Apr 23, 2007

a redemptively offensive post about love

"I think that's just about the best shirt I've ever seen."

This was said to me today as my family and I spent a little bit of time in a mall. We were on the road today back to West Michigan (about a 6.5 hour trip from Northeast Ohio) and needed to stretch our legs a few times. One of our favorite malls in the area has a rockin' play place in the shape of a giant tree, so we definitely needed to stop, walk around, and get a smoothie.

Back to the t-shirt comment.

My wife and I had on today some shirts that I made up for a marriage weekend we did with our church a little over a week ago. Perhaps you're familiar with the statistic that around half of marriages in American end in divorce. Certain areas of the country differ on that issue... and to my deep sadness I found out this past week from another local pastor that the town we live in averages around a 75% divorce rate. That means that 3 out of 4 marriages in my new hometown get forgetful, lost, and broken.

That is simply unacceptable.

Which is one of the reasons I'm thankful we came up with the proactive concept a couple of months ago for a "Fresh Start" marriage weekend. We organized a fun, interactive date night on a Friday, and then a Saturday 9am-3pm deal together going through a Gary Chapman teaching series via DVD. The turnout was great and lots of cool stories were swapped and shared among those present. Overall, I think we may have all received what was intended for the weekend... a fresh start with God and each other.

Which brings me back to the t-shirts.

I didn't want us to just have a fun marriage event and then forget all that we uncovered. So I made up some "hokey" t-shirts for us to wear... "hokey" because that what some might say when they see them, but "hokey" (in quotes) because the idea isn't really hokey after all - it's rather redemptive, actually.

"I love my wife."
"I love my husband."

Yes - these are the shirts. Designed 'em myself... between this and my "don't call me veronica" design I think I'm on to something.

Isn't it funny how wearing a shirt like this could feel embarrassing in our culture? We fear comments like, "Nice shirt, Brad. What, did your wife make you wear that?" What an amazing opportunity in that moment to say, "Actually, no... I love my wife."

My wife and I have been able to wear ours at the same time a couple of times... and every time I'm in a crowd of people I catch them start to read the shirt with wide-eyed interest, as if this is the most foreign concept they've ever seen. Why is that?

If you're married, would you wear one?

Or maybe a better question is "If you're married, why wouldn't you wear one?"

And might the answer to either of those questions have something to say about the current divorce statistic and the future divorce statistic?
For the record, no marriage is perfect and shouldn't ever expect to be. A couple can be in a great season of life and then suddenly things go sour because of something that happens, be it within a conscious set of actions or something that uncontrollably happens (i.e. medical depression, a hard loss, etc.) We've been in both the upside and downside of life over the years, too, so I know the depths of darkness that some of us may have to labor through.

Yet with the great gift of love that Jesus has modeled and given to us, not to mention His very presence and power available to our lives, shouldn't marriages be a bit different than how they usually play out?
  • In the world of retail, most shirts like this say things like "I'm a playa - U next" or "Voted most likely to cheat" - and my personal favorite, "If I drink too much feel free to take me home and have you way with me" (okay - maybe that last one isn't the actual text, but you've seen the shirts and know what they say). What if we decided such concepts wouldn't get our money, even if the phrase seemed initially funny?

  • In public circles of conversation, we seem to drift toward phrases like, "The old ball and chain" or thoughts like, "She's impossible when she gets like that." What if we took seriously the idea that relationships are a bit more sacred than that?

  • In private times of confession and construction, we often judge the other based on his/her imperfect actions while we want to be judged by our perfect intentions. Might there be an alternative way of seeing how the inner workings of a marriage might happen if we
By the way, I know I'm an absolute hypocrite in all of this in that I will never be completely in step with each of these goals.

But that's no excuse not to be fully committed to the dream, though, is it?
  • I won't just "try" to do this... I will "train" to do this.

  • I won't give up if I encounter an "impossible" roadblock... I remember that with God all things are possible - including whatever is needed to get through the roadblock - because when Jesus said "all things" were possible there wasn't an asterisk next to the word "all" that said, "except for marriages that struggle."

  • I am fully-committed to my wife for the long haul, irregardless of her commitment to me. I will woo her and pursue her, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, forsaking all others - even if she never does the same.
Yes, I am making some bold statements because as a Christ-follower I need to follow Christ. That means whatever I see Him doing I need to invite Him to do in and through my life, too. If He has pursued us with a relentless love and redemptive passion to overcome every obstacle, then maybe I need to do that, too. I don't expect it to be easy, but I do expect it to be right.

