Category Archives: Marriage

Letter 45: Cupcakes and Wide Phylactories

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday, and I took it upon myself to bake her birthday cupcakes.  I like to bake, and I have even begun to venture into the world of baking from scratch.  But that applies only to things I am quite familiar with, bread and cookies.  From long experience with packaged mixes, I know roughly what I want, and what to look for.  But cakes remain a terra incognita of sorts, and so I entrust myself to the wisdom and industrial science of Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines.

But it was not merely a boxed mix.  It appealed to our higher aspirations.  It contained special frosting mix and a genuine icing bag to use in frosting the cupcakes.  My efforts at laying on frosting have been less than successful, but armed with such tools and directions, I had hopes that I, too, could create a confection worthy of the finest bake shops.

My efforts yielded some perfectly ordinary cupcakes.  It took me until my fourth cupcake to apply the frosting so that it completely covered the cupcake with one go.  In the end, some did not get frosting at all, but I had my one cupcake to properly decorate and present to my wife replete with candles.  I was pretty pleased with how it turned out, because I wanted to do something nice for her.  Before I brought it in to her, I took a picture.

And therein lies the trouble.  I wanted to post the picture to Facebook, that repository of the odd effects of our lives.  So in part, my motivation for posting the photograph was to show how we were celebrating my wife’s birthday, sharing a bit of our loves with family and friends.  But I wanted something too.

At first, I was going to introduce the picture apologizing that it was not on par with the work of a cousin who is a professional baker.  That would shift the focus from celebrating my wife’s birthday to the cupcake.  Worse, it would make the present of the cupcake to be less than what it was.  No, I could not say that, so off those words went into the ether.

But I could not let go of the desire for people to admire my cupcake, and, by implication, me.  So I tried another tack, attempting to describe my labors as producing something worthy of my wife.  Again, this subtly shifted the focus.   “Please look at my cupcake, and sing my praises for making it.”  A voice cleared in my head.  This would not do.  The focus and the point must be about my wife.  So I simply wrote, “Happy Birthday Dear,” and left it at that.

All of this took little more than a minute in the privacy of my mind.  It seems somewhat contradictory sharing it here, as if trying to draw attention to my virtue.  But I do offer this because I really wanted people to tell me what a wonderful cupcake I had made.  It speaks of the vanity that is in us all, sometimes masquerading as a sense of emptiness that needs filling, and brings me to the point I want to make.

In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul tells us, “Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. That is why God has now lifted him so high, and has given him the name beyond all names, so that at the name of Jesus “every knee shall bow”, whether in Heaven or earth or under the earth. And that is why, in the end, “every tongue shall confess” that Jesus Christ” is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phillips, emphasis mine)

I’m wondering if that is what is meant by “carrying our cross.”  It wasn’t so much that Jesus suffered, though He certainly did.  It is more a sense of forgetting of self, not, as I often do, because of a sense of self-negation and an earnest desire for approval.  Rather, Jesus so thoroughly full of Himself, and understood Himself completely, that there was no need to pay attention to Himself in that way.  The usual ups and downs that so assail us in no way changed who He was.  Secure in that, He could, and did, do anything, and underwent the slings of outrageous fortune in no way changed the fact that Jesus was God, even if no one else chose to recognize Him as such.

As we close out the year, this episode brought to mind that I should work on cultivating that same sense of self-forgetfulness.  That no one will have to ask if the cupcake was good, because the focus is on the recipient, where it belongs.

st-augustine-reading

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Filed under Birthdays, facebook, growth, humor, love, Marriage, understanding, virtue

Letter 34: To Those Who Wait in the Dark

Today was one of those strange days.  My wife suffered a depressive episode.  It was an odd reversal.  As she talked about what she was feeling, she suddenly paused and asked me, “Is this what you feel like?”  I had to tell her, yes, that is what it feels like, and that is what you’re going through right now.

For me, the painful part was knowing that she was suffering, and wanting to do something about it.  I wanted to lift her spirits, to get her out of the dingy, grey pit into which she had fallen.  But I couldn’t think of anything.  So, we went for a drive, enjoyed the sunshine, and got a bite to eat.  We talked some.  I tried to listen, but mostly I said nothing.  There was a lot of silence.

As wrong as it seems, that helped.  I would have thought that a more active effort would have yielded results.  Get her mind off of things.  Encourage her.  Get her to see that the troubles oppressing her were small indeed.  I would have thought that I could draw upon my own experiences to help her.

But maybe she didn’t need help.  Looking at it now, I think that what she needed was for me to be there.

My Old Testament professor told us that Job’s friends went wrong the moment they opened their mouths.  If only they had kept silent and kept witness.

Our desire to do something I think says more about us.  The focus comes off the one suffering to what we can do.  Being present cedes the initiative.  You watch, and wait.  Perhaps more will be asked of you, perhaps not.

waiting-cat_00446090May I not tire in the waiting, O Lord.

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Filed under darkness, depression, love, Marriage, support

Letter 29: Happy Anniversary Mia Perla

Funny-wedding-anniversary-quotes-for-husband

“Then Isaac … took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her.” Genesis 24:67a (ESV)

Nine years ago today, my wife and I married each other. Our actual wedding was really just the beginning, and looking back at the time since that day, I can appreciate the wisdom of the old vows we made that day. We’ve known sickness and health and experienced better and worse. While not poverty, we’ve even tried to live out of our freezer for two weeks as an economizing measure. Through it all, my love for her has deepened and spread.

Why? There has been nothing to distinguish us from any other couple who has gotten married. The snippet from Genesis above has stuck in my mind as I have thought about my marriage, and why I think of myself as “more married” today than I was nine years ago.

The quote comes at the end of a long chapter explaining how Isaac gets a wife. Isaac himself has no involvement in the process, as Abraham entrusts the whole thing to one of his servants. The servant finds s suitable woman, bring her back to Abraham’s camp, and Isaac is summoned. He marries Rebekah, and then he loves her.

Did you catch that? Isaac married Rebekah, and then he loved her. That is not how we usually think of marriage. The wedding is supposed to be a celebration of love. In deciding to get marries, the couple has reached the apex of love. Marriage is the condition subsequent of love. Isaac and Rebekah have it in reverse: love as the apex of marriage. He married her, and then he loved her. The love came after the commitment.

My love can be fickle. There are moments of when I do not view my wife with dewy-eyed sentiment. Sometimes I know we have both questioned what we are doing with each other. We have hurt each other terribly. Singleness can be so much easier. Yet we remain married.

Each day, I have a choice: I can be married to my wife, or not. Each day I must make the choice to love her. For these reasons, I can say that our marriage has grown, and with it, my love for my wife. That commitment to our relationship, and its daily renewal, grounds me to love, and it is that commitment I come back to whenever I am feeling less than romantic. When in doubt, wash the dishes.

The more I do this, the more I find that I love my wife. We have created memories, points of contact that bind us together. I love because I commit, and I commit because I love. Each branch of action feeds the other, but it starts with commitment.

I’ll close with words not my own. They belong to the poet Anne Dudley Bradstreet, written of her marriage, but hey speak of mine, too.

“To My Dear and Loving Husband”

If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee;

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me ye women if you can.

 

I prize thy love more than whole Mines of Gold,

Or all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee, give recompence.

 

Thy love is such I can no way repay,

The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.

Then while we live, in love lets so persevere,

That when we live no more, we may live ever.

rembrandt-isaac-rebecca

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