Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”
Without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would, as it were, be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer’s apprentice who lacked the magic formula to break the spell. Without being bound to the fulfillment of promises, we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each man’s lonely heart, caught in its contradictions and equivocalities, a darkness which only the light shed over the public realm through the presence of others, who confirm the identity between the one who promises and the one who fulfills, can dispel. Both faculties, therefore, depend on plurality, on the presence and acting of others, for no one can forgive himself and no one can feel bound by a promise made only to himself; forgiving and promising enacted in solitude or isolation remain without reality and can signify no more than a role played before one’s self. [emphasis mine]
Many people come to marriage having been seriously hurt by parents, lovers, or former spouses. I am not talking about parents who physically or sexually abuse their children. I’m talking of the more widespread experiences of cold and indifferent parents or of verbally abusive parents who know how to punish children emotionally. Then there are the dating relationships or former marriages in with the other party wrong and betrayed you. All of these experiences can make it extremely difficult to trust the other sex, while at the same time filling you with deep doubts about your judgment and character. “Woundedness” is compounded self-doubt and guilt, resentment and disillusionment.
I let myself be crippled by this for about seven years… my own voice compounded with the schizophrenic lies and distortions of she who sought, with great success for a time, to undermine every decent thing I’ve ever been or done.
…extremely difficult to trust the other sex, while at the same time filling you with deep doubts about your judgment and character…self-doubt and guilt, resentment and disillusionment.Even knowing the voice was one of psychosis and hatred, didn’t stop it from wounding me more deeply than I could have imagined, wounding ever deeper time and time again. I would be filled with those deep doubts about my judgment and character. I would despair of ever having a future, and I would allow axes of utter nonsense to fell my tree-of-self-awareness.
I am so very grateful, not just for the healing God has given me, but especially for the protection and reassurance against such attacks. I had thought to never again be subjected to such attacks until a letter arrived a couple of months ago. This new packet of hatred sought to go back to the utter beginning of our love affair, well before matrimony, and paint over great beauty with foul and rotted pigments of selfishness and wickedness. Instead of felling me for a time, it became one more reinforcing artifact to add to a pile of correspondence which my spiritual and psychological advisers agree show a descent into madness.
It produced deep sorrow, but sorrow is not at all the same bunny of which Tim speaks. You cannot desperately and deeply love someone, whatever the circumstances, and not ache for them and the pain, unhappiness, and poison of hatred they continue to imbibe.
I won’t say that I’ve grown completely immune, and to be honest I do not want to become so. Satan does find those very occasional lowest points to charge one of his tempters with whispering into my ears tired old lies and doubts. I am glad I am not entirely immune simply because the hubris of immunity would be an utter lack of humbleness and failure to see myself relationally as fallen man in need of Christ. If I became that, I might truly begin to be the monster she describes. I think Spurgeon said it best when he said, “Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” All the more reason to surround myself with friends and spiritual leaders who know me well and hold me ever accountable. Instead, I think it leaves me clear to see those issues with my character and judgment that still merit large allocations of prayer and effort.
God brings joy in the morning.
I’ve explored only of the wounding caused by adult relationships. So long since has God healed me from the first type of wounding Tim discusses, that I nearly forgot to touch on the subject. Learning some crucial truths resolved my fear of being married and of being a father to children such that they no longer seem justifiable concerns. I remain vigilant but no longer paralyzed.
I have learned to truly love, to affirm, to serve, to sacrifice, to place the prerogative of another above my own and to take joy in doing so. I am not my father. I will never visit upon a beloved wife or child the terrors visited upon me; the fear of which kept me from believing I had any right to love and be loved. I will have my own unique blindnesses and shortcomings, but never those and never lacking the love and humility that keeps me from realizing (yes, after prompting and time perhaps) that these blindnesses and shortcomings exist.
I likewise realized is that even were there some ‘demon’ holding license to lurk within me, a fear I once very much held [knowledge of which was used by another as impotent firey dart which fail to wound], I do not exist in a vacuum. I will never be separated from people who know me and who have been given leave to look deeply into my life and sift and seek and confront.
