According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pre-Marital Ideals and Expectations

An Open Letter to Donald Miller on Your Engagement

First, congratulations. Second, let's talk about that list of qualities we should want in a spouse.

by Karen Swallow Prior
posted June 23, 2011

Dear Donald,

First of all, I’m a fan. I’ll admit I’m not young enough or hip enough to have discovered you on my own, but the college students I teach help me to keep up with the times, and they introduced me to your work some years ago. I love it all, especially A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I wish I’d had your books when I was languishing in youth group hell many years ago.

0623weddingring.jpgI’m thrilled to learn of your recent engagement. As someone who’s been married for 26 years—to the same man, no less—I can fully rejoice with you and Paige in your anticipation of the blessings, challenges, joys, pains, and memories this covenant relationship will bring.

In addition to two and a half decades of marriage, I bring the second-hand experiences of a fair number of hook-ups, break-ups, engagements, broken engagements, marriages, searching, longing, and questioning on matters of love and marriage: when you work with college students, you get to live through a lot of this with them. I’ve had the chance to watch a lot of young people make good decisions and bad. (And I made a few of each in my day.)

So when I heard about your recent post, “What are You Looking for in a Spouse? Why not Create a List?”— I was intrigued. It’s a good thing to know one’s self well enough before entering a lifelong partnership to be able to identify in a potential mate a handful of deal-breakers. For the Christian, of course, the first of these non-negotiables is being equally yoked. There are likely a few qualities that are essential to one’s being and therefore non-negotiable. One such non-negotiable for me would be a love of animals. Not an abstract kind of love, but the kind that turns pets into family members who share the furniture with the humans. A spouse who didn’t share this value would doom one or the other, and therefore both, to perpetual misery. I encourage my students to identify such non-negotiables when they seek my advice, as they often do.

But upon reading your post—which includes a list of qualities that your fiancée, Paige, sought in the man of her dreams long before she had met her future husband—my intrigue grew into concern.

You see, a list like the one in your post—a list of more than a dozen traits the dream husband should exhibit, most of them self-centered, focusing on how a future spouse will treat “me” and make “me” feel—doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for God to bring a partner who can meet needs we don’t even know we have, needs God knows more intimately than we or our spouses can ever know.

While Paige wrote that her dream spouse would be someone who “is always thinking about me,” I can pretty much guarantee that neither your first fight nor your 91st will be about how much thinking you did about her on any given day. It will be about who forgot to mail the credit card payment or who didn’t roll up the car windows before it rained, or whether or not you really need more towels, again.

Yet, this matter of the list isn’t really my greatest concern.

0623husband.jpgMy greatest concern is that you both realize that whatever qualities each of you identifies as non-negotiable must be already present in the other person. Here’s my plea, to both of you: Don’t enter into marriage with the expectation that one or both of you will “change,” at least not in some pre-determined, pre-scripted way.

You don’t put it quite this way in your post (in fact, Paige says you have all 15 qualities of her dream man already), but the idea creeps in rather stealthily (as such ideas are wont to do) when you say that one “great thing about creating a list is that Paige helps me become this man,” and later, “Paige is helping me become her dream come true.” This sounds as though you’re both banking on her changing you.

This notion that a man will change for a woman goes all the way back to Adam’s bite of the apple, but has more salient and recent precedents in Victorian thinking and Romanticism. It’s Victorian to think it is the woman’s role to “civilize” a man and make him a more suitable husband. It’s romantic to think such a thing is possible.

Of course, both husbands and wives do change over the course of a long marriage. Indeed all people change over time. They just don’t necessarily change in the ways we want or expect. And that’s not a bad thing. The long-haired, skinny guitarist in a rock band that I married years ago is now a mild-mannered school teacher who’d rather swing a golf club than a guitar axe. Likewise, the waif my husband wed who hid her insecurities behind too much black eye make-up and aspired to change the world as a social worker has become a cynical academic with few wifely qualities, save an overindulgence in footwear that borders on neurotic.

Yet, each of us is for the other, I firmly believe, what God knew we needed. Through God’s grace, we have brought out the best in each other over the years, even though that best wouldn’t likely have been found on any list either us might have written so many years ago.

I pray for the same grace for you and Paige as you grow, both as individuals and as spouses to each other. And I pray that the changes each of you undergoes in your great marriage adventure are both delightful and surprising.

Your fan,


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