Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Your Worst Year

Life is very long. The poet T.S. Eliot echoed this sentiment in his scatter-brained and impressionistic poem The Hollow Men, and I think about this simple phrase quite often. Every married couple meets at the altar with a heart that desires to commit for the long-haul. But the long haul is very long. The notion of forever feels very different to our imaginations than it does to our travel-worn feet after years of pressing forward.

Sometimes I think about all the married people I know, especially the young ones who have only been married for a year or two, and I wonder what the future holds for them. Life is very long. A myriad of events are before all of us, shrouded by the future, and we only discover them day-by-day and piece-by-piece. Blessings and tragedies; victories and setbacks. Obstacles are not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Our only choice is to stand vigilant or close our eyes in proud ignorance as they get closer.

Every relationship is marked by special occasions -- your union will have a first day, and it will have a last day. At the end of your life, there will be watershed moments that shine bright in your memory. Your marriage will have especially good times, and especially bad times.  That's not morbid; it's just a fact.

I ponder all of this because it makes me realize the truth that every marriage will have a worst year. Maybe you're in the middle of it right now, or maybe it's already behind you. Or maybe, just maybe, it's right around the corner. In the history of your marriage, it will have a high point and a low point. Where will you stand when you face your worst year ever? Will you remain strong or buckle beneath the weight of it all?

If I had a chance to speak into the life of a newlywed couple regarding our own experience with infidelity and the road to recovery, I'd ask them this:

On the worst day of the worst month, right in the middle of the worst year of your life, and of your marriage, will you cling to your commitment? Will you treasure your vows? Will you pray against the temptation before you and rebuke it with fury? Or will you falter? What is your marriage made of?

We all enjoy the high points, but the low points tell us so much about the fabric of our bond with our spouse. Trials and tests often show a person's true colors. Victory is not a matter of how many pleasant days you have, but how you withstand the difficulties and challenges. Join me in reflecting on these truths so we can all stand strong against the headwinds of the future, and all that it holds for our marriages.

Today, all I ask is that you'd review the vows you made before God at that altar. Reflect upon the trials of your marriage's past and ponder the potential trials that lie before you in the darkness. Don't be naive; be strong... and cling tightly to your spouse, because life is very long.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Momentum & Inertia

I didn't pay a lot of attention in school. Despite my affinity for all things nerdy, I found classes to be pretty dull and uninspiring. Nevertheless, certain things stuck with me, especially ideas that I gleaned from my Physics and Biology classes. Every now and then, they arise in my memory to re-apply themselves to my daily life. Marriage is a proving ground for many of these concepts.

In our last post, I talked about The Law of Entropy and how it seems that relationships lend themselves to failure unless we act intentionally to preserve them. It's kind of like a garden -- weeds will inevitable sprout up to choke away everything else, unless some outside force intervenes. That's nature's way. Today as I sit praying over my marriage, my mind returns to the ideas of momentum and inertia, and how they manifest themselves in my relationship.

Momentum 

Have you ever noticed that it's easier to maintain a good habit than to establish a new one? That's, in part, because of momentum.  Momentum is summarized in the following rule: an object in motion stays in motion unless a significant force applies to it. Sound familiar?  I look to my marriage and I see this everywhere -- from date nights, to intimate conversations, and everything between. It's easier to continue a pattern of quality time than to start a whole new plan from nothing. It's simpler to continue with clear communication than to dig yourself out of a rut. Motion begets motion. Progress is a snowball effect. Reflect on your own relationship for just a moment and consider your patterns, whether good or bad. What keeps them going? What perpetuates these behaviors? More than anything, it's a sense of momentum.

However, let's take a second look at that rule -- "an object in motion stays in motion unless...." It's far too easy to remember the first part of this and forget the second. Think of driving a car -- how come, if you take your foot off the accelerator, the car gradually slows to a near crawl? Because there's a force acting upon it -- the friction of the road. Daily life is the road that your marriage is traveling down, and it'll gradually hinder your good behaviors and habits unless you keep your foot on the accelerator. Tedious jobs, paying bills, sickness, sleepless nights with the kids -- these things apply friction to your marriage, and we must be intentional to counteract them, otherwise we will soon find ourselves at a standstill.

Inertia

That brings us to the next facet of this conversation. Inertia is kind of like the mirror opposite of momentum. The golden rule here is this -- an object at rest will remain at rest unless a significant force is applied. We all know this to be the case. It's like a diet or an exercise plan that we always plan to start tomorrow. Well, guess what! Yesterday you said tomorrow. It's time to acknowledge the very real aspects of your marriage that are sitting at a complete stop. Maybe it's having fun together on a vacation, or maybe it's intimacy. Perhaps it's dealing with that baggage from years ago that got sort of swept beneath the rug of time. The reality is this -- a marriage at rest, sitting frozen in time, will remain at rest unless somebody propels it into forward motion. Will you be that person? Will you be the force that propels it forward?

When your marriage is wrestling with the aftermath of a tragedy like infidelity, it's so vitally important to be intentional. Healing and redemption will not come by sheer happenstance. A real plan must be put into place. That's why I urge you to consider how these ideas apply to the daily workings of your marriage. Only be careful examination and thoughtful planning will we find a more whole and healthy type of marriage relationship.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about The Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from infidelity. We encourage you to subscribe via e-mail for regular updates.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Law of Entropy

Your marriage has a default setting. Do you know what it is?

Well, before I tell you all about your marriage's inner framework, I want to describe how messy my house gets. No matter how hard Hannah and I work to keep our home clutter-free, it seems bent on becoming disheveled again. Maybe our home is possessed. If you have kids in your home, you'll especially know what I mean. Many days I feel like we're fighting against the undercurrent of dirty laundry and the riptide of dishes in the sink. It's a swim upstream. We are fighting an uphill battle.

I've begun to accept that the inside of my home mimics the natural, carnal world. Our doormat should read, "Welcome to the jungle, baby." You see, science acknowledges this thing called The Law of Entropy, wherein disorder only grows over time in a closed system. To simplify the idea, you could summarize it by saying that disorder is the way of nature. Nature never organizes itself; it only becomes more chaotic as time passes. That's my house. If left to its own patterns, disorder only grows over time. I can't just wait it out. I can't just sleep my days away until the laundry is magically washed and folded by itself. Intervention must take place.

The picture I've painted for you is the same thing that's going on in your marriage. Many couples foolishly walk into marriage assuming that disaster is an exception and that success is the default. Wrong. I would argue that, just as our mortal bodies are prone to decay, our marriages default to disorder. Disorder only grows over time. Intervention must take place. You will not just wait out the storm of your marital issues -- you must take action.

I'm passionate about the underlying thoughts that drive married people and their perception of how relationships work, because I firmly believe these misconceptions can lead to tragedy. It's time for us to inspect the foundation of our marriages and the very frame their built upon, because we've often let pop psychology and romantic comedies form our theology of love. Naivete is the enemy of your marriage. If we are going to fight for our spouses and for the purity of our union, it must begin with soberly facing the truth.

Failure is the default for your marriage. I say this not to discourage or alarm you, but to compel you to action. Intervention must take place. We must intentionally sew the seeds of love, respect, and accountability into our marriages.  Please take a moment today to reflect upon your inner beliefs about relationships. What you believe will be manifested in what you do, for better or for worse.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about The Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from infidelity. We encourage you to subscribe via e-mail for regular updates.