Which maybe is why we got stared at a lot today for wearing some "hokey" shirts that ooze cheesy love all over the place about how I love my wife and am fully committed to her. Maybe it is a bit offensive to wear such a thing... that's fine by me. I'm tired of just playing the defense when it comes to marriage in our world. We need to be offensive, too... that's the best way for your team starts scoring points and inspires the other players to give it their best.
  • One of the other women who stopped me today said, "I've been married for 40 years... I just love your shirt and want you to know marriage can be a really great thing even after 40 years."

  • Last week a guy and his wife saw my wife at a restaurant wearing her shirt. He told his wife, "You should get one of those to wear."

  • I also enjoyed the email someone in our church sent me just before the weekend:

    "I'm so glad that we are involved in a marriage refresher. Even though I'm divorced, I now realize the importance of marriage to God and have been praying intensely for the marriages in our church. Someone gave me a neat "word from God" about being single that I will share with others too. Still don't know where it came from except that God wanted me to have it!!!"

As a final disclaimer, maybe you read this and find yourself saying, "Amen!" Or perhaps you read this and are in the midst or wake of a broken marriage and this felt like salt on an open wound. In either case, I hope you don't just take this post as something to agree with or disagree with me on. My parents divorced during my teenage years and so I know a bit about what it means to watch something eclipse the dreams you once held on to... our best plans are often interrupted by the ripples of a fallen world and during those times it becomes hard to see past the wave about to crash over you.

Divorce hurts because it is the ripping of a union that has made two people one flesh - any kind of severing is going to cause blood to spill and parts of you to get lost. This is one reason why God is against it.

If anything, I hope this takes you back to the drawing board of the Scriptures and the pathway of marriage God designed... not to mention the joy and insight it is meant to offer us in our relationship with Him. Instead of just commenting on this, would you first spend that little extra time in the Bible (I even provided some clickable links for you below)? See if you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with God on the matter... a God, who by the way, is good and fully-committed to you. That way if we do end up discussing any of this further via comments we've at least gathered around some perfect perspective on an imperfect topic:

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor—since they're already "one" in marriage. (Ephesians 5:25-28, MSG)


Rodney Olsen said...

Where's the t-shirt order form?

Tony Myles said...

Either that's a cool comment or a request for a t-shirt. If you really do want want one, email me at tonymyles@hotmail.com - otherwise, thanks for the affirmation - not just for this but for your marriage!

Vicki said...

Tony, that's a great post! I love it! The t-shirts are terrific, too...and, yes, I would wear one! After 29 years of marriage, I feel safe in saying that I know my husband would, too.

Stephanie said...

"Love" is a strong word, and I didn't understand the depth of it in my marriage until last week... The first time in my 6 years of marriage that doubt entered my mind of my husband's love for me. Woah!! It was mind-blowing pain and it sent me reeling. After two days of agony and gut-wrenching tears the Lord showed me that it was MY "issues", and not my husband that was in the way of me receiving his love. Wow. Love is beautiful... and painful... and breath-taking... and INTENSE...

And I'm so glad that now I KNOW... My husband loves me and I love him.

Carol Ann said...

Thanks for this post! I'm going on almost 22 years of marriage now with my wonderful husband, Rob. I am saddened how rare it's becoming to meet other couples who not only are creeping up in married years, but who still are experiencing joy in their marriages. To see what you and your wife, and your church are doing, AMEN, AMEN, AMEN! Keep it up! One of our greatest joys is to do pre-marriage counseling with other young couples and give them a roadmap to hope and long-lasting marriage - it's time to turn the tide and swing the statistics back in line with God's design!

bjk said...

Yes I want to order one....30 years this last week and heading to Hawaii to celebrate next....would love to wear it and I think my husband would say the same......and it IS because of Christ we did the first 20 without him and this last 10 has been incredible...much messier but wayyy better.

Anonymous said...

Would it be ok for me to make my own shirts for me and my husband saying the same thing because its a great idea and we have tee-shirts, and iron on transfer paper, but no money to order a t-shirt?? Or would that infringe on copyrights? Or just be plain old rude copycatting? I was going to email you, but I didn't see any email address.