Tag Archive: love


so i probly shouldn’t have had that coffee.

altho, in one way i kinda had to, cos i had already had two mugs of tea today and i’m pretty sure that three consecutive teas in a day makes your head implode or something, right

but that meant that after much raucously great conversation and laughter with tbV on a whole range of topics i lay in bed completely awake trying to sleep or at the very least not disturb hers…

but eventually i had to get up and kill some zombies [armed with only the barest amount of highly skilled animated plants] and catch up on the internets [yup, both of them] and hopefully eventually bore myself to sleep.

and i got to thinking that the world, and hollywood in general could really do a much better job of trying to present real to us.

i can’t remember the last time i watched a movie and there was a couple having sex and one of them farted. or actually any husband and wife conversation that was interrupted by a fart.

because that doesn’t happen, right? you get married, you say the vows and then this magical moment happens when you are swept up in this mystical cloud and when you are lightly lowered to the floor again, your ability to fart has been inexplicably taken away.

you don’t burp either. or get zits. or mishear each other. i mean that never happens right? that you have to say “pardon?” or “excuse me?” three times because your spouse was in the other room or the dish washing water was running and you didn’t hear what they said.

nope, marriage is all about bubbles and candyfloss and levitation and cake frosting and rainbows! [did i mention the unicorn sightings?]

BATTLE STATIONS: WHAT TO DO IF THERE ACTUALLY IS A FART?

okay, i may have exaggerated a little bit about the unicorn sightings.

i was having a brief online chat with a friend of mine just the other day about how marriage is a set of choices [made well or badly] long before it is a set of feelings… and on its best days the feelings accompany the choices that are made…

…but when tempers are high or the context is difficult or times are stressful or one of us is simply just being a jerk, then the choices – and hopefully the right ones – get made despite the feelings not being there, or not the Hollywood alleged ones at any rate.

it sounds so scientifically unromantic when you put it like that – love is a choice – boo! boo!

and maybe that is part of the point – so much of marriage IS unromantic. and that’s okay.

because Hollywood has sold us a big fat piece of crap on a stick when it comes to love, relationships, marriage etc.

they require work and effort. time and sacrifice. hard decisions.

and sometimes there are tears. and angry words. and regrets [because you cannot grab hold of those words and force them back into your mouth once they are out]

and some times – too many times – you will hurt the one you love – the one you have promised to love more than anyone else you know or have ever known.

it’s not always nice or great or fun or easy… but that is a huge part of what marriage is about… the messiness, the unromantic parts – cleaning toilets and emptying compost bins – washing ANOTHER sink full of dishes even though you did it the last ten times [as did your wife, cos those things have babies in the sink – ask Val she’ll provide concurrage! babies i tell you!]

RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY… or maybe just tread knowingly

i feel like the last three to four weeks on the book of faces all i have seen has been engagements

i’m not sure why that is – maybe Christmas and New Year’s is the time when that all happens but it just seems to be all over the place on my Facebook at least – and i’m sure regular service will be resuming soon and we’ll be back to people getting pregnant and sharing silly cat videos and having ridiculous religious arguments again.

having said that, this post on the realness of marriage might feel to some like a Monty Python and the Holy Grailesque ‘Run away! Run away!’ warning when it is not meant to be anything like that in the slightest.

hearing about all the chaos and hardship and work and unromanticness of huge areas of marriage might seem like a statement intended to make you think that marriage is not a good thing – on the contrary! marriage is an most excellent thing and that is despite all the above mentioned areas as well as taking into account the significant lack of excessive bubble wrap pajama parties and unicorn tear cocktail nights.

but it would be helpful for you to know the full picture going in. or a fuller picture at least.

cos you’ve been sold a crock of ship-hitting-the-fan type scenarios when you have been given the picture that it is all about the romance and the butterflies, about the feelings and the heart-pounding-bed-breaking-earth-shattering sex [which is always clean and neat and boydoihaveasurpriseforyou] and about happy faces and positive attitudes and friendly disagreements and easy solutions and must i go on?

cos it is not. 

well, not all the time. there IS romance and butterflies and feelings and idontthinkishouldcommentontheheartpoundingbedbreakingearthshatteringsex and happy faces and positive attitudes and all of that.

but there is the other thing as well.

and it is how you navigate the combination of good vs hard vs chaotic vs confusing painful vs exhilarating vs surprising vs amazing that works towards how well [or badly] you will create a marriage that will last and stand the test of time.

and even more so perhaps, the test of Hollywood.

unicorn4

 

aka ‘What The Back of His T-shirt Should Have Said’ [spoken word – Micah Bournes]

some powerful thoughts contained in this spoken word as a response to seeing a t-shirt with the words “Virginity can be cured” on it:

My wife, the beautiful Val [tbV] left for a week’s conference in Atlanta today.

