A teen asked me, "aren't most people happily married?".
How would you answer that?
When we see pictures of fine dining, a couple dressed, smiling, a rose or a bouquet... our hearts murmur longing while our minds may race towards a combination of being happy/wondering if it's worth it/being skeptical.
Maybe it's my melancholy bent. Maybe it's my realist edge. "Happily married" does not cut it for me. But far be it that I would go through the days just glad to indicate 'married' under the status section of any form!
What does "happily married" mean to you?
Happiness is such a shallow enterprise these days and equally a rare commodity. It's so hard to find a happy person, much less, a happy couple! What do we do?
First of, I do not recommend ignoring an opportunity to celebrate love. Go have a date, do. Just remember that when the familiar infelicity visits, be bigger than it.
My spouse and I are so different that we are often impatient with each other, and that's a nasty habit. With his innate problem-solving bent, he sought for years to figure me out, till he threw his hands up in despair. With a flash of insight, he had said, "this is not possible, you are the rib that isn't a part of me anymore". As the woman who longs to be safe and cherished, there are a thousand ways he can communicate just the opposite. So we have had some very dark days and moments.
The problem wasn't all of our differences. The problem is that we were made for Joy. You and I, imago Dei, in the image of a God who sings and dances, who created the playful otter and that ridiculous owl that winks. The problem is that we have walked so far from Eden that Joy is hard for us to believe, to see, to experience.
Consider how astounding and subversive this is. This Joy deal. The world's happiness hangs on good times, wealth, and a fuss-free existence including great sex. All of it fragile stuff.
In 2015, I went on a retreat. As usual I brought my knapsack of many questions, not a few to do with my marriage. School and society, largely shaped by men, have also trained me to seek solutions.
God took me on a slow, restful time to lead me to one word: mystery.
Now mystery is a word that sets us off on a hunt for clues and rescue. Not this time. God is mystery, the great Reformers taught that, after positing a entire system for salvation. Perhaps, made in His image, we too are mystery.
The word settled upon my soul like a comforter. I felt a palpable rest to know that if I could not figure out myself, I am being human, which is to be loved by God, not categorised and 'resolved'. You can do all the personality tests, gift tests, 360 degree review...but you will always be larger and still remain mysterious.
In fact, being loved and known by God is the foundation of a life that is set free. We are free from always exacting so much from ourselves, berating ourselves for not being at our best, striving endlessly to be improved versions of ourselves. We can then free others from the same.
God will reveal who I am to me, in the most loving way.
So I come to Adam and Eve, the first pair. Their mystery as persons and as a couple is captured in a tiny word yada. The Hebrew root is maleable and the word has multiple possible meanings, which the NKJV translates as 'know'. Look at all the ways to know:
: learn to know, perceive, find out and discern, distinguish, recognise, consider
The word is used for Adam and Eve in Genesis to refer to their consummation resulting in offspring. It is used for God and His people in the context of Covenant. It is used in personal reflection. It is a powerful little word that brings change. You can both seek to know, and be willing to be known.
We can describe our spouses by their traits, work, habits and quirks. But yada calls us to an ongoing journey of discovery, where we are willing to see and reverence the mystery of the other person's life, and offer our own.
Can you smell Joy in this?
Any relationship that is defined once for all begins to die. We have made a huge mistake selling out to the idea that marriage does that. Marriage does not define us. It is giving us the chance to be free from all the definitions imposed by self or others.
I know it's hard. People love figuring us out. We love the affirmations and the sense of security it gives.
I know it's hard. With each rising sun, we have a thousand things to attend to and a treadmill to mount, to put food on table and send the kids to school etc.
I know it's hard. We are often bone weary and emotionally spent.
The getting-on-with-life interferes with Life.
So this is what I recommend for Valentine's (and don't mind the date if you are late). Go on the Threesome with God. Do something that makes each person feel Life coming back. Say ridiculous things. Share your soul (and don't get upset if the other person doesn't quite get it). Pray.
Valentine's, is like a Sabbath for your love. Rest it from all the toil of making it work. Have some yada ידע - and may the God of Love visit your Sabbath and bring it rest, the prelude to Joy.