Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: marriage

Inspired to a good life

Ten years ago, when she walked down the aisle, Angie wanted tears – and it worked. I believe J Mac’s first words were, *deep breath* “whew!”  As they have made their life together, Angie and Chad continue to live in that same sort of awe-inspiring intensity.

ledley

What cute kids!

I’ve never seen anyone aspire to such the non-American dream. To them, 2.5 kids, a white-picket fence and high-paying 9-5 careers sounds miserable. And they live like they believe it. They scrape the edges of their finances to make a non-traditional school a possibility for their kids. They’ve discovered true give-and-take community within their church that breathes life into them, where serving goes beyond responsibility. Their lack of trust for our food system provoked them to find outlets for local and healthy options, so much so that Angie was only going to a traditional big box for toilet paper and diapers.

Don’t tell them “that’s just the way it is.” They’ll find a way to buck that system.

And I see that same ferocity of carving out a way of life with meaning and intention in their love for each other. They clear paths for one another to try to make it possible for each to be living their fullest selves. Sometimes it means seasons of hardships – late nights fixing plumbing or seasons of second-shift, solo parenting. Because they don’t have “careers” someone might be tempted to believe they don’t work, but I disagree. You’ve limited the efforts of creating a good life to those with a bi-weekly paycheck.

You don’t have to despise the American Dream to be inspired by their lifestyle – you simply have to wish you lived so deeply true to your value system that you’re willing to make decisions based upon it. Everybody likes the notion of finding freedom from the rat race – few decide to take a hard right turn to find an escape route.

Browsing about Pinterest I find all kinds of pithy quotes about living life to the fullest and being true to yourself. I find those as a reflection of a deep unrest, an inspiration toward what a person wants to be and what they want from life. Chad and Angie don’t have time to pin it – they’re busy living it.  You can’t talk to them for 5 minutes without understanding they live from their truest selves and the decisions they make match their highest priorities.

Dear, dear friends*, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
(2 Corinthians 6:11-13, MSG)

The past 10 years I’ve watched them live into this truth. They live openly and expansively, allowing the deep, deep joy of true life flow into their home, their neighborhood, their school and their church. When an element seems meaningless or small, they discover a new path into a more spacious life. Taking this route has cemented a strong love. They walk not just arm-in-arm but fiercely by one another’s side.

Chad and Angie, here’s to another 10, 20 even 50 years of living your truest selves in the arms of the one who continues to reveal to you the Source of this great love and life.

 

 

*Michele translation. You’ll find Corinthians in the original.

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When marriage doesn’t save

High on my list of values sits “having a strong and healthy marriage”. Yet I know so little about what it takes to create it. I believe my own marriage is pretty good (not pretty good as in “meh, okay” but pretty good as in pretty darn good). I know many couples who seem to have a fire of affection for one another even amid toddlers. I watch my cousins live out marriages that support their partners and offer one another a kind of trust and freedom that I don’t see in other places. My parents and in-laws have set before us a model of faithfulness and love. I can spot good marriages, I just can’t prescribe them.

I see these relationships and deem them good from the outside. Yet I know my own from the inside and and wonder, “is this what it’s supposed to look like? Am I doing it right?” I watch other marriages from afar (like the one across the street) and wonder what happened 2 years ago that set them on this course?

While digging around in the gospels, I only find Jesus telling us how hard marriage really is. The pharisees questioned him on divorce and after Jesus gives his two cents the disciples decide that perhaps it’s better to not even get married at all. What a resounding endorsement for our fine institution.

I turned to the Old Testament to find the original writ of divorce came up empty. (It could be there. I was using a lackluster concordance.) I did, however, read some legal footnotes in Deuteronomy 24. Here Moses says that if a man divorces his woman because she is “displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her” (we’ll call that roomy when it comes to interpretation) the she’s free to marry another man. But if she ends up back on the market – due to divorce or death of her second spouse – her first husband cannot marry her. It’s detestable.

I have a hard time believing that love redeemed is detestable. But you know what is? A heart so wrapped up in finding the best thing out there that he misses the gift in his own bedroom. Yet once another man validates her worth, he decides “yes, why, she is quite wonderful, isn’t she?”

