Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: marriage

The one about Ruth

This is a guest post from my wife, Ruth.  She’s awesome and everyone ought to love her.

Sometimes when there is a huge change, it threatens to taint our love and we accidentally suppress the love that Jesus gives us. But when there is change and differences, that is when our love and support ought to be strongest. It’s easy to cling to and support and love someone like you—so easy that it’s hardly worth anything. Luke 6:32

Matt and Ruth

Matt’s announcement was, obviously, not a surprise for me. Matt has always been utterly open and honest about his journey with me. Yes, when he first started realizing that he was leaving Christianity, it was a bit of a shock and even sad. But even though I have not made the same choices as Matt—I am still a committed Christian-we both have buckets of love bursting from our souls for each other and our relationship is still the best relationship I’ve ever seen. If anything he had only grown more gentle and kind in these last years and months.

The biggest question I’ll be getting is now, how am I taking all this? I’m taking it the same way I’ve been taking our relationship for nearly ten years: through struggles that always fall away in the massive waves of our love. I’m happy and blessed by awesome kids and a husband who is my role model regarding love and gentleness. If I believed in reincarnation, I’d want to be reborn as his wife in every life, haha.

Anyway, if anyone wants to drop me a line to ask questions or whatnot, I’m just as open as Matt.

And that’s the end.

:)

Eighth Year

     The problem with expressing sentiment, especially romantic sentiment, is that it can so easily seem trite. Most folks wander on to Facebook on their anniversary, armed with dozens of exclamation points, and throw down one of many packaged statements about how happy they are that they married whoever they married. Everyone does it. And that’s what makes me approach this subject with trepidation.
     You see, my marriage is better than everyone else’s.
     I know, I know, that sounds arrogant and maybe even a bit offensive. But I really believe it. You know all those things that married people fight about? Money, sex, kids, events, family. We don’t. Like, ever.
     And you know how married people can’t wait to get away from each other and do the guy’s night out and the girl’s night out? We don’t really understand that.
     And you know how they say that your first year is the honeymoon and it all goes downhill from there? Well, to be completely frank and honest, that’s just bullshit. I have no other word for that destructive idea and if you ever find yourself uttering it, please jam your foot deep inside your mouth.
     Sure, I have problems in my life, just like everyone else. But my wife isn’t one of them. But how can I express that without blending into the crowds of people who can hardly stand their spouses most of the time but give them lip service on special days of the year?
     Maybe I can’t. Maybe there’s no way to sound unique and special. And, in the end, that’s fine.
     Because the second month of marriage to Ruth was better than the first. And the third was better than the second. And the ninety-fifth was better than the ninety-fourth. So every month seems to be the best month of my life. And that’s pretty cool. I may die of happy soon, and I can’t think of a better way to go.
     So here’s to you, Ruth. Here’s to the love we feast upon and the luminescent beings we are evolving into together. The ride’s been great so far and I feel like we have hardly even started yet. May our love continue to cast out all fear. May our hope always endure. May our faith in each other and in this radiant Universe in which the mystery of love happens grow and flourish.
     Amen.

Understanding

     Yesterday, a jillion people uttered the words, “I love you.”

     I think that’s nice. Good for you, jillion people.

     I’ve heard it said that those three words are the nicest words anyone can hear. But I think there are two better ones.

     “I understand.”

     I get you. I see where you’re coming from. I can see how that makes sense. I respect that.

     Me and my wife, believe it or not, disagree on stuff. And not just little stuff like who should pick the kid up from school. Large, world-view kinda stuff. Stuff that would get one or both of us kicked out of certain clubs and circles. I was once warned that these sorts of disagreements would lead to marital problems.

But as love covers a multitude of sins,
So also does understanding cover a multitude of opinions.

     I never ask Ruth to see things the way I do. That would be ridiculous and evil. All I ask is that she understand. And she does. Readily. Quickly. With a smile and a funny quip. And I understand her. We see where each other is coming from, even when we’re not coming from the same place.

     And I think that’s one of the main reasons why our relationship is so good. People are always tempted to base their love on something.

     “Why do you love me?”
     “Because you’re clever.”
     “Because you make me laugh.”
     “Because you’re nice.”
     “Because my body wants your body.”
     “Because you think like I do.”
     “Because…”
     “Because…”
     “Because…”

     Why do we love each other? None of the above. No reason. At least, none that I can think of.

     Sure, Ruth is clever and she makes me laugh and she’s nice and my body certainly wants her body. But if all those things were gone, the love would still be there. The love just is. So I’m not threatened when her mind and conscience take her to a different place than my mind and conscience take me. When we are in different place, we find that we can still hold hands despite the distance. We respect each other’s minds and don’t judge each other.

     Someone once asked, “But what will you teach your kids if you disagree on so many things?”

     Silly, haven’t you been listening? We will teach them love and understanding. Everything else is optional.

Love Gems #1 – Mr. Miyagi

      I performed a wedding a few weeks ago. It was a glorious time and a glorious couple. I had the opportunity to share a bit about love and marriage. I defaulted to nuggets from four of the greatest men who ever lived. The first was Mr. Miyagi.

