Monday, April 25, 2011
Need a drink?
Rob is at a sports bar with his cubicle mate Lucy and her boyfriend Rocco. They are waiting for Celia to join them, per their prior agreement on the phone when they were supposed to be discussing their daily devotional.
Rob glanced at the entryway of the bar to see if Celia was here yet, because she was supposed to arrive twenty minutes ago. The frozen margarita he had ordered for her, at her request, was now a liquid mess and Rob wondered if he ought to just drink it himself and order another one when Celia arrived. He checked his phone but there was no text from her; he texted her again.
He picked up the margarita and took a sip, then began to gnaw again on one of the hot wing remnants on the small plate in front of him. Lucy’s boyfriend was everything Rob expected not only from a guy who was Lucy’s boyfriend but was also named Rocco: tall, dark, muscle-bound and really, really into sports. But he was also a good guy. Rob was surprised that he was a teacher, like Celia; he taught phys-ed at a middle school in one of the disadvantaged sections of Columbus. He hoped that Rocco and Celia might have something in common besides having partners who shared a cubicle at work.
It was fascinating to watch Lucy and Rocco, though. They drank the same brand of light beer. When their team scored, they had a little ritual in which they toasted gently with the tip of their respective bottles. Every time they did this, Rob was taken that the gesture was more akin to a kiss than a huzzah. He wondered if he and Celia had any parallel in their marriage because it seemed to be Lucy and Rocco’s own devotional practice, such as it was.
Celia arrived just as the game ended, looking tired and a little flustered. He waved her over to their table as the bar erupted into equal parts ecstasy and dismay for the respective teams. Lucy and Rocco, who were supporting the underdog, were disappointed and hugged each other.
“Who won?” Celia asked cheerfully, with a conciliatory note in her voice. Rob knew Celia could not have cared less about that, but he was cheered that she made the effort even though she was tired. He hoped that Day One of the Great Devotional Adventure could be put behind them. He was more than willing to try again tomorrow.
“They won,” Lucy said.
“But we played with honor,” Rocco said. Rocco and Lucy tapped their beer bottles to one another and took a sip, looking each other in the eye as they did. No wonder they liked to watch sports together so much, Rob thought. This was a picture of togetherness he envied.
Rob made the introductions as Celia picked up her margarita, unconcerned at its soggy state.
“I really need this tonight,” Celia said, taking a long drink.
Why does Celia need a drink?
Friday, April 22, 2011
Devotion Commotion (Harold’s response)
When Dalia and I talk with couples with base much of our perspective on what for us is a simple truth--"our marriage isn't primarily for us." In other words, our marriage doesn't belong to us. It belongs to God. And, our duty is to maintain a posture where we are giving our marriage away as an acceptable offering back to God. We do this by using our experiences--both good and bad--to tell a story about how God has designed our marriage to be a ministry. And, naturally this marriage-as-ministry mantra is what we advise to others.
There is something transcendent about understanding that God has a purpose for our marriage that is bigger than our own individual likes and dislikes. And, sometimes God uses the simple things that we intend to actually do profound things in the lives of others.
When I read this week's episode with Celia and Rob, I am reminded of this. When starting the devotions, Celia had her own intentions for its utility. Well, Rob's application of the devotions has opened up another entire direction. We don't know yet the full measure of this exercise. But, it is creating relationships. And, God is all about relationships.
So, while we have to thank Celia for having the courage to open Rob's mind up to devotions. We have to encourage her to ride with this and see exactly where God would have it go rather than trying to control it. As she is able to let this flow, this devotion commotion will be transformed into a rewarding experience---probably for all parties involved.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Celia and Rob are trying to incorporate a daily devotional routine into their life together.
Celia was still parked under a tree on a quiet street in Arlington, still on the phone with Rob for what had been their first scheduled daily devotional discussion, and still as astonished at the current state of this discussion as she had been five minutes ago when it had started. Rob had announced then that his application of the devotional meant that he was now planning on spending the evening in a sports bar with his cubicle mate Lucy and her boyfriend Rocco.
“So what time are you done with your lesson?” Rob asked her over the phone, fishing for information about when Celia was going to be joining them. Celia hated sports and therefore sports bars, and while she was not that interested in meeting Lucy, she had a feeling that she ought to, especially now that Lucy was her husband’s new best friend. It’s not that Celia wasn’t happy that Rob had grabbed onto the “entertaining angels unawares” Bible verse and decided to treat Lucy as that angel. Mostly, though, she was hurt that an exercise that had been intended as a help to their marriage suddenly seemed to have nothing to do with it.
“I’m done at 7:45, but”– Celia did not know how to get her point across – “I thought that discussing a devotional meant that I get to share my thoughts, too.”
She could hear Rob sigh impatiently. “Yes. You’re right, it does. OK, I’m sitting at my desk with my computer off and Lucy’s gone. Let’s discuss it.”
There was a long pause where he was presumably waiting for her to say something. “Well,” Celia started, “I guess I’ve always applied that verse to my students, and the choir members, especially when I’m impatient with them.”