As is my tradition when i am away from her i wrote her a letter to remind her that she is much loved and thought of while she is away. And i googled ‘inspirational wife quote’ to try and find an uplifting quote to give her.

Over 40 pages of quotes appeared on a site called Brainyquote and one of the first ones i saw was this one, which i used:

‘Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.’ [Franz Schubert]

As i finished my letter to tbV i thought, ‘Let me find her another cool quote’ and that’s where it began…

Three pages later I had given up the search as quote after quote was of the following theme:

‘A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.’ [Michel de Montaigne]

Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same thing.’ [Oscar Wilde]

‘I haven’t spoken to my wife in years. I didn’t want to interrupt her.’ [Rodney Dangerfield]

‘When a man steals your wife, there is no better revenge than to let him keep her.’ [Sacha Guitry]

And on and on they went. I do realise that a number of the sources quoted are stand-up comedians, but that just goes to show the kind of thing we use to get laughs.

It is a subtle erosion of marriage and it is a message that happens all around us all of the time.

I get particularly annoyed when ministers make jokes about marriage at a wedding. It feels like sending the couple off on a lifelong journey with a negative message ringing in their ears. Phrases like “ball and chain” and lines like “marriage is like a phone call in the middle of the night – you get a ring and then you wake up” will get laughs, but they will also add a silent barb to those married people who may not be finding marriage that easy at the moment and it’s like a public confirmation that you might be right in thinking or feeling the way you are.

It would be marginally better if a search for ‘inspirational wife quotes’ had even produced a list where half of the quotes were lifting women and wives up as something good and worth celebrating. Instead i would say that 70% or even more of the quotes had the wife [or husband] as the butt of some joke, with many of them promoting adultery and mistresses as a normal expected part of the conversation.

In our experience, marriage has not always been the easiest thing. Especially when two strong personalities come together, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt, a lot of grace and Love to be chosen. Forgiveness to be asked for and freely given. We desperately need people cheering us on and holding up the idea of a working marriage, not throwing stones or tossing subtly camouflauged barbs ‘in the name of jest’ – it just isn’t helpful.

Let me agree with Franz that I am a happy man because I have found a true friend in my wife. I love Val very much and I cheer her on as she journeys through life on a path that often intersects with mine and sometimes doesn’t. I want her to feel lifted up by my words and actions [a feat i certainly don’t always get right] and never want something i say in jest to be something that causes her pain or mistrust or creates a space for even the smallest crack to start emerging.

i don’t think anyone just decided to commit adultery or give up on their marriage. It is a combination of a whole lot of smaller things that are left undealt with. A bunch of small, individual cracks that eventually become visible, often when it is too late.

i imagine there will be a bunch of people who think i am overreacting with this whole thing. But the marriage stats speak for themselves. Marriage does not have the greatest track record at the moment. It is in desperate need of people who will champion it, who will speak life into it and cheer it on from the sides [as other married couples and as single or dating people] – we need all the help we can get.

How about you? Can you identify with any of this notion of less-than-affirming-message-towards-marriage? When last did you hear someone speak about their husband or wife in joking fashion that really caused you to pause for a moment and raise an eyebrow? If you are married, how do others hear you speak about your spouse? 

A moment captured

as i stand so close to the flames

that the tiny hairs on my arms start to catch alight

filling my nostrils with that pungent, burning hair smell

i catch the silhouette of my reflected outline

quietly nodding my silent assent

to those who by their righteous actions tonight

have ensured that this clinic’s business

for the immediate future at least

has been violently aborted

 

as i stand to the far edge of the back of this lively and passionate crowd

i am caught up by the exuberance with which our leaders

are delivering today’s heartfelt message of righteous anger and God’s judgment

on those who would exchange normal relations

for these abominations

not quite confident that God does indeed hate fags as has been so eloquently declared

through the intimacy of a well-intended loud speaker

or the letters lovingly painted onto an otherwise pure white poster

i at least choose to hold my focus

on all those who will be set free

as a result of us gaily presenting our well-crafted sermon

as we came out here today

Lovingly Gesturing Biblical Truths

 

back at home i spend some time online

catching up on the news

all the time dodging the vitriolic and caustic comments

of fellow christian brothers and sisters

resolutely aligning themselves with either camp

and how could you possibly hold THAT opinion

if you have given any attention at all to THIS specific verse?

