Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Engine

Recently I read a post from the popular blog of Matt Walsh. The title immediately caught my eye--not only because it was provocative or engaging, but because I knew instinctively I would resonate with whatever he said about the topic. It was called "I wasn't ready for marriage." You can click that link. Read the blog. You might see what I mean.

But I'll tell you myself here: he's right. No one is ready for marriage. It isn't something you're supposed to ease into. You. Will. Never. Be. Ready. he says. You just won't. You are two apart until you are one together.

The reason this deserves so much of my attention is simple. We weren't ready either. I was not ready for marriage. My husband was not ready for marriage. We did not have enough money or wisdom or patience. Our marriage was formed with only love and faith, and trust in God--those are the only things really worth counting on, anyways. And we knew that we weren't ready, because I had often said, we couldn't ever truly BE ready. We got married because it was the right thing to do, because we loved each other, because we trusted God to nurture us and our marriage despite all our shortcomings.

But there were still people against us. In fact, there were people against us ever being together.

I remember at camp, a few weeks after Joey and I had started dating, I was standing on the docks with one other counselor and an LIT. (Leader in training.) The LIT was 4 years younger than me, still in high school, and wasn't really my friend. We didn't know each other. But for some reason he brought up "us"--me and Joey. There were campers around, so he shouldn't have been talking about it, and I will never know why he did, but this is the conversation that happened:

LIT: So, have you said you love each other yet?
Me: I don't really want to talk about this around the campers.
LIT: Oh, you've totally said it.
Me: Why do you care?
LIT: I just know you have, and it's too soon. It's just too soon. You guys are moving way too fast.

There were other people at camp who said similar things. A fellow counselor, who slept in the bunk above mine, had heard my story about the jerk who dated me my freshman year of college. She came to me with an air of patronizing concern, "Are you sure you're ready for this? I don't think you are. I'm worried you might be rushing into this too quickly." She wasn't the only one to play it off like she was worried about me.

Now, from an outsider's perspective, I can understand how it might appear that I was rushing blindly into a relationship with a stranger. Joey was just 17 at the time and I was 20, and we had only known each other for 3 weeks when we started dating. But those were 3 long weeks during which we talked for hours on end and got to know each other better than I knew any of the people I'd spent my first year of college with. We fell in love. It sounds silly, but it's true. That's how it happened. And as much as I might judge other people's relationships I would never take it upon myself to confront them about how quickly they're moving or if they should say "I love you" or not. I am a fairly confrontational person, but only with a purpose. I don't approach people that I barely know and condemn their relationship just because I know a little bit about their life.

Six months went by, and then we were engaged. By that time most of the "you're going too fast!" comments had stopped, so people cared less. Some part of me also hopes that many people had figured out by then that we were actually in love, and took each other seriously. If they didn't get it then, they were over it by the time we got married a year and a half later.

During our long engagement I occasionally talked, to myself and others, about how the mindset of marriage is something you can plan. You never are ready, of course--I knew I wouldn't wake up one day and be completely prepared to be a wife. But it was something I wanted to prepare my brain for.

I'm a fairly independent person. Always have been. Unless I'm being lazy. But in general I like to do my own thing, I'm a very balanced introvert, I prefer to analyze things and carry out decisions myself rather than work on a team and deal with other people's opinions. With those personality-issues in mind, I knew I would need to alter my behavior if I wanted to attach myself to another person, specifically Joey. We were 2000 miles apart for most of our relationship (another aspect similar to Matt Walsh's blog) but I began making myself care about not only him, but his reactions, his opinions, and his input. I asked him what he thought about financial things (non-wedding things, even!), about how I should spend my time or who I should spend it with. I valued him, and valued the things he valued, even from afar.

I did all that, and still... we weren't ready. Because you can't be. People think there must be a set of steps to take or some sort of easing into readiness. People think they can live together first, and that it will help. But, let me put it this way.

A romantic relationship is like a car. The car has all the right pieces--the engine, the body, the seats with ugly upholstery--but you have to actually drive the car to know if it will work. Marriage is the engine of the vehicle, because it makes all the parts work together and then the car can go places. (You might say love is gasoline, but I'm getting ahead of myself.) People who live together before they get married might as well get into a car to test it out, but never put the key in the ignition and start the car. They sit in the seats and put travel mugs of coffee in the cup holders. They might put the key in to turn the radio on, they can even turn the lights on and off, but you can't know if the car runs well or not unless you actually make it run. 

You don't get a car ready to turn on. You just do it. Put the key in, turn it, and listen to the engine come to life. You plan a wedding, you go to the church, you say I do. You do it. You make a vow. You were two, now you are one. And you might have problems. There might be leaks or broken gears or cracked windshields. You might lose your job or have babies quicker than expected, or you might fight about who does the dishes. But that's true with every single car and every single marriage.

I admit there are problems with my analogy... the engine might be better explained. But I think you get the picture. You can never be ready. And that's okay. It's worth the risk.

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