Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Marriage - What's In A Name

I have no idea who Mark Driscoll is beyond the bare fact that he is a pastor of a megachurch somewhere out west called Mars Hill. Apparently, he's written a book on marriage. I can think of few other institutions about which pretty much everyone has an opinion and no two of them are exactly the same.

Which is fine.

What follows are thoughts on the institution as I've experienced it over nearly 19 years of interesting, turbulent, frantic, peaceful, and sometimes downright silly matrimony.

I think the words in Ephesians regarding marriage are interesting.

The institution itself is little more than the state managing procreation for the maintenance of property rights. With the elimination of primogeniture in the United States, such legal categories as the legitimacy or illegitimacy of children have no meaning. The process of passing on property, on the other hand, has become immensely more complicated; we have to draw up legal documents for the disposition of property and the care of minor children, rather than rely on tradition to guide us. The legal reality that married couples hold all property, cash, income, etc., in common, makes the writing even of the simplest Will and Testament a complicated, and expensive, process. We've done ours a couple times, and will probably have to do it a time or two more before one or the both of us pass away. Each time, it costs a minimum of several hundred dollars, plus sitting around a table in a lawyer's office.

All of the above paragraph concerns the legal reality of marriage. It is the only reality about which the state concerns itself (unless, that is, one of the partners becomes abusive in some way, and the police come in; that's another topic for another day).

A marriage is not "a relationship". I do not have "a relationship" with my wife. We, together, work, laugh, fight, get frustrated, chat, cook, clean, make love, snuggle, pay bills, raise our daughters, and do a whole lot of making it up as we go along. It's complicated, occasionally seems impossible, usually leaves me feeling quite fulfilled, and never, ever gets boring. The word "relationship" is so banal, it cannot possibly capture the complex dance in which we are engaged. The Bible says that a husband and wife become one flesh. Obviously, that is a metaphor. Yet, it feels more than such to us, on most occasions.

Apparently, Driscoll is a big believer in marital sex. Woo-hoo! Not that I care what he, or anyone else, has to say about this. Most people who give their opinions about sex in some public forum are far more concerned with making sure people are having the right kind of sex. If they don't approve of it, then things could get ugly. Let me just say, for the record, that my wife and I still enjoy one another's company. I find her the sexiest woman I've ever met. Even as middle age has begun to take its toll on both our bodies, I think she's sexier than ever. The primary reason for sexual intercourse may well be the continuation of the species, and Lisa and I are done with that. If anyone out there told us that, therefore, we had to stop this part of our marriage, I'd either laugh or punch them. Beyond any of this, my sex life and anything related to it are none of your damn business.

People ask me why I hyphenated my last name. Before we were married, I told Lisa I didn't want her to take my last name. I find the idea distasteful, a remnant of a time not long gone when women were property, and the wife's taking of the husband's name was him claiming his prize. She demurred, then suggested we hyphenate. I won't lie; it was difficult. At the same time, the reasons we gave then are the same I give now. At about 2:30 in the afternoon of May 8, 1993, I became a different person. Geoffrey Safford ceased to exist, not just because I had decided to hyphenate. That person, that singular individual, was gone. In his place, bearing a striking resemblance in a superficial way yet irrevocably changed, was part of a dynamic duo. How better to signal this new identity than take my wife's last name, add it to mine, and let the world know a new person had arrived on the scene? People used to ask me a lot. It happens less often now, but I do get asked. I find it a wonderful opportunity to talk about what marriage means to me.

Virtual Tin Cup

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