“Are you scared to get married? Honestly?”
This question came from a male friend who read my newly-minted blog this morning. His folks divorced just a few years ago and rocked his world. Yet another reminder that there isn’t a good time, as far as kids are concerned, for mom and dad to split up.
But back to the question. Am I scared to get married? Honestly? And the answer is, yeah, a little. But I think it’s a healthy fear. Let me explain. I think an analogy will help.
I grew up around water. If there was a place to swim within 100 miles of wherever we lived, we found it. We lived in an apartment complex for two summers and had a pool right outside our back door, but usually our swimming holes were of the old-fashioned variety. The kind that are murky and full of fish. I love to swim and learned to do so at a young age. My brothers learned even younger. By the time they were born, we lived in New Jersey, near my grandparents who owned a small summer cottage on a lake. My kid brothers were bobbing on the waves with the rest of us when they could barely walk.
We didn’t just learn to swim though. We learned to respect the water. We were lectured on the necessity of checking out unfamiliar areas carefully before jumping or diving into the water. We heard Joni Eareckson’s story repeatedly. We were lectured on the dangers of drinking alcohol around water long before any of us had our first drink. During the few winters that were cold enough to freeze the lake, we got to ice skate and ice fish—and we heard lectures about not walking on cracked ice or ice bubbles, and what to do if someone fell through the ice.
We loved the water. We spent hours swimming, floating, and boating. We dove with abandon off my grandparents’ dock, having long ago located all the below surface dangers. But even next door, we would only dive off the neighbors’ dock when cousins or siblings were standing on the rocks to clearly mark them. We were well aware of the serious danger that water could be to anyone who didn’t respect it and treated it cavalierly, or who were so afraid of it that they never learned to swim.
And that’s how I feel about marriage. I would love to experience it, to swim and float in the pure delight of a husband’s love, to discover what lies beneath the murky depths of a man’s mind, even sometimes to wrinkle my nose in surprised disgust at the toe-grabbing seaweed of a man’s less refined habits.
But I know marriage is not a thing to be entered into lightly. It is, after all, a solemn vow and commitment before God, something never to be entered into lightly. It is also something that requires work. I didn’t learn to swim in a day, and even after I learned, there was a process of becoming more proficient and then of learning new strokes. And there were times of stretching—feeling confident enough to swim out to the float; being in awe of grandpa who swam across the whole lake; taking aquatic aerobics in college, which turned out to be a grueling class of swimming laps.
A friend of mine got some concerned looks when she was seen with a copy of a book subtitled "Building an Affair-Proof Marriage." Was her marriage in trouble? No, but she knows that danger always lurks (1 Peter 5:8) and she was taking no chance of it catching her unaware. I think she's a wise woman.
I’m sure I still carry around some dreamy illusions of marriage, but I also feel that I have a pretty healthy respect for the amount of vigilance, hard work, perseverance, and sheer determination that make possible those times when you can spread your arms wide, float gently on the waves, and soak up the sun.