As the finale for my brother-in-law’s 30th birthday, Christopher and I met up with him and his wife for drinks at a dueling piano bar in Omaha. It would be a new experience for everyone and we just hoped it would be fun.
It was definitely a new experience.
First, it was extremely loud. Set in the back room of a sports bar, the room consisted of a bunch of tables (filled with all sorts of people, including a few bachelorette parties) and some pretty sizable speakers that washed out any ability to hear even the waitress trying to take our order.
Second, it seemed innocuous enough at first. A few well-known songs. Guys playing piano, singing to each other. And then came the first hit of raunch, which we assumed was in passing and would get better as the night progressed.
But, third, we were wrong. It became progressively worse. And, to be honest, it’s not the cursing or lewdness that got to me the most: It was the (seemingly) endless attack on marriage.
Marriage is the end of fun, of enjoying your partner. It’s all about how one spouse can manipulate the other. Better enjoy the last night or nights you have before it’s all over.
Chris and I later talked about how we’re surprised anyone actually gets married anymore. There has to be something built into us that knows it is supposed to be meaningful, worthwhile, and beautiful. Most of the world has just seen the bad examples, the “irreconcilable differences,” the affairs, the drifting apart after multiple decades together.
The Christian side of things isn’t really any better. More than half of those marriages end in divorce, just like the rest. What’s missing? Why are we failing at something we so obviously desire but just can’t seem to get right?
About a month ago, I had a pretty rattling dream where I was surrounded by a number of believing couples whose marriages I greatly respect who, at the influence of one member of the group, decided that they should all get a “mass” divorce and swap wives. (Most of this is probably due to subconscious fears rooted in experiences at one of the churches my family attended while I was growing up, which is a long, crazy story.)
And, as they began to strip off their wedding rings and celebrate the finalized dissolution of their marriages, I got up on the table and started yelling at them about how foolish they were, about how God would never divorce them – and He had every reason to do so.
Which is BIG for me, you know, because whenever I start yelling in dreams, nothing actually comes out of my mouth. I typically start yelling and realize that no sound is coming out, and become increasingly burdened until I wake either shaking or weeping.
But I was definitely yelling in my dream, and I awoke with the words, “God will never divorce you,” rolling over and over in my head. There is so much power in those words that we too often neglect.
You see, Christopher and I are married. We took vows in front of family, friends, and God, and we celebrated in style like so many others do. But we are committed to more than just one another. We’re committed to something deeper – that Christ’s sacrifice for the Church (His bride) ought to shape us and how we understand marriage. And divorce is not an option.
It’s a covenant that’s deeper than affection. It’s rooted in the very fact that Christ chose us when we did not deserve it, but He did it anyway. We whore after lesser things, thinking they will fulfill us. We have been unfaithful to the Faithful One. Yet, though we fail Him time and again, He upholds His covenant with us that He will never leave us or forsake us.
Marriage can be a beautiful, life-giving thing. The world may see chains, but I see freedom in the fact that God will hold me to my covenant to this man. Freedom from fear. Freedom to believe that, in the same way, God holds Himself to His covenant to me. He will never divorce me. What a beautiful truth upon which to build my life and my marriage.
And, to think, I learned that at a dueling piano bar in Omaha.