Most important of all considerations is that my deal-breaker-if-lacking criteria for a future beloved is a deep, abiding love of Jesus Christ combined with a sharp intellect, a heart of love and wisdom, and the courage to be bold. A marriage is not one person performing solo, but two persons acting in sweet and sacred concert with one another.
If one member begins to play off-piste and ignores the direction of the Conductor Almighty, the music quickly sours and the partner in error must correct if sweetness is to again be achieved.
2 Timothy 1:7 NLTFor God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
When I make a promise, I bear witness that my future with you is not locked into a bionic beam by which I was stuck with the fateful combinations of X’s and Y’s in the hand I was dealt out of my parents’ genetic deck.
When I make a promise, I testify that I was not routed along some unalterable itinerary by the psychic conditioning visited on me by my slightly wacky parents.
When I make a promise I declare that my future with people who depend on me is not predetermined by the mixed-up culture of my tender years.
I am not fated, I am not determined, I am not a lump of human dough whipped into shape by the contingent reinforcement and aversive conditioning of my past. I know as well as the next person that I cannot create my life de novo; I am well aware that much of what I am and what I do is a gift or a curse from my past. But when I make a promise to anyone I rise above all the conditioning that limits me.
“Controlling the Unpredictable – The Power of Promising“
Christianity Today Jan. 1983
There was a time I felt it necessary to hide this article behind password protection as it contains things which some might assume to be of a personal nature. As of March, no longer do those reasons apply. This is one of my favorite compositions. I’ve been told by some who have read it that portions were helpful to them. For these reasons I wish it hidden no longer.
We stop and ask ourselves those critical questions which we believe we must have answered in the affirmative before we will go Dancing in the Minefields. The answers, if entirely honest, will always be insufficient. We will never start the music; never take hand with a dance partner.
Our ideals exceed the graces of humanity. We men wait on the Proverbs 31 woman. She does not exist. Many women wait for the second coming of Christ. His heart is already spoken for. When He returns it will be to carry home God’s daughter-in-law. And so we wait rather than begin the great adventure. We stand at the edge of the minefield, staring out across it, alone, yet yearning to dance; for a companion with whom to dance.
We are prisoners therefore, in our very hearts, held captive by fears, clutching tightly to standards of perfection rather than standards of honest yet often stumbling pursuit of excellence.
“Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of flesh and the living colors of the earth and sky and sea? Why am I afraid to love, I who love love?” ― Eugene O’Neill, The Great God Brown and Other Plays
The question then… the second question, bespeaks a more realistic ideal, prompted when we definitively have God. If we have God and His example of Love and Grace to always stand with us, then the second question becomes the one that matters.
The third question becomes then, mere formality. It was answered when we invited God to a place of primacy within our marriage and our hearts.
God will join our hands. God will start the music. Our eyes on Him we will dance with joyous abandon and our feet will find only safe firm ground†, ’til we come to the other side and meet with Him, our Father, face to face.
† There is a difficult distinction to make here. I’ve borrowed the metaphor of dancing through minefields from Andrew Peterson’s autobiographical song, “Dancing in the Minefields.” Marriage is always a dance through minefields and always fraught with danger.* We live on a fallen earth of fallen people under the influence of the Bent Oyarsa. We will encounter mines; in those seasons when our eyes waver from God, or when the fallenness of this world (sin by those outside our marriage and sickness being a major consequences of fallenness) asserts. With God in our marriage however, our dance will be more graceful, more beautiful, and less apt to put a foot wrong in clumsy stumble. Moreover, when we do encounter mines, our devotion to God will equip us to better deal with whatever the Bent Oyarsa (Satan) throws at us. Our devotion will mean that -we- react differently, and choose to weather storms with one another, storms that shred marriages based only on things earthly. Andrew says it beautifully: “And we’re dancing in the minefields. We’re sailing in the storm. This is harder than we dreamed, but I believe that’s what the promise is for.” These storms are best illustrated (quite literally) here: Family Man — Andrew Peterson
* “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” ― William Goldman, William Goldman: Four Screenplays with Essays