“And would you wipe her butt if she became really sick?”
“Wait, what kind of question is that?” I can almost picture my husband’s quizzical expression. After a moment of thought he finished with, “Yes, if it came down to it, I would.”
”Well, if you would be willing to wipe her butt, I would say you really are in love.”
My husband, then boyfriend, told me about this exchange he had at work that occurred more than several years back. It seemed kind of gross to be asked such a question from a co-worker in my mind, especially since this was my butt they were talking about. Apparently, the question was posed from a girl around our age (labeled a millennial) who was skeptical of love and even more uncertain when my husband mentioned the “M” word.
He wanted to marry me.
She thought marriage was a death sentence.
I kind of did too.
What’s the Point of Marriage if Everything Changes in a Not-So-Great Way?
It’s been the trend of my generation to fear marriage, voicing our opinion loudly on the topic. But mine were tucked away in my private world. I would try to listen to audio books to prep you for marriage, but the words were filled with more gray skies than sunny ones. What’s the point of marriage if everything changes in a not-so-great way?
I couldn’t help but to remember the line from one of my favorite movies, Little Women on this topic. Jo found out her older sister, Meg was getting married. But instead of celebration, she said the line that would always cause me to choke on the topic, “Why must everything change?”
Why Must Everything Change?
That’s the vocal expression of my generation, backed up by the action of co-habitation sans the ring or simply staying boyfriend and girlfriend, never moving to the next relational step and remaining relationally apathetic. I was there with the last point- afraid of getting married, not just to my then boyfriend- but to anyone. Why must we have a change? Can’t things just stay as they are?
But that’s just the thing- life does change. Seasons pass, even your favorite ones drift into a memory. Winter is bound to come. Who will be with you in the season of disrepair? Are you certain marriage is a death sentence? Could it ever encourage life?
Life in the Winter
I honestly don’t remember if he ever had to wipe my butt. But he did have to empty urinals, clean the bed if anything “accidentally” came out of me, and other grotesque duties a father of a small child has to do, not a husband.
I can only imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t said “I do” just a year before sickness had overtaken me. Maybe I would have had a doctor initiated script for a government worker to assist me. Maybe. But I wouldn’t have had the joy of sharing this experience with the one person who became one flesh with me. The one person who said “I do” through sickness and in health.
And yes, I said joy.
Remember when I talked about how the marriage material I was looking into highlighted more of the gray skies than the sunny ones? They were wrong. It’s entirely what both partners make out of their marriage that will lead to the gray or sunny skies- not circumstances alone.
Remaining in relational apathy would have stunted my growth in the winter season and it would have halted me from seeing the beauty in marriage that freed me more than it chained me.
I recently heard a quote you may like on this topic, friend, “It is propagating a falsehood when it paints [a
married person] as stifled, miserable, hollowed-out men [and women], yearning for their carefree bachelor days and regretting their commitments. What leaves a man [or woman] depressed and hollow inside is not attachments, but the lack of them.” -Jim Geraghty
I’ve never heard of a plant flourishing solo, without the aid of roots grounded in life-giving soil. The
lack of attachments certainly does leave us hollow inside, not having attachments in itself.
What I’m Not Saying
What I’m not saying: I’m not saying that you cannot have growth as a single in times of struggle (you can), and I’m not saying marriage is for everyone (it’s not). I’m also not saying that your boyfriend/girlfriend won’t stick it out with you if a crisis springs up. I’m only saying there is a uniqueness to marriage that has tied not chained me to my husband in a way that can only be described as a mystery, to borrow the words of St. Paul. So if you found someone who is willing to say “yes” to wiping your butt if you were completely unable, please, marry him or her. It sounds to me like you may have just found someone who will help bring life, even in the harshest of winters.
As of today, happy three years of marriage, Michael. Thank you for your devoted self-sacrifice and proving to me from your words of insistence before we married that we would still stay best friends.
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