If you’re looking for the best spouse on the block, you can stop looking. I married him. JJ is patient when I’m flighty and grounded when I have my head in the clouds. He loves me when I’m pregnant and miserable and making everyone else miserable. When I feel like I’m drowning he pushes me toward dry ground. When it comes to my fears in marriage, very little sits on his shoulders.

What scares the bejebus out of me is the fact that he cannot save me from my own sin*. No amount of love or devotion that he can offer me will ever give me the 100% guarantee that I’ll stop looking for approval somewhere else. Our nature seems to be bent toward gratifying our own desires (which might be why adultery seems to be the highest risk factor of divorce), and I’m no different than the rest of humankind. That thought, no matter how great the marriage, is sobering. Even the best marriage cannot keep me from my temptation to put myself first.

Original photo by VinothChandar via Creative Commons

Original photo by VinothChandar via Creative Commons

Instead, I must look to my responsibility for self-control. I have to wonder if adultery is the heightened version of a life already living for self-gratification, which seems to be the real problem. If so, far fewer marriages hit the rocks because of another woman and many more crack from the weight of getting what we want or the belief that we always should.

Marriage provides me an opportunity to practice daily the act of loving others as I love myself. When I stop looking at marriage as a way to fulfill me and begin to see it as a way to live with and love another, then I find myself fulfilled. But not without a lot of hard work and eating a little humble pie now and then. I suppose the key to happiness in marriage is finding a person who will lovingly wipe away those crumbs rather than shoving your face into a fuller bite.

 

*Sorry to use theological words. It’s the best term I could muster.

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Going to the chapel

It’s T-2 hours until the bride walks down the aisle and I’ve had a sense of excited-nervous for at least half the day. I can’t help it. I. love. weddings. 

Not all weddings, mind you. I am of the camp, based on the divorce rate, that we’re having too many. Or, at least too soon. But not this one, the next one or the last few I’ve witnessed. I’ve had a string of beautiful, amazing couples stand before friends and family who I believe embody the spirit of love and marriage. 
Sometimes it’s that look of adoration by the groom when he sees his bride for the first time. Sometimes it’s the hiccups of ceremony and how the congregation graciously forgives nerves. Now that I’ve crossed a big age barrier, it could be the hopeful youthfulness of the couple. The last wedding it was the vows the couple penned, which made a statement of how they had watched and learned from their own parents’ and grandparents’ marriages, most of which were in attendance, relationships in full bloom. Not often today can a couple find a heritage of lasting marriages on both sides of the family, and JJ and I consider ourselves fortunate to be counted in that group. 
Mostly I love weddings because I love marriage. It’s beautiful. I don’t buy into Jerry Maguire’s “You complete me” philosophy – I see each person complete in his or her own shape. I once gave a talk and shared the imagery of shoes: young people often go around feeling like they’re a shoe looking for its match. But no, we are, by ourselves, a pair of shoes, perfectly capable of running and completing a race. 
Marriage means tying your laces with another pair with a huge honkin’ knot. The bigger and tighter the knot, the better. The more secure. 
Of course, this means you’ll have to slow your pace a bit to learn how to run in sync. And the only way out is to cut the laces, which means that though you can tie them again, there’s still a piece missing. 
So why do it? Why be bound up? Where’s the beauty that you mentioned two paragraphs ago? 
I love the faith of it all. The trust. My cynical nature needs a drink of love water from time to time and a good wedding is like a fountain. Marriages become statements of faith, and saying “I do” to another person resembles the decision we made at one point in time or another about Jesus. No one is making guarantees about the ease of the road ahead. Indeed, we can be sure that our circumstances and even our personalities and who we are at our core, may (and probably will) change over time. But faithfulness rises above circumstances. 
It’s been several years now since I watched this young man raise his hand to indicate that he was ready for God to move into his life. And today I’ll watch him slip a ring onto the finger of a beautiful woman and promise to never leave or forsake. I believe that as each of those oaths are lived out, they will strengthen the other. And the process of seeing them grow will be nothing less than a beautiful struggle. 
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