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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tori Spelling & Marriage

I've been thinking about marriage a good bit lately. Mostly I've been incredibly busy writing. And part of what I've been writing covers certain aspects of marriage. But mostly I've just been observing and thinking about it. Marriage is something that preachers the theologians talk about in wonderful terms. Somehow, I can't seem to find much in real marriage though that lines up with what they say. And I wonder why.

I read this week that Tori Spelling has been ordained, via an Internet church. She is supposedly now "fully qualified" as a minister. We are to call her "Reverend Spelling" now. Of course, Rev. Spelling has already performed her first marriage ... of two gay men. The wedding took place at the bed-and-breakfast she runs with her husband. Apparently it was a "beautiful, tear-filled event."

I could probably rant and rave about the travesty of this. I suspect that Tori Spelling is no more called by God to be a minister than my chocolate lab is. It appears, based on timing, that she simply got her so-called Internet credentials in order to perform weddings at her bed-and-breakfast. And of course, the gay marriage --- devoid of God in the wedding or the union of the men --- is a farce. However, it seems to me that this marriage probably is really closer to the model embraced in our culture than not.

Many years ago, my wife and I went on a marriage enrichment retreat. It was a weekend affair, and had lots of time for dialogue questions, etc. We had been struggling in our own marriage and this might help point us in the right directions (it did). Anyway, for one of the sessions we were sent back to our rooms and asked to dialogue on a question: "Whom do you know that has a marriage you would want?" We talked and talked, evaluating everyone we knew or were even remotely familiar with. In the end, we looked at each other in shock. There wasn't a single marriage that we were familiar with which either of us would want! We had no role models to follow here. It was a rude awakening for both of us.

I've always remembered that experience. In the years since, I have to confess that we have met and now know some people who have marriages we would want. But there are precious few of them. I imagine that most people don't know of a marriage they would want. Instead, they dream about fantasy marriages that don't exist. If they are Christians, they look at the book of Solomon and see rich, deep romance and secure, intimate spiritual bonding that produced physical passion and lifelong adoration and friendship. But then they usually look at their spouse in disgust, like an Everybody Loves Raymond episode between the characters Frank and Marie.

If you are married, why did you marry your spouse? When you married, did you look at your spouse and thank your lucky stars that you were getting him or her? Were you enchanted by their eyes? Did you gaze lovingly at their hair? Did you cling to their every word? When you heard them coming, did your heart flutter in anticipation of seeing them? No, I'm not crazy, I'm just asking those questions. This is what happens when God unites our spirits in a holy matrimony.

So maybe that's not how you went into marriage. Maybe you married because you were tired of being single. Maybe you married because you thought that's what was expected of you. Maybe you married because you liked the other person, thought they were hot, knew you'd be lucky to get them, etc. Maybe you married for even less noble reasons. Maybe you were pregnant. If so, you married for the wrong reasons.

I've done some marriage counseling in my day, and often see couples who find their marriage to be miserable. They like each other, or are fond of each other. But they find little solace in each other. Sometimes they'll concede that they don't love their spouse and perhaps never did. If this is true, then I usually think they owe their spouse an apology. "I'm sorry I married you. I didn't love you. I didn't know what love or marriage were at the time. Will you forgive me?"

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a "recovery junkie" and that I believe strongly in working the principles for successful living that Jesus laid out in His Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5). The first principle is often called "stepping out of denial." I think people in miserable marriages might need to do this. They may need to own up to the mistakes they made years ago. They may need to learn to forgive their spouse for everything he or she is not. They will need to learn to forgive theirs spouse for everything that he or she is and does.

It's been said that forgiveness is only possible when we give up the hope that the past can be any different. If that's the case, then I have to give up the hope that I could have married someone else, or that my marriage could have turned out differently. I have to begin to accept my spouse for who they are. I may need God's help to do this! But I can get on my knees and confess my sin, asking God to bless me with a marriage of holy matrimony.

"Lord, you know I married this person under the wrong circumstances and for the wrong reasons. I confess that and ask your forgiveness. I've done that with my spouse. I'm now asking, if it's your will, to lead us into a bond of holy matrimony. Will you grow a real marriage here, God? I'm tired of living a lie, putting on a charade and playing a game. I'm smart enough to see that having sex, having kids and having a mortgage do not make a marriage. I see that a true marriage is a spiritual union. Help me, Lord, to measure all things by that standard --- and to let go of everything else society says marriage is or should be. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen."

So Rev. Spelling, do you think you yourself can grasp the concept of a true spiritual union? Do you have that with your husband? Will you use your Internet credentials as a minister to lead people to the truth? Or will you make a mockery of marriage and God by pretending that a "beautiful, teary-eyed" ceremony is what it's all about?

Now that I think about it, perhaps my prayer should be for Tori Spelling!

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