Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lean Not on Your Own Understanding

April 1979, I unwrapped my ten fingers from around a five year dream, letting it drift away from my heart and mind.

Alone, on my knees, beside my bed I prayed, “God, if I am never to marry that is okay with me. I am weary of the strain, of wondering each time I meet a new man, ‘Is this the one?’ I’m sick of it. If you don’t have marriage in my future, I accept it. If you do, whenever it may be, that’s great. I’m not going to look anymore. You’ll have to just plop this man directly in front of me. Thanks, God. It sure feels good to let go. Amen.”

And it did. It felt like freedom.

Unbeknownst to me, a young man in Medford prayed a similar prayer, around the same time.

Living alone in a brand new house built just for me was bliss, as solitude is something I crave. A new Fiat had been paid off in triple payments from the income earned working an enjoyable job. I had friends. I taught children’s groups at church and hosted an adult Bible study in my living room.

Five A.M. each weekday morning found me in shorts, breathing through fifty sit-ups and various stretches. A twenty minute run, a shower, and a bowl of hot cereal preceded a fifteen minute drive to work. Each night I breezed through two hundred more sit-ups, yoga, tennis, swimming, walking, or entertaining friends. Weekends held ski trips in the mountains, beach combing at the coast, or otherwise relaxing by myself or with others. It was a good life.

However, for the first time I understood loneliness. Surrounded by work associates, family, and friends, still, there was an ache, a void. But the way things were going, it looked as if aloneness was another method God would use to teach me. Resolved to learn the lesson, I quit fighting.

Yes, I prayed, and two weeks to the day of that releasing prayer, Tom walked right into my living room. He was the out-of-town son of a middle-aged couple who had recently joined our small Baptist church. The fact that they had a son was news to me. He was in town, transitioning for two weeks from a job in Medford, to a job in Portland. Someone who knew he was in town invited him to the study in my home.

Long story short, he listened to me, really listened. He was intelligent and genuine. Our long, lively conversations were easy and enjoyable. He says I was smart, pretty, spunky, and interesting. We hit it off immediately. A long distance romance, weekends together, a summer trip to Alaska for him, a promotion at work for me, and soon it was summer's end, 1980.

We decided we couldn’t stand being apart. It was making us crazy. So we announced our engagement, planned a wedding in a month, and were to be married in September, 1980.

Our pastor was happy to marry us after the six mandatory marriage counseling sessions were completed. Okay. Not a problem. Stupid, we thought, but we’ll do it.

Session #1: We each filled out a lengthy questionnaire meant to pigeonhole personality.

Session #2: “I’ve tallied your tests, Tom and Cherie,” said Pastor Wilson. “I’m sorry, but according to the results, you two are completely incompatible. A marriage between you would never last. I’m so sorry, but I can’t perform your marriage ceremony.”

Huh? You’ve got to be kidding!

Now, Tom is a fairly passive person. I am the decisive one. But this day, he stood up, the knuckles of his closed left fist gently tapping Pastor Wilson’s desk, which was between his leather chair and ours.

“Pastor Wilson,” Tom said without blinking, “we’re getting married, one way or another. We’d like you to officiate because we know you, and this is our church. But if you won’t, well, we’ll find someone who will.” Tom reached for my hand as though to leave.

Pastor Wilson married us, as planned.

But he was right about one thing. We are completely incompatible, on the surface. We thought we were going crazy being apart. Ha! We have been driven to CrazyTown so many times since being together that we can meander our way there and back, eyes closed, whistling a happy tune.

The pastor was also WRONG about one thing. We HAVE lasted.

See, tests can lie. This test measured only what we thought we knew of ourselves, not what was untapped within.

We are both tenacious, willing to be corrected, opinionated. We are nonconformists, share a bizarre sense of humor, and are charmed by simple living. The test confirmed these things, sure. But the thing we share deepest, the thing the test couldn’t measure because we were unaware of it ourselves, is that our intrinsic, core perspective of life is identical. Our vision, our faith, our very hearts were made the same. We long to know God, in truth. And we long to be good.

Because of that deep spiritual understanding between us, there is solid, centered love, love that melds us together despite our nasty temperaments and habits.

