Friday, September 11, 2009

"You are so loved"

I am blessed with a group of friends who take very good care of me. At least once a week, someone checks in and wants to meet me for coffee, lunch, breakfast, a walk. My gal pals and I are becoming fixtures around town. And, with my current non-employed status, I can make most dates.

Why, just last week, a long-time buddy and I fleshed out a former fantasy: Ladies Who Lunch. Working women imagine that there are females who dress up and dine at noon on a regular basis. Linen. Silver. Servants. The workers, on the other hand, often chow at their desks as they multitask. And if they are teachers, they are trained to take their mid-day repast (except at my school, it’s brunch time) in 10 minutes so they can also get their copying done.

One of these friends is a special treasure. I have had the privilege of teaching 3 of her 4 children all I know about American Literature. She was blunt. Each entered my course, filled with dread by the rumors, and each left “loving” it and me. Sweet.

And speaking of sweet. This friend often punctuates her affection with a side of homemade Turtles. You know, the pecan/caramel/chocolate kind.

At the close of every correspondence, she includes, “You are so loved.”

Now, if you didn’t know her, you might think this is cliché. You might think it is her more-original closing. But you would be wrong. When she tells you that you are so loved, you know that you are. You are loved by her; you are loved by her Father.

In addition to my girlfriends, I have the great gift of a husband who loves me. We have built a marriage/romance/adventure over the course of 35 years. When times are sunny, lots of people can share. When times are a bit more challenging, no one helps you shoulder the weight better than a spouse like mine.

As we move into the autumn, Mike will fulfill his offer to help at the church. He will be teaching one of their fall semester courses. In the past, these have included a eclectic variety of subjects from ‘End Times’ to ‘Financial Wisdom.’ The leaders asked Mike to teach a 3 week class on marriage from the perspective of a veteran divorce attorney. The working title, last time I checked, was “How to avoid paying a divorce lawyer and save your marriage.”

As my husband, he is all I could ask for. As a teacher, frankly, he’s also quite good. As an expert on why people get divorced, again, he knows a lot. Sad to say, the reasons are not as varied or specific as parties would like to think. People mess up their lives in predictable ways.

So right now, we’re brainstorming. He asked me (quick, off the top of your head) “What do women want in a marriage?” I said that security covered a lot and that I would put that first.
He’ll ask me something and when I try to answer, he says, “Write it down.” My scrawling notes need to be typed. AND, friends and readers, if you have some ideas, tips, etc., feel free to add in comments.

His class does not have to be sermoniacal (like THAT one?). He can teach it from a secular standpoint but sooner or later, he’ll feel the need to include God and His teachings. “And as soon as I get to ‘submit,’ (Eph. 5:22, as most Bible reading men know), I’ll lose all the women.”

No he won’t. But he needs to keep it in context, says the professional teacher.

Ephesians 5: 21 – 30. We are, as believers, to submit to one another. Then, married people have special instructions. Wives ARE to submit to their husbands as they do to the Lord. (Wow. What man needs THAT ego boost?) Paul explains and then hands THIS to the husband. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. As in, he gave his life for his church.

And this is not an If-you-do-then-I’ll-do proposal. If a man and woman join together in marriage, God has given each of them a task, a role, a duty. It’s up to each to do what he/she has been instructed to do, to the best of his/her ability.

In the early years of our marriage, which coincided with the first blush of feminism, this was not an easy pill to swallow. Luckily, Mike and I agreed on most things and/or we were too busy/broke/sleepy to take a stand. AND when we could not agree and the issue HAD to have a solution, then I would take a breath and go with his decision, comfortable that HE would take the brunt of the responsibility if/when the decision proved to be a bad one. Luckily, again, most of his decisions were sound.

Not luck, actually. Yet another reason to keep young married couples in your prayers.

My only concern about the upcoming class is that the hub keep it at least general enough NOT to include our marriage specifically. It’s a good one, after all. However, he can get a bit creative and dramatic when telling stories to the point that, sometimes, although I was there, I do not remember the event.

One thing he SHOULD include, though, is a practice he began about 8 years ago, whenever we would be separated for the night. He would leave a note on my pillow or in my suitcase, telling me how he loves me and that I should hurry home. If he was the one who was gone, the message would be a variation on this theme.

Such a simple thing. Such a special thing. What a guy. He has my heart.

A few months ago, when the surgeons first dropped the bomb and our plans for the distant future came crashing down around us, in our saddest moments, I would say that I had hoped that we would be that Old Gray Couple, the one the young-uns honk at, try to pass on walking trails, grow impatient as they stroll, hand-in-hand, into the shopping mall.

So how sweet was it, when I returned from Sisters Weekend, that he had found a poem (we ARE liberal arts grads) and placed it on my pillow?

Archibald MacLeish writes of "The Old Gray Couple."

"They have only to look at each other to laugh
no one knows why, not even they:
something back in the lives they've lived,
something they both remember but no words can say.

They go off at an evening's end to talk but they don't,
or to sleep but they lie awake hardly a word,
just a touch, just near, just listening but not to hear.
Everything they know they know together -
everything, that is, but one: their lives
they've learned like secrets from each other;
their deaths they think of in the nights alone."

Again, how does Christ love us? John 15:12, 13. “I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it – the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends.” (NIV)

In my trusty King James, it goes…”no greater love” as in we are ‘so loved.’

Pass the turtles.

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