Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Spouses who can be small and great at the same time...
The third kind of marriage is not perfect, not even close. But a decision has been made, and two people have decided to love each other to the limit, and to sacrifice the most important thing of all—themselves. In these marriages, losing becomes a way of life, a competition to see who can listen to, care for, serve, forgive, and accept the other the most. The marriage becomes a competition to see who can change in ways that are most healing to the other, to see who can give of themselves in ways that most increase the dignity and strength of the other. These marriages form people who can be small and humble and merciful and loving and peaceful.
I confess that I do not read much marriage counseling material. I have never gone to or desire marriage enrichment. I have things that I do not say to my wife and I am sure that she has things she will not say to me -- not because we keep secrets but because love means keeping things designed only to hurt from those who will be hurt. Love does not mean getting your own way or winning anything. The best "lovers" are those who cultivate the art of "losing" -- that is serving their spouses without fear and without expectation of notice or reward. I once read some marriage stuff and found myself thoroughly disgusted by the self-centered and selfish nature of much that was promoted as therapy. (I will make exception for the Mills book Love, Covenant, and Meaning.)
As a Pastor, I do not believe that counseling is necessarily part of the pastoral vocation -- advising, hearing confession, and absolving couples but that is not counseling. Yet a friend forwarded to me a link that I am sharing with you. It offers me some hope about a few of those who may be professional therapists -- even without the name of Christ there is something eminently Christian about the description of marriage this counselor provides.
Because we live in a culture in which losing is the enemy (except in Chicago, where Cubs fans have made it a way of life). We wake up to news stories about domestic disputes gone wrong. Really wrong. We go to workplaces where everyone is battling for the boss’s favor and the next promotion, or we stay at home where the battle for the Legos is just as fierce. Nightly, we watch the talking heads on the cable news networks, trying to win the battle of ideas, although sometimes they seem quite willing to settle for winning the battle of decibels. We fight to have the best stuff, in the best name brands, and when we finally look at each other at the end of the day, we fight, because we are trained to do nothing else. And, usually, we have been trained well. In the worst of cases, we grew up fighting for our very survival, both physically and emotionally. But even in the best of situations, we found ourselves trying to win the competition for our parents’ attention and approval, for our peers’ acceptance, and for the validating stamp of a world with one message: win. And, so, cultivating a marriage in which losing is the mutual norm becomes a radically counter-cultural act. To sit in the marital therapy room is to foment a rebellion.
If this is the stuff being peddled by marital therapists and marriage counselors today, I may have to rethink my disdain for psychology and its application to the great personal and family needs of our modern day life...