There are moments in marriage where all things quicken, where best or worst moments siphon out the essence of togetherness. In those moments, we’re brought to the edge of joy or pain, hope or despair. These are the moments that suck the air out of the room, moments leaving me in holy awe that, yes, this thing called marriage is an ordination, a calling.
I felt it first when the white wooden doors at the Guntersville Church of Christ swung wide, and you stood there in blinding beauty. This was the first time my future passed before me, and all the possibilities of life spread wide. I felt it again with the birth of Isaac, then Jude, then Ian, then Titus—the bundles of potential energy, of potential boyhood, of potential manhood.
There were other quickenings–the time you called from Louisiana; “grandma’s gone,” you said. There was the morning we woke to discover grandpa’s soul had fled his hospice bed and tore a hole through the great hereafter; he and grandma were together again.
The quickening moments of marriage are not relegated to life or death, to marriage vows or the renewing of vows. Confession, repentance—these are quickening moments, too. In September of 2013 I called from a conference in Austin, Texas. You were home with the children, and you answered at the end of a frazzled day. Our conversation was brief.
“I think I need you to get rid of all the alcohol in the house,” I said. “I think I have to quit drinking.”
“You have a drinking problem?” The words hung, lump forming in my throat.
“Yes,” I managed after too long a pause.
“Okay,” you said. “I love you.” And that was it.
You were all grace. It was a quickening moment for me, but perhaps for you, too?
You’d clung to a dream of Paris. In your dream, we sat in an outdoor cafe, wine in our glasses, baguettes and butter on our plates. At night, we turned down Parisian sheets, sipped chilled champagne and found the right mood. In the morning, we traveled to the French countryside, toured wineries and learned the slower way of the farmers. We collected wine stories, perhaps wine bottles. Your dream was one of art, French jazz, wine and love. Could there be anything more romantic?
My confession on that September evening stole your dream. I came clean, and your fantasy of Paris was thrown out with the bathtub gin. You didn’t tell me this until nearly six months into my sobriety (thank you). By then, you were glad to trade your dream for a more sober version of me.
There’s been a lot of talk and some abuse of the Holy Scripture’s recitation of wifely submission. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:22). Some doofuses quote this scripture as they bark commands, or as they push the women-folk down the chain of command. I’m not qualified to unpack this scripture in its entirety, but this is what I know: you led me into sobriety by your gentle-hearted submission. You crucified your full French fantasy to serve me in sobriety’s throes (see all the scripture you embody?). If that’s not submission, I’m not sure what is.
Perhaps there’s still Paris. Art, the countryside, baguettes, butter, and midnight romance–it’s still a possibility. There may not be wine or champagne, but there’s still us. Somehow, I know that’s good enough for you. I know I’m good enough for you. That’s a hard sentence to type.
Here’s what else I know: we’re siphoned, and siphoned, and siphoned, and I suppose one day there will be nothing left us but the bare essentials. Maybe we’ll submit to each other. Maybe I’ll crucify a few dreams for you. Maybe you’ll crucify a few more for me. Maybe we’ll have quickening after quickening. Maybe we’ll watch our children be siphoned. Maybe we’ll see our parents’ souls siphoned. Maybe we’ll watch the world be siphoned to its nothing-elseness. If we’re lucky, maybe the nothing-elseness will look like faith, hope, and love.
Submitting to the siphoning,
Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, is available! You can order online wherever good books are sold, or visit your local Barnes & Noble and pick up your copy! While you’re there, check out this month’s Relevant Magazine, which features and interview with me about Coming Clean.
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