Friday, October 15, 2010

To the End

     Actors David Arquette and Courtney Cox have separated.  That’s hardly news, honestly, except that they have been married for 11 years, which is forever in Hollywood.  I don’t normally pay attention to these things, but for some reason I bit and clicked on the headline to read the article.

Some days I just don’t understand myself and why I do the things I do.

Anyway, they issued the following statement: "The reason for this separation is to better understand ourselves and the qualities we need in a partner and for our marriage.  We remain best friends and responsible parents to our daughter and we still love each other deeply."  They don’t understand themselves either, which is apparent, since it stands to reason that the time to understand the qualities one needs in a marriage partner is before the wedding, not eleven years into the marriage.  Of course, most of us get into this marriage thing when we’re young and think we know a lot but don’t know how much we don’t know.  So cut them some slack.  But it’s that second sentence that I don’t understand.  In it they say that they 1) are best friends; 2) are responsible parents to their daughter, and 3) still love each other deeply.
Now, see, that really gets me, because when people ask me what they should look for in a marriage partner, I frequently tell them to marry their best friend.  (Of the opposite sex, of course.)  You are going to be spending a lot of time with that person over the course of your lifetime, so make sure that you actually like spending time with them.  Looks fade, waistlines expand, and all sorts of other things happen to the external stuff people often use in picking a mate.  So look past that stuff.  Find someone that you can be best friends with, and fall in love with that person.  Then make a commitment to them.
By commitment I mean hang on for dear life.  No matter what, hang on.  Marriage is hard; of all the relationships we have, marriage is probably the hardest, and that’s why an essential element in any marriage is perseverance: the sheer dogged determination to keep going, to slog through the tough times when you aren’t best friends.  When those tough times come because you don’t understand yourself or your spouse, that determination will force you to go (together) see someone who can help you understand each other.  And when tough times come from external circumstances like a job loss or adolescent children, perseverance will allow you to weather the storm until things get better, which they invariably do.  A new job opens up, and kids grow up.  Life is like the weather—storms come up regularly, and so do bright sunshiny days.  If you quit during the storms, who are you going to share the sunshiny days with?
So that’s the formula.  Fall in love with your best friend, and then hold on like a pit bull with a t-bone.
 Following Jesus is hard, too, which is why perseverance is not just a relational virtue but a spiritual one as well.  There are times when it’s  great, and it feels like nothing you’ve ever experienced before in your life.  But there are times when it’s not so great and you can’t feel anything at all.  And then there are times when it’s costly, it’s really, really hard, and maybe even dangerous.  What are you going to do then? 
When all you can do is hang on, hanging on is a virtue.
Mother Teresa apparently had a lot of doubts about God toward the end of her life, and I have heard some Christian leaders criticize her because of them.  I imagine the best way to avoid having doubts about God is to avoid as much as possible any contact with human suffering.  Mother Teresa lived in the muck of human suffering all her life, so it doesn’t surprise me that she had some questions, some doubts, some misgivings.
But you know what?  In spite of her doubts, she showed up.  Every day until the day she died, she showed up and helped suffering people who were created in the image of God die in dignity.  When her faith was small and her hope dried up, her love persevered.  It held on; she held on.
Sometimes, that’s all we can do.  And God honors that.  He really does.

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