(“You fool!”… understood.)

 

another moment, yet another person caught in a crime

this time i bend down to pick up my stone

but am stopped in my tracks

by the sound of his voice

speaking these words

so lovingly

‘let the person who is without sin throw the first stone.’

 

and i pause for just a minute

 

as i think it over to myself…

a ticking watch nervously counts down this moment of interruption

my heavy breathing bears testimony to the wrestling that’s going on within my head

as i roll his words around in my mind, this way and that way, looking for the answer

but then suddenly it comes to me in a flash

as i remember that he has already paid for my sin

when he died on the cross

he took all my guilt and shame

and the sin penalty that should have been mine to pay

and he paid for it in my place

and so that makes me sin-free, right?

 

that makes me the one able to throw the first stone…

just like he said.

 

my hand finds a suitably jagged edged piece of stone

closes tightly around it

i can feel its rough edges digging into my skin

i stand to my feet in a single motion

powered up by all the holy righteous anger i can muster

and with every muscle in my body giving assent to my actions

i hurl that stone with all my might and watch as it hits its target

watch as you slump quickly to the ground

 

and, as if the dam wall has been burst

i watch as my just action unleashes the rest of the frenzied crowd

some who had already started to let their personalised rocks fall to the ground

 

again and again the rocks smash against their intended victim

your cries have long since passed

blood and bits of skin and bone fly hideously around

and within moments you are no longer a person

but a grotesque mass of broken body and blood

 

broken body

and blood?

 

as if in a pitch black tunnel just noticing a faint hint of a light up ahead

something starts to swirl within my mind

a recollection, a mass of thoughts, something is trying to be heard

and i try to focus in on what is being said, as my stomach fights against gagging from the smell that is rising up from your body

your dead body

broken by me… broken for me?

no, broken by me.

 

i glance up.

struggling to see clearly with these beams of wood protruding from each one of my eyes

i manage to finally catch a glimpse of him

his face displaying so obviously that this is not the way he was hoping it would end

as if something has gone wrong

gone horribly wrong

but what is it? i did what you said. i did what you have to have wanted. right?

 

and there it is

off to the side, faint and very much in the distance

but there is no mistaking the call of the farm bird sounding the beginning of a new day

or is it the end of one?

nope, there it is again.

and one more time.

 

i realise that the first crow has labelled me a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal

the second told me i am nothing

the third plays out that i have gained nothing

all three signifying that i have failed in this,

in this, my virtuous enacting of your justice

and if that is true, if i have failed in this

that surely means that no part of this was truly Love

 

what is the first commandment? obey the rules

what is the most important? don’t step outside of the lines

what is the gospel? don’t do this long and complicated list of things

GODHATESFAGSGODHATESPEOPLEWHOHAVEABORTIONSGODHATESTERRORISTSGODHATES

wait, what?

 

 

 

 

i stand close to the flames

trying to massage some warmth back into my hands

no-one needs to come up to me and ask if i know Him?

i know my actions have already answered that one

and as i catch my reflection in a nearby piece of glass

i notice the flames, licking at my feet.

 

Marriage moment

Another week, another photo challenge and this time to find the right picture or pictures to capture the idea of fleeting.

I could not look past our wedding pics for this, both because I think they really do capture the idea of a moment caught in time, but also give the idea of this thing will move on and this moment will pass. The commitment will continue and is hopefully strong and steadfast and true, but the moment is fleeting. This is what needs to be enjoyed as it happens as the rest will journey with you.

This first one I really love as it just grabs hold of the casual enjoy-the-moment nature of the day and was taken just after the ceremony, when we were able to relax a little bit more.

The next two were taken as part of our wedding shoot in the African township, Kayamandi, where I lived for about 18 months before we got married and both strongly emphasise ‘Fleeting’ firstly by way of the youths who are walking past, completely unaware and oblivious of the celebrations taking place as, for them, life continues as normal… and then through the watchfulness of the observer to the kiss which happens in an instant and is no more…

Don't let this pass you byA moment capturedThis next photo is taken of myself and the beautiful Val [tbV] on the dance floor and captures the moment of a shared joke or just complete awareness and appreciation and presence in the moment of acknowledging being married and everything that is to follow:

Unrecreatable momentWhich brings us to the final photo which was the ‘family shot’ with our fake son, Emo Kev…

Which I can’t really explain beyond that except it was my wife’s idea and for some reason Kev was really game and which really brings home the fleeting nature of having a fake son. Ah, they grow up so quickly:

