I read Sports Illustrated last night. It's a weekly ritual. When it comes in the school mail, Trinka Sandahl, our receptionist, pulls it from the mail basket and saves it for me. I take it home, devour it, and return it the next morning. The first thing that struck me in this issue was not the cover (Tom Brady) or any article. What hit me was the first ad. It's a wedding scene. The bride is gazing at the preacher while the groom is leering at the bridesmaid. That's the nutshell view of marriage in much of American culture- a joke. The cover story in the gossip magazines at Wal-Mart this week? The breakup of Nick and Jessica- the rumors! the betrayals! the sleaze! And the public eats it up.
Our senior Bible classes at Westbury Christian School are in the middle of a project. Boys and girls are matched, given a dollar amount for a budget, and instructed to plan a wedding. I hear rumblings in the hall that some of these matches made in heaven are squabbling. Take the case of Katie Felts and her betrothed, the honorable George Russell. Allegedly, Katie is less than pleased with the input of her intended. It probably has something to do with George's suggestions that they should rent Katie's wedding gown and their wedding bands as well as honeymooning in Pennsylvania instead of at the beach. I'm not a prophet but I see imminent premarital counseling on the horizon. The seniors are learning it's not easy, even with only make-believe money at stake. I admire their instructor, Stan Caffey, requiring them to go on a dry run before the real world confronts them. In that universe, mistakes cost thousands of dollars and a lifetime of regret in emotional scars.
Marriage is huge. After the decision to follow Jesus, it's the greatest choice we face. I have been blessed to participate in six weddings as a minister. Each wedding involved one of my former basketball players, the sister of one of my players, or my assistant coach. I love preaching weddings but I try to avoid them if not in the wedding party- they make me nervous. I have one rule for attending these joyous affairs: leave before they start throwing stuff. Everybody thinks it's cute for bachelors to catch the garter but that's a little too much for me. As a social science teacher, I gave bonus questions on tests about songs. They might be Coach Hawley's Four Favorite Songs About Colors (Red Rubber Ball-The Cyrkle) or Favorite Songs About Numbers (Two Divided By Love-The Grassroots.) One extra credit list was always a sobering one. It was-
Coach Hawley's Four Favorite Songs about Marriage:
1. You Better Sit Down, Kids-Sonny and Cher
2. That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be-Carly Simon
3. Skip A Rope-Henson Cargill
4. Husbands and Wives-Roger Miller
Cher sings of breaking the divorce news to the children. Carly Simon worries about happiness as she observes the mess her friends/parents have made of their marriages. Cargill sets last night's family squabble to a jump rope rhyme. My favorite of the four is Miller's. Better known for humorous lyrics, (King Of The Road, You Can't Rollerskate In A Buffalo Herd), Husbands And Wives is a poignant view of the struggle to make it in the marital arena.
"Two lonely hearts, lonely, looking like houses
Where nobody lives.
Two people having so much pride inside
Neither side forgives.
Angry words spoken in haste,
Such a waste of two lives.
It's my belief pride is the chief cause
In the decline in the number
Of husbands and wives.
A woman and a man
A man and a woman
Some can and some can't
And some can."
Those lyrics are haunting, especially the comparison of lonely hearts to empty houses. Relationship experts say money and communication are the biggest causes for divorce. Miller's pinpointing pride as the main culprit in the destruction of marriage is more insightful to me. The Bible tells us to put our spouse before ourselves- pride would never allow that sort of submissive spirit to our mates. This Christmas day, my parents will celebrate their 56th anniversary. I can't say as kids we made a big deal- I mean, it was CHRISTMAS DAY! But I learned from them. I learned a family takes care of each other and it starts with the parents. I learned you love each other because that's what parents do. I learned that kids liked hanging out at our house more than their own because they felt love. And I learned it's hard to love each other if you don't love God. I hope our seniors are gaining practical experience in planning what many girls consider the most important day of their lives. I hope they also realize the "I Do's" and the cake are just the beginning. Someone elegantly put it this way:
"The question is asked: 'Is there anything more beautiful than a young couple clasping hands and pure hearts in the path of marriage? Can there be anything more beautiful than young love?' And the answer is given: 'Yes, there is a more beautiful thing. It is the spectacle of an old man and an old woman finishing their journey on that path. Their hands are gnarled but still clasped; their faces are seamed but still radiant; their hearts are physically bowed and tired but still strong with love and devotion for one another. Yes, there is a more beautiful thing than young love-old love.' "
I could not have said it any better myself.
Applicable quote of the day:
"In Hollywood, brides keep the bouquet and throw away the groom."
To hear Roger Miller sing Husbands And Wives, copy and paste the link below!