Still at it
We were married very young. I was 20 and Deanne was 19. We were in a hurry, not just to get married, but to do everything. To graduate. To get a career started. To make a difference. I ran for public office when I was just turning 21. I was in seminary and pastoring three little churches at 22. We had our children early.
It was hard. We didn't know what we didn't know, and we weren't in any mood to listen to people who might tell us. We took a lot of lumps. How have we managed to stay married, when we were so ill-prepared, so immature, so heedless?
Well, we expected to, for one thing. "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant," said Horton. We don't give up easily. We're stubborn, and we wanted to be able to say, at the end of the day, that we stuck it out and made it through.
We found our way to God. We joined the Church. We tried to follow God's will, his pattern for our lives.
We learned that the essence of love is not feelings, but behavior. And that sacrifice is the most important behavior: sacrifice for each other. Marriage is not a "50-50" proposition. People who think in terms of "50-50" are always totting up the score and seeing who should pay for the next round. But marriage is a "100-100" proposition, and if you're keeping score you're just holding grudges. Deanne and I have both, at various times, put our futures on hold for the other. We have each been willing to give up or endure whatever it took for the other to make it through. "Labor without grudge is labor without grief." For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.
Whatever it takes, we'll make it together or not at all.
Polls show that evangelical Christians now have no better a track record on marriage than others. They delay marriage at their convenience, and they get divorced at the same rate as everybody else. And because they delay marriage like everybody else, they also become sexually active before marriage and between marriages, pretty much like everybody else. This is sad. We have failed to pass on the ethos of marriage. And it explains something about the "gay marriage" debate. For the essence of the gay marriage proposition is not the desire on gay people's part to establish that "ours is as good as yours," but the desire on many people's parts (both gay and straight) to establish that "yours" -- you traditional marriage people's relationships -- "are no better than ours." And in many ways they have succeeded.
Nobody's marriage is perfect. But when those who are supposed to believe in marriage give up on its possibilities, then they come to think that there's nothing special about it, so you might as well redefine it to match everybody's relationships. Marriage is whatever you want to make of it at that point. The problem, then, is not gay marriage, it's modern marriage. It's the slovenly, dispirited attitude that says we expected it to fail, so who cares if it does? We'll get over it.
I'm glad I've never gotten over you, Deanne. I hope I never will.