Our fake son Emo Kev

[For the previous photo challenge on the theme of ‘The Sign Says’ click here]

And now a glimpse into the story of Steve and Helene from Helene’s side:

Helene and Steve

I will start with the here and now – Steve and I have been married two and a half years and together six years. I feel very blessed and fulfilled by our physical intimacy, and am looking for many years of exploring what that will look like in the various seasons that await us. Knowing where the other comes from with respect to sexual history makes us want to honor the other, and bring healing and peace and respect to the other in a way that no one else can. With that comes a humbling responsibility and great power, but also a deep desire to bless the other and receive the joy of sex that God intended for us to experience together. I am sure it will not always be like it is now – sometimes it will be better (whatever that will look like, I don’t know yet) and sometimes it will be worse, but I have a deep trust that this is something we both want to prioritize because we have been uniquely placed by God in a position to offer that to the other. I would say that right now, our biggest challenge is that we often feel like life gets in the way of us making time to be intimate as often as we’d like. Thankfully we are quick to notice it and since we don’t have children and have a fair degree of freedom in our activities, we plan impromptu time in bed or put a hold on our calendar for a romantic evening on short notice to remedy the situation. Life is good.

But it wasn’t always like this. What I had to bring to the table on our wedding night was a soul and body so disconnected by a misguided sexual past that I thought I would never be able to fulfill my role in sharing wonderful physical intimacy with my husband. And it really broke my heart, because I felt that Steve had spent so many years (mostly) holding back from physical intimacy until he found someone to marry, while I was out carousing with any guy who wanted to lay a hand on me, and now all that brokenness made me unable to give something to Steve that he so rightfully deserved. I felt shame and disappointment and guilt. I felt unworthy and dirty. And more than anything, I felt scared to give him access to my body and my soul together as one – which is something I’d never done with anyone.

You see, my body hadn’t always been mine. My childhood, despite my wonderful parents’ love and care, was filled with physical attacks from a violent brother as well as the unwanted advances of a male babysitter before I even reached puberty. At a young age I learned that my body was something people could use to hurt me. I learned that those closest to me were the ones who would hurt me. So I simply dissociated my soul from my body – if people wanted to use my body for evil that’s fine, I could keep it at arm’s length and not be affected by it. In teenage years I became very promiscuous – which seems counterintuitive but I learned later that it is a very common way for survivors of childhood sexual abuse or violence to cope with a feeling of powerlessness. It was as though I had to affirm that my body didn’t matter, therefore what happened to me as a child didn’t matter. What it did however, was widen the chasm between how I related to my body and how I related to my soul – I didn’t understand how the two could coexist together as a whole. It also taught me that you can have countless partners but that you never have to trust anyone, especially the ones you become closest to. So in a weird way sex became a tool to keep people at a distance, not bring them closer. I had no concept of what it could mean to have sex with someone and respect them, or be respected for that matter. By the time I entered my thirties I had left that wildly promiscuous past behind, perhaps more as a result of finding fewer people willing to engage in the practice because of my age, or perhaps because unbeknownst to me I was growing up a little. Then Steve entered the scene. We started dating and he told me about not wanting to have sex before marriage. I thought “well heck, I’ve never tried THAT before!” Since nothing else had worked to that point with respect to finding eternal love, I was willing to give it a shot. Not only was I attracted to Steve in the conventional way at the onset of dating, but I was also very intrigued by the idea that someone could value a relationship with me that wasn’t based on the physical. In hindsight it is an incredible story of redemption that the Lord would have put Steve on my path, because out of that relationship came a deep reconciliation between my body and my soul, and a feeling of wholeness has emerged that I had never thought possible.

