Marriage and How It Relates to the Parable of the Artist and the Wood
When we marry, WE REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT WE ARE GETTING INTO. We say the words with great anticipation: "I (state your name), do promise to (state the name of your future spouse,) to love, honor, and cherish, in good times and bad, in times of scarcity and times of plenty, in sickness and health, forsaking all others, until death do us part (so help me GOD!). With this ring I thee wed.”
We don't know how to love one another, but we are lusting after each other. So we marry. And then the adjustments start. We want our spouses to change, when in reality, only we can change. It is a frustrating trail, fraught with danger, but reward for the long suffering individuals that persevere. It's a lonely place also. (Why did I ever marry this person?)
We don't realize what we are asking, when we ask our girl friends to be our wives and to commit to the same standard.
These promises are made in front of family and friends for a reason: They are there to remind us of a sacred promise that we made to each other (forcefully, if necessary and required). They are there to be witnesses (for us or the other party) in case we forget the promise we made to GOD (or even there to act as a witness for one and against the other, if the union were ever to dissolve). That's why a Marriage License is Witnessed by Two Parties, Notarized and Filed in the Courthouse of the county where the marriage took place. It is a (business) contract, a merger between two people, creating a new “corporate identity” known as a married family. The Terms and Conditions are HARSH, trying the soul and spirit of the participant. If you try to leave it, break it or dissolve it. The T's and C's will always get you. As a former Supervisor and mentor used to say to me “Jake, it's cheaper to keep her.” To use his words, “I believe that you know something, G.G..”
While, I've never had to have the contract revoked or enforced by an outside party, because I've lost my mind, it's not because I am some kind of moral super hero. I am a fallen man like anyone else in the world. I have my temptations just like other men. I lose my mind when things don't go my way. I feel lonely and abandoned when my wife would rather curl up with a good book that spend time with me. I have my fits of depression and anger, crying out like Job cursing the days of both my conception and birth. Age and circumstances have shattered my dreams of the future and they lie broken at my feet.
Before I met my wife, I had been incredibly hurt by a former girl friend. Crushed may have been a better term. For three years, I occasionally dated, but I didn't feel I could be who I really was. So, I prayed that GOD would provide me a soul mate that would compliment me and help me along in my spiritual journey. Little did I understand what I was praying for.
HE did provide a soul mate that swore she would walk along beside of me on my spiritual journey, along with other attributes that led me to want to marry her. Like Solomon, who prayed for the Wisdom of GOD to help him govern as a young man and then was blessed with that wisdom, as well as great wealth, peace and power, I was blessed likewise. She did and still does compliment me. She did and still does walk with me on my Christian journey through life. She was and still is beautiful. She was and still is sexy. She was and still is an encouragement. She did and still does pray for me. She was and still is my soul mate. I do still love her.
As a believer and follower of GOD, I have to believe in what some theologians call “the Golden Chain of Salvation,” Romans 8:26 - 30, where the promise is made that:
“Likewise the SPIRIT helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the SPIRIT HIMSELF intercedes for us with our groanings too deep for words. And HE who searches our hearts knows what is the mind of the SPIRIT, because the SPIRIT intercedes for the saints according to the will of GOD. And we know that for those of us who love GOD, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to HIS purpose for those whom HE foreknew HE also predestined to be conformed to the image of HIS SON in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom HE predestined HE also called, those whom HE called HE also justified, and those whom HE justified HE also glorified.”
So what does this mean to me?
First, it means that maybe GOD blessed me through the Holy Spirit by giving me those words to pray. Then, assuming that I know and believe the Word, revealed in the Bible as inspired, GOD breathed and am not just a 'philosophical Christian,' following its teachings, I must understand that this is a transformational journey. I'm not going to be the same at the end as I was when I started. Much like a raw piece of wood, I've been selected and am now being changed into a finished product, a work of art by GOD.
If you've ever seen a piece of wood transformed from it's raw form as (part of) a living tree to a piece of fine furniture, you might understand. First, it is cut down and must die as a living organism. It is cut into a workable length, width and thickness. It is dried out to a point that the moisture content is low and the piece is stable, so it won't crack after it has been worked. If the craftsman deems it necessary, it's joined together with another piece of wood, by glue, so it can be further worked.
Then it is further sawn, jointed, milled, and cut. It is gouged out, chiseled, cut and sanded. It begins to take the form in it's artist's mind, as pieces, chips, and particles are removed from it. If you've worked on in a wood shop, you hear the “cry” of the wood against the blades as they remove the unwanted pieces from the work of art that is progressing. You see the saw dust, the scrap and remnants of the wood cut off and removed as surplus and trash. You can touch the chips that were milled off by the jointer or the planer. You can see the singular long curls of waste generated as the block plane smooths the piece that the craftsman/artist is working. You can hear the gouge and chisel, knocking off the sharp pieces of the object as it is rounded on the lathe. You can feel the smoothness of the shape of the object as it is sanded down, burnished and then finished.
So what has this got to do with marriage? First we were planed down and smoothed off so we can be joined together. Failure for us to be conformed and smoothed down makes for a weak joint that will not withstand the work that will be required of it. We are joined to another and glued together, never to be separated. Then we we're cut down, the waste sawn off, the sides sawn, and milled. Then we are pounded into a fixture and turned down on a lathe (or one of those cool CNC lathe saws they have at the Louisville Slugger plant), with chips flying everywhere, measured by the artist to see if we conform with his plan. When we finally get to where we are polished and beautiful, we've had a lot knocked off and cut out of us. We (the wood) have experienced a whole lot of pain.
It is the same in marriage. There is a lot of hurt, pain, and suffering. And as iron sharpens iron, we have been and are wearing each other down and hurting each other. We've lost our youth, energy, zest for life and OUR PERCEIVED BEAUTY, in being turned into something that is truly useful and beautiful to the artist.
If I am feeling this way, how is my wife feeling? If it's taken this long (25+ years) for me to have a great relationship with her, how long has she suffered having a poor relationship with me? How much has she been hurt while waiting on me to be changed?
As is often the case, we don't necessarily know what we're praying for. I didn't know then, but what I prayed for was and still is good. However, I didn't know that the road would be so rough, that life would be so hard. The Hollywood version of marriage was and is a lie that is sold to the young and inexperienced. My old saying that "the difference between theory and reality is practical experience" still holds true in marriage.
I still have the scars from the early years. She has got to have her set of scars also.
I didn't know that the journey would be so rough and tiring. It's been tough and although I love her, I can honestly say that I wouldn't want to go through the pain again. As a believer and follower of GOD, I can only rely on the promise that GOD will complete the good work that HE has started and HE will finish HIS masterpiece (me?). But this brings sadness from a human perspective, because I know that when HE has finished with me, it will be time for me to go home to HIM. It is sad because “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” We don't understand what love, peace and splendor awaits us on the other side. Our uncertainty of the great beyond pulls even at the strongest believer with doubts that it could be true.
CS Lewis said, "Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."