It took awhile to discover this deep love, this sameness of perspective. Perhaps it has grown while we weren’t looking. Perhaps it was uncovered bit by bit as we have struggled and fought and forgiven. Superficial, romantic love is easy to see, and easy to doubt when the going gets rough. But when the going gets impossible, the deep love holds fast. It has saved our marriage more than once.

Tom, with sincerity and gentleness, said to me a few months ago, when once again we had come face to face with our deep frustration and deep love all at once, “You may not be what I want, but you are what I need.” I nodded with complete understanding.

He wanted a church lady, a submissive, yet spunky, doormat, who would adore him, never cross him, fulfill her duties. I wanted a poet, a romantic, a man who would worship me, say all the right things. Neither person ever appeared. Their opposites did. But the people we wanted would have stunted our growth, spoiled us, left us asleep in the trance of mediocre superficiality.

What we needed was to be brutally challenged, to be forced to think, to question, to evaluate, to tolerate, to struggle, to be defeated and built-up again in order to inwardly transform. These needs are currently being met in the safety of a like-souled marriage.

Sometimes what looks from a human standpoint to be a certain failure in the making is, in actuality, meant to reveal the higher ways of God, the often hard ways we humans don’t normally stick around to witness.

Grace of God.


Ann said...

Tests don't measure mystery. Somehow, somewhere in God's mysterious world, you & your husband not only found each other but also recognized one another. Beautiful.

Cherie said...

Wow, Ann, lovely comment. Thanks!

liz crumlish said...

wow! what can I say. Such honesty and wisdom - rare things and all the more precious. thank God you two recognised what human wisdom couldn't.

Cherie said...

Grace of God, Liz, grace of God.

tshsmom said...

WOW, your marriage sounds so much like ours!!
We eloped, because my parents hated L. Everybody I knew kept asking me why I was wasting my time with this guy.
NONE of them knew L's soul like I did.
Over the years, L's family and friends have marveled at how much I've "changed" him. I tell them that I didn't change him. I just encouraged him to quit hiding his "true" self from the world.
I also prayed a similar prayer. I asked God to not let L propose to me unless God knew it was going to work out. If L never proposed, I'd know it wasn't meant to be.

Lisa Smith said...

Cherie--We have a similar yet different story. My husband knew I was the one long before I did. He gave me up to God long before I ever decided to give him a serious glance. I proceeded to give up the dream of marriage while my husband was patiently waiting for God to hand it back to me.

We have often joked that every bit of our ten years together has been a compromise. However, we truly get it. There was actually a day last year when we both looked at each other and said, "This is what marriage is supposed to be like." Now, don't get me wrong, the journey has been long and hard. But we have learned and grown and are better for it. We know life is sweeter when you're challenged. We are far better together than we could ever be separately.

I know God gave me a strong leader because I can be so headstrong. I agree with Pam that a commitment to the hard times makes the good times so much sweeter.

I'm so glad other couples get that too.

Anonymous said...

What a great story. Thanks for being so open Cherie.

Pam said...

This was a powerful post on so many levels, Cherie. I'm so glad you shared the story of you and Tom. (I also loved hearing how you met!) The best marriages seem to be the ones where struggles occur because that produces the growth and the depth.

As you know, today is my parent's 54th anniversary. No one thought they'd last. Joe and I are going on 25 years and many people thought we wouldn't last. It's kind of a fun club to belong to, isn't it?

Cherie said...

tshs: Well, surprise surprise - another similarity!! Thanks for telling that great story about you and L. Marriage is such a personal thing, isn't it, that sometimes the choice we make seems nuts to others - but to us, it's just so obvious! Congrats!

Lisa: Thank you, too, for your rendition of your marriage. It's a terrific story, too! "We are far better together than we could ever be separately." So true. I know that's how it is for Tom and I as well. It's been so mind-blowing to find out that, though we didn't get what our immature, selfish selves think they want, God has graciously given us what we need, and we have found out that what we need is what we really want, now that we understand better. Make sense? I"m very glad that God does what is best, even when we may want what is not. I love Tom so much more than I ever could have imagined, and he loves me. Who'd a thunk it? We did!

Sandy: Glad you like our story, and you are welcome!

Cherie said...