It was not easy at first though. I didn’t know how to be sexual and at the same time stay engaged emotionally and spiritually with him. I knew that I could not treat this incredible person the way I had treated sexual partners in the past – by using him as an object. At the same time, I did not know how to stay connected with him during physical intimacy because I had trained my soul to just go hide somewhere deep inside whenever I was naked with somebody and to leave my empty shell of a body for the person to use as they saw fit. At that point, we’d just gotten married and I wanted desperately to give him a wonderful sexual experience, but it all came crashing down on me. All those years of protecting myself had essentially disabled me from knowing how to let somebody in, body and soul, into my life. So in the first few weeks/months, I remember letting “it” happen but feeling pain and incredible sadness that I couldn’t connect with Steve in that way. I felt a lot of rage and guilt that all these years I had been able to have “great sex (whatever that means!)” with strangers and now with the one person whom I loved and trust, I couldn’t do it. But that was actually a blessing, because what was happening was that for the first time in my life I cared enough about someone that I did not want to use him and let him use me. I wanted to experience what God intended for us to experience, but I didn’t know how. I felt too broken to have anything to offer. I was at an impasse, so I went to see a counselor who helped me sort out all these feelings I was having. She gave me and Steve tools for overcoming this initial difficulty in our intimacy. She gently encouraged me to start trusting Steve in a way that I had never trusted anyone before. At first, I sometimes had to make him stop in the middle of the act because I couldn’t stay with it emotionally and I did not want to let myself dissociate from my body. It was better to make the whole thing stop than to let myself go back to that secret place inside and leave my empty shell in bed with Steve. It was awkward of course, and I am forever grateful that Steve gave me the space and unconditional love to work through all these emotions – all the while he was experiencing his own disappointment that sex with me wasn’t quite the amazing and exciting experience he had hoped it would be. What made the difference was that I knew he trusted me and trusted that I was committed to getting past this and having a wonderful physical connection with him down the road. He never pressured me, something for which I am, again, so grateful to him. Within that sacred, safe place I began to heal.

After about a year, things started getting better. I found myself looking forward to sharing intimate time with Steve whereas before I had to talk myself into it a little. I started trusting him, trusting my body to be a source of joy and pleasure and not a source of pain, trusting that it is possible to have someone touch me with respect, with love, with care. And I feel so incredibly grateful when I find myself wishing we spent more time in bed together now–after my journey it is such a blessing to find myself in such a mundane, simple predicament: simply to wish for more intimate time with my husband. More importantly, all the time Steve and I spent not being fulfilled sexually has created a relationship that is based on trust and mutual respect and we have learned to find other ways to feel valued and loved. I look forward to and love the times that we spend physically intertwined together, but I also look forward to and love the times when we just sit and talk about what we’ve been reading and thinking about, cook together, kayak together or serve others together. We were able to develop an incredibly supportive and challenging relationship even as we were struggling with relating to one another sexually, which had two pretty awesome outcomes: one, we appreciate the lightness and depth of our physical intimacy even more because we worked hard for it, and two, we don’t worry about how it would affect our relationship if for some reason (sickness, distance,…) we couldn’t show our love physically to one another. We know so many ways to show and receive love and to feel connected to one another, one of which happens to be sex. It’s a wonderful gift, but not the “end all be all” of marriage in my opinion.

[to read Steve’s side to this story, click here]

Wow! So this one should get people clicking on it. It may seem like a bit of an unusual topic to list under ‘Taboo Topics’ which after all was a series designed with the aim of talking about some of the issues that are very prevalent in the world, but that the church [and often even the outside-of-the-church world] rarely speaks about, or into. But think about it for a second. Preaching about sex in church? In any context other than the ‘Thou shalt not!’ of pre-marital sex… I certainly can’t remember the last time i heard a good preach on how to have good sex in marriage.

I know what a lot of you might be thinking – of course not, how inappropriate would that be, that is something for a counselling sesssion… or something like that.

It certainly is something for somewhere. And if the majority of married people are not receiving any form of counselling, then chances are it is not being spoken about. At all. Does the bible have anything to say about sex? Absolutely, and it definitely has a lot to say about how we should be treating each other.

So I wanted to get the ball rolling and so i sent out a general email to a bunch of my married friends, and Steve and Helene responded almost immediately and having read their stories i am so excited to be able to share them with you as there is so much Love and Grace and Redemption within them, that I really believe these are going to change lives and hopefully share a bit of an ‘I get it’ with some of you who may have felt as if you are the only one who understands what you’ve been through. While each of our stories is different, sometimes it just takes hearing the story of someone who has gone through something similiar, to be able to feel a little bit encouraged and have a lot more hope that this can turn out alright…

I should say before we begin that I really do believe that marriage is the place God created for a man and a woman in a committed relationship to have sex in. That is how God designed it to be. Although at the same time, it is important to acknowledge that we do live in a broken world and we live with a lot of that brokenness in us {which God is bringing to redemption], and so it doesn’t always end up that that is where sex happens. Fortunately we have a gracious and loving God who is able to enter into our stories where we have messed them up…

This was the original blog post and two responses that invited the whole focus on this topic – click here to read ‘How much Sex in Marriage?’

Click here to read the story of Steve Graybill and his wife Helene Scalliet

Click here to read the story of Helene Scalliet and her husband Steve Graybill

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