      Remember that scene from The Karate Kid? Mr. Miyagi askes Daniel if he’s ready to start learning Karate. Daniel shrugs and says, “I guess so.”
      Mr. Miyagi shakes his head and takes Daniel by the shoulder. “Daniel-san,” he says. “Must talk.”
      He crouches down and unpacks his parable. “You walk on road, hm? Walk left side – safe. Walk right side – safe. Walk middle? Sooner or later squish just like grape. Same with Karate. Karate do yes? Okay. Karate do no? Okay. Karate do ‘guess-so?’ Sooner or later squish just like grape.”
      Love’s that way, I thought. Love do yes? Safe. Love do no? Safe (though empty). Love do ‘guess-so?’ Sooner or later, squish just like grape.
      Love is the wildest battle I’ve ever fought. And any battle demands all your attention.
      People fail when they love their neighbours and their spouses ‘guess-so.’ It’s as bad as walking down the centre of the road. Gotta pick a side! Either refuse to love anyone, and live that empty, dark life of safe loneliness. Or choose to throw yourself into love and walk that vibrant path of peace. Otherwise you’ll be always waffling back and forth between selfishness and love, never sure which hand to play.
      The love path will get you beat up, just like the Karate path earn Daniel a few bruises. But it was better than the other path. Because love creates a bubble of protection around us that we are enabled to extend to the people in our circles. It makes the world a better place. It heals every hurt. It’s not easy, but it’s safe. Safer than ‘guess-so.’

Six Years Ago…

Six years ago I married a funny girl from Pakistan. I count it as one of my better decisions.

I try not to brag about the things that I’m good at. Bragging does not tend toward good relationships. But if I am going to brag about one thing, it will be about the quality of my marriage. With no word of a lie, I have not encountered a marriage as fun, happy, peaceful and exciting as mine. And I don’t say that sentimentally. I mean it. We are good at marriage. And, as with anything you can excel at, we have employed tactics that have made our marriage the best we’ve ever seen. Here they are:

  • A center on Jesus-philosophy. Not just Jesus ethic. Not just Jesus spirituality. Not just Jesus community. Jesus everything. A Jesus philosophy of life. His ethic shows us how to be kind. His spirituality enables us to pull it off. His community keeps our relationship great. The sermon on the mount informs practically all our marriage-related choices. And it works.
  • Being undignified. Dignified people have crappy marriages. I’m sorry, but it’s true. A person with dignity won’t dance in the rain with his wife. A person with dignity won’t play in the mud with his kids. A person with dignity can’t apologize quickly. A person with dignity can’t be a servant. And if you can’t do those things, you can’t have fun with your marriage. Thankfully, neither Ruth not I have any dignity that I can see.
  • Owning each other’s dreams. I think I’ve talked about this before. It’s one of the most important, and most neglected, aspects of marriage. Ruth is passionate about some things. I’m passionate about other things. We don’t expect each other to have that same passion or understanding. But we are both willing to take ownership of the other’s dreams. We are willing to work and sweat for each other’s dreams. And that kills conflict dead.
  • Dancing. As a family we often crank the music up and dance till we collapse. And we discovered that you cannot really be upset at a person trying hard to moonwalk. You just can’t.
  • Laughing at problems. In the words of the Joker, “Why so serious?” Too much seriousness will cripple a marriage. Most spouses take themselves far too seriously. If you cannot laugh or be laughed at, you will find marriage hard. When you laugh at your problems, they tend to lose their power. Seriously, they do. Try it!
  • A refusal to be malicious. We have noticed roots of malice in many marriages. And, as far as we can tell, a marriage with malice is a failed marriage. If you let that demon into your house, it will eat your soul. Kill it. Or it will kill you.
  • Empathy. There are always struggles that Ruth will have that I cannot understand, just because I’m a guy, or because I’m dumb. And that’s fine. It becomes unfine when I refuse to empathize with the things I don’t get. Like when she jumps on the couch when she sees a mouse. I don’t get that. But I empathize with it. I imagine what she must feel like if she jumps up on the couch like that. And, even though I couldn’t care less about a mouse in the house, since it affects her, I take it on myself. And she does the same for the things about me that she can’t quite understand.
  • Discontent. That’s right, discontent. If you are content your marriage will suffer for it. Content means enough. Content means settling. And I don’t like to settle. My marriage is the best one I’ve ever seen. But I’m not content with it just yet. I’m not content with the level of love I’ve attained. I’m not content with the massive level of peace and joy Ruth and I share. I want more. And I mean to get more. And so I’ll never settle. I’ll never sit back and say “Ah, now I have what I needed.” More, baby, yeah!
  • Openness. Cliche, I know, but true. I can tell Ruth anything. She tells me anything. There is no judging in my house. There is never a time when Ruth thinks less of me for a thing I’ve done or an opinion I hold. And so I am safe in my house, as is Ruth.
  • I feel like I could go on forever. So many wonderful tactics have come together to make my marriage the best I’ve ever seen. Marriage, I think, is whatever you make it to be. A lot of people have called it hell. Mine is like a little bit of heaven, and every year is the best one. So no matter when you see me, you can know that you are seeing me during the best year of my life.