It's a FANTASTIC club, Pam! Amazing! How great is it to beat the odds, to step out of the weary rhythm of the world, march to the beat of our own drummers, and find that God had it planned from the get-go! Just an incredible ride. A hard ride, but what a rush! Hope your folks, you and Joe, and Tom and I have many many more years in the club together! Thanks, Pam!

Anonymous said...

You describe here what real marriage is, Cherie. It's not romance novels or sentimental movies but hard work with wonderful outcomes. You are to be praised and thanked for putting yourself out there as you have. This is wonderful! Thought provoking.

tshsmom said...

LOL Pam!! My cousin and I have always called it our "club" too! She's been married for 45 years. Our whole family never thought they'd make it!
My cousin was the ONLY one who believed in my marriage from day one! We always call each other on our anniversaries, to congratulate each other on another year of "not making it".
I'm delighted to discover that there are so many other members of our club out there!

Anonymous said...

This encourages me. I'm not married-yet But I am going to remember this post when/if I do. I think I will have reasons to "stick around" because of this and all the comments from the lady's here. Thank you, Cherie.

tshsmom said...

BTW, Cherie, I say "Who'd a thunk it" ALL the time. ;)

Cherie said...

Who'd a thunk it, tshs!!!

Sounds like there's a HUGE club out there. Where do these naysayers get off predicting gloom and doom for all of us anyway? Sheesh......

Cherie said...

Annie, you hit the nail on the head, methinks. Real marriage is nothing like the fantasies we daydream. Thank you so much for your kind words. You are a balm to me, as always.

Ashley, your comments make my day! You're a smart level-headed young lady. Whatever your future holds, I know it will be just what you need. Thank you for leaving your comment. You are so sweet!

Princess Banter said...

That was beautifully said. I'm so happy for you that you have found Tom... and you were right, tests can sometimes lie. There are instances that we just have to go through for ourselves to find out what the real results are. God indeed works in mysterios ways.

Deadmanshonda said...

I agree with Ann. And this is so beautiful and touching I want to pass out....you just don't hear things like this very often anymore...thank you for sharing. :)

Cherie said...

princess - Thanks for visiting my humble blog. You are so right. Sometimes we do have to follow through against the 'wisdom' of the mainstream, to find the 'real results'.

Liesel - I hope you didn't pass out and hurt yourself. :-) I do so appreciate your comments. To know that elements of my own journey can touch the lives of others, well, it chokes me up. You go ahead and pass out and, I'll stand over you and blubber.

deanna said...

"Perhaps it has grown while we weren’t looking." Gaining the same perspective and a deep love take a while, and they look different in every marriage.

So well said, Cherie. The same sorts of things I've had to learn/am still learning.

Cherie said...

Deanna, you are right, it looks the same from marriage to marriage. Such a thing - the deep spirituality of the union of man and woman. Mysterious and simple all at once. We ourselves, our distracted petty little selves, are the biggest impediment to discovery. Alas, perseverance is the key. Thanks for the comment!

IndianaJones said...

"the people we wanted would have stunted our growth, spoiled us, left us asleep in the trance of mediocre superficiality"

so true.
again you made me think. thanks.

I feel I am still just a baby in this marriage thing and we just celebrated 7 years!

Cherie said...

I felt like a baby in marriage for a loooong time. I think it was hitting the 20 year mark when things started to sink in and I felt like I was getting a handle on the whole thing. Sweet, sweet ride!

Thanks for the comment, Summer!

Marianne Elixir said...

O cherie, how I love your blogs. We are still babes at this marriage thing. And I - along with my friends - sometimes shake my head and wonder how in the world I ended up so happy to be married to Andrew. I wish he had a blog or something so you could understand how "incompatible" we are. It is just as you said, our underlying committment to a the same world view holds us together amidst our very different personalities and interests. He is not what I would have ever ever thought I wanted. He is exactly what I need.

Angela said...

all us wounded ones need to be reminded of this beauty.

Cherie said...

Elixer, it's a remarkable thing, isn't it, to sort of accidentally step outside of what we THINK we want, only to find that there is something more, which is what we need - and to find, it's a perfect fit. Thanks for your eloquence!

Cherie said...

Angela, your comment is much appreciated. The wounded ones were in the middle of my mind as I found the words of this post flowing out my finger tips. I hoped it would not be salt in the wounds, but maybe a hopeful salve.

Thanks for letting me know your response.