Self. Self-regard: what I want to do. Actual selfishness only a hop away. This was the way of creeping separateness. And in the modern world, especially in the cities, everything favored it. The failure of love might seem to be caused by hate or boredom or unfaithfulness with a lover; but those were results. First came the creeping separateness: the failure behind the failure.

We raised the Shining Barrier against creeping separateness, which was, in the last analysis, self. We also raised it against a world of indecencies and decaying standards, the decline of courtesy, the whispering mockers of love. We would have our own standards. And, above all, we would be us-centered, not self-centered. Against creeping separateness we would oppose the great principle of sharing. We saw self as the ultimate danger to love. Still, we turned away from it, turned away because we loved our love. And we were determined that it should endure.

We sought closeness through sharing in order to keep inloveness; but such closeness was simply true union. We saw the process of achieving union as like two stones becoming one by grinding together, the hard bits of one wearing away soft bits of the other, until as last the fit is perfect: one stone.

Jonathan and I naturally had many common sharings. We both loved the outdoors and adventures and family-life (doing things with our siblings/parents) and cooking and gardening. I had never been hunting. He had hardly ever cooked gourmet food or ventured to a gourmet restaurant. He loved primative camping. His idea of a beach vacation meant lots of fishing. I loved classical music concerts. And yet, we began to share those experiences together. We didn't find separate friends to do these activities with, we did not each do our own thing. We shared those experiences. Even when something might not obviously appeal to one of us, we love each other more and would rather be together than apart, even if the activity we're engaging in isn't naturally exciting to us. And we have truly become the best partners in each of our endeavors. We are inseprable. When we experience things separately, we cannot wait to share all kinds of intricate details to the other, where they can feel as close to experiencing it while having been absent. We just are. We have the kind of oneness we live and breathe for.

Maybe this has answered the initial musings, I hope it's been enjoyable to read a little more about us. I hope it doesn't come off as smug or proud - these are simply facts, decisions we've made for us. Thank you for your patience!


Laurie B. said...

I'm a friend of Lisi and Susi's and I wanted to let you know that I read your blog sometimes and I really liked this post. I thought your description for a good marriage was beautiful and I hope my husband and I can share this type of bond. You really made me realize how important it could be to just sit down and listen to his thoughts and passions. A thousand strands twisted into something unbreakable...sounds amazing! Thanks!!


Lindsay said...

THANK YOU Denise!!! That was really powerful. It was worth the wait:) I have been meaning to email you and give you a hard time about making me wait so long!;)
I think Jeremy and I have really realized lately that we have been lacking in the "just being together and enjoying that over anything else", especially me I might add.
So we are working on our friendship.
I'd love to hear more anytime!
Love ,

Carolyn Honea said...

Thanks so much for sharing that! I can see how some of the ups and downs in our marriage have been related to that. I'm going to forward it to my engaged brother.

Further Up & Further In said...

Denise, I am just plain Jealous. ....and, I'm re-reading Severe Mercy.

Wagener family fun said...

What encouraging words of wisdom. I have been married for over 11 years now and the words of which you have shared have helped to shed light on my own marriage. Thank you for being so open I believe all that read your passage will learn from it.
May the Lord continue to bless you both and continue to grow you closer to one another.

Herb of Grace said...

Jeremiah and I read that one together during our courtship as well and loved it. It's a good reminder to read that passage in particular again. Keep up the good work on the Shining Barrier! It's worth it :)

Btw, good to see a new post from you, it's been a while...