that covenant thing-ma-jig

number 8 in the list of self revelations: marriage sort of terrifies me.

Perhaps to be more exact (and more broad): relationships sort of terrify me.

Last night I went to Old Chicago’s with a couple of friends. We were enjoying some good pizza, the boys were working through their “beer tours” * and we were all having a good time. The restauarant section had mostly cleared out, the bar was on happy hour (but we were banished by Anna’s lack of desire to use her fake id), the tables were being wiped down and even our cheerful waitress with magnificent blonde hair and sweet plump curves looked tired as she closed out our tabs and said goodnight. But we sat there, laughing about bride prices (how many camels are equal to an elephant? what about goats? And Sara, do you think you or Anna has a higher bride price? Travis, how many goats would you give for Whitney to whom you are engaged and currently living with since your lease ran out?), we teased Anna for her age, me for my innocence, and what! Brett had gone to church with you?! This also did not escape the sharp wit hidden behind Travis’ slack grin and lazy eyes that had grown dull from the alcohol.

And then, we asked Brett what had happened with his almost-ex-girlfriend earlier that evening. He shrugged. They are working things out. But what things? You’ve had problems since May, since we last hung out, Anna said. You mean you haven’t seen him since May?! Travis snapped, “god, man, you’re a terrible friend.” No, I jumped in quickly, it’s cause his girlfriend hates me.

“She doesn’t hate you, she thinks you don’t like her.”
“I’ve hardly met her once! Why would she think that? Did working things out include a compromise by which we can be friends and see each other again?”

He hung his head. No. She isn’t comfortable with us seeing each other unless she is there.

To monitor? To babysit? I’m not asking to see him one-on-one. I’m not asking for him to take me to dinner. I’m not interested. I won’t pursue him. I wouldn’t pursue him if he was available. He’s not a Christian, and I’ve walked that road once before. Besides, I almost blurt out, I’m not really even attracted to you. But I manage to hold my tongue despite my heavy eyes and the fact that at 1230am I am a little less composed and in control of my wandering tongue.

I hold my words back because there is something bleak in Brett’s eyes. His girlfriend doesn’t trust him. They argue. They manipulate each other, through guilt, through money, through sex. They break each other’s hearts daily. They complain about each other to their friends and in public spaces like facebook. I’ve seen it. I’ve read the trash. I’ve heard the insults disguised as jokes and harmless teasing. But he tells me later, he loves her. How can you love that? How can you say you are happy with her 80%of the time when all I hear are complaints and struggles?

I have another friend at work who has hooked up multiple times with a married guy.

I’ve been hit on by married customers. Men who could be my father.

I work with someone whose boyfriend doesn’t ask her about her day, because “in all honesty, I really don’t care.”

I have a friend who is “separated” from his girlfriend, the mother of his child. Separation means he sleeps on the couch and they are going to counseling though they don’t speak to one another between the walls of the apartment that is meant to house their shared life–their experience of becoming one flesh.

I have friends who are getting divorced because she went outside her husband to find fulfillment, sexually and emotionally (which is the greater betrayal? binding with someone in your being? or in your body? are both not intertwined? are both aspects not a binding of the soul to another person to whom you do not belong?)

Marriage terrifies me. So many people break apart. Everyone argues. Everyone falls in and out of love. Everyone hurts the person they care about. It may be entirely selfish, but I am sick and tired of being hurt. I’m tired of developing feelings just in time to be shut down. I’m tired of  knowing that I, in my sinfulness, in my broken selfish nature, I hurt the people I care most deeply for.  Celibacy does not appeal. Let’s be honest. I’m 22. I have a biological clock. I want to know someone, to be known intimately: all the emotional junk, all the pain I’ve caused as well as endured, all the disease of my sinful nature and then I want to be loved in the midst of that knowledge. And more brutally: I want to know someone in the Biblical sense.

But to covenant with someone? To be bound to them for all my life? To commit to love and serve them despite their actions towards me? I shudder at the thought. Who can do that? Who can be faithful? Who can endure? Who can persevere?

Definitely not me. Not on my own. Not in my honest, earthy filth.

Perhaps that is why the Bible speaks so often of God in relation to the church as his bride.

Marriage is hard. But I think it must be good as well.

And perhaps we learn to love and appreciate the unconditional love of God in the experience of daily love and reconciliation towards the one we are with. But that can only be done in the power of Christ.


*Old Chicago has over 100 beers on tap. So a “beer tour” is when you go through and drink (over the course of weeks and months) every beer. You have your various servers sign off on your card that you’ve drunk each beer and I think at the end you get a free tshirt. Right now they are also doing one with rootbeers. I’m not sure if you get a tshirt at the end of that one. I’ll have to ask Travis when he finishes.


2 responses

  1. So true. I was terrified of marriage, even though I wanted to marry Isaac. The examples and the stories that I saw were a lot like your list, and why should I think myself above it?

    I still am shocked… even yesterday, when I realized an old friend from Papua has been separated from her husband for months now, and I had no idea.

    I can give reasons for why Isaac and I do well, but I don’t know if it’s because we were wise in our choice of each other, because we work at our marriage, because we were developed into functional people with a good view of marriage by our parents, or perhaps just because God blessed us and just happened to give us an easy situation. I don’t know… it’s arrogant to try to assume anything really.

    I just know that despite my fears, marriage is the most fun and safe relationship I’ve ever been in, and I can’t even explain it really.

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