This sounded so much less active than the steps Rob had taken to apply it. “So, reading the devotional today reminded me to do that more often. You know, to treat them like they are angels.”
As her speech faded, she began to wonder if this daily devotional thing was going to work anyway irrespective of today’s effort. The whole thing felt so wooden, so false, so contrived; and she had nothing to add to what Rob had already done. She certainly did not feel connected to Rob because of it, even though she had pushed for this.
“Cool,” Rob said, because there was not much else to be said. “So, what time are you going to be done?”
In what manner does Celia respond?
Monday, April 11, 2011
What is faith in action?
Rob’s application of his new daily devotional routine with Celia has had unexpected results.
“So, Lucy and her boyfriend Rocco are going to watch the game at a sports bar and they invited me to go along. Since you have piano lessons I thought I would go, and then you can meet us there later”—
“It’ll be a double date!” Lucy said, leaning over Rob’s shoulder so Celia could hear her through the phone. Her perfume assaulted his sinuses, but now that he knew what a nice person Lucy was, this did not bother him as much as it had before.
There was a long pause on the other end of the phone, and in his peripheral vision Rob could see Lucy turning off her computer and putting on her coat to leave. Finally, Celia spoke.
“Um – so I guess we’ll talk about the devotional later, after the game?”
Lucy handed Rob a slip of paper with the name of the sports bar and signaled that she’d see Rob there and doing a jiggly happy dance at the same time. She was so fun! Rob realized how unfair he had been to judge her on her sleazy clothing, excessive make-up, and sultry voice, and he felt chastened. Thigh-high boots were modest in their own way, really.
“Rob, are you there?”
“Yeah, I’m here,” he said, waving see-you-later at Lucy. “Man, that Lucy is a riot. She actually started law school but when her father had the heart attack she quit to get a job and help out her mom – I think she lives with her parents still”—
“Ah, so that’s how she ended up in your lap,” Celia said. Rob knew Celia well enough to know she was trying to make a joke, although he could tell by the edge in her voice that she did not find it funny.
Rob google-mapped the bar – oh, it was near campus; he knew right where it was – and turned off his computer.
“So what’s wrong?” he said to Celia. Going out to a bar with friends was the kind of thing she liked to do more than he did; typically Rob objected because of the cost – but isn’t this why he worked so hard, so he could go out and have a good time occasionally?
“Nothing’s wrong,” Celia said. “But we were going to discuss the devotional tonight, and you won’t feel like it after the game.”
“I thought we were discussing it now, like we said we would,” Rob said as he grabbed his jacket and headed to the elevator. “I mean, I just told you what happened when I read it and decided to apply it.”
What happens next?
Monday, April 04, 2011
Building faith, one relationship at a time
For the sake of marital harmony, Rob has engaged a “daily devotional” routine so that he and Celia can discuss it each evening.
Before Rob had read one word of the devotional he had agreed to, Celia felt light and happy, realizing that while she might enjoy the outcome of their discussions, for the moment it was sufficient that Rob had heard how important his efforts alone were to her. Because he had agreed to do this for her and for no other reason, she knew she ranked in his life. Of course she hoped he would eventually read the devotionals and engage other aspects of her faith, for his sake as well as for hers.
But for today this was good and she was excited. He had texted her that he had done the reading and “applied it.” Celia was more than curious about what this meant and very pleased that Rob would bring his own experience, thoughts and feelings to this first discussion, so it would not devolve into what she feared: her asking questions and him providing minimal response, rendering the exercise not only meaningless but problematic now in its own right.
However, Rob had made it clear that he would not be available for conversation during the Butler-UConn game, and Celia respected his boundary – they had discussed this before – and she asked if they could talk over the phone before the game when she was traveling between a pair of after-school piano lessons. This was not ideal, but she had learned that to try to nail Rob down after any anticipated sports event was useless because he was too wound up. Since watching sports was Rob’s one hobby, she could respect this.
So as agreed, Celia pulled over on a pretty street in Arlington and called at 6 PM, which would give them a few minutes to talk before the game started.
Rob answered and to her surprise, jumped right into the conversation. “So I read it,” he said, “and I really thought about the ‘entertained angels unawares’ part. So I turned to my left and who was sitting there”—
“But Lucy!” Celia heard a female voice echo loudly in the background as Rob said the same, and realized Rob was still at work.
“So I thought about that idea,” Rob continued, “and decided to ask Lucy about her boyfriend. I did, and she said, ‘I’ve worked here for three months. I thought you would never ask.’ I felt terrible.
Celia could hear laughing in the background. She recalled dimly that Rob had a new cubicle mate with whom he did not have much in common. This must be her.
“So we started talking, and we went out to lunch together, and we’ve been talking all day. Her father had a heart attack last fall, too! Can you believe it?”
“Wow,” Celia said to fill space as she tried to follow what was happening. Apparently Rob’s application of the devotional was yielding much more than meaningful conversation.
What happens next?
Friday, April 01, 2011
Can entertaining strangers help your marriage? (Harold’s response)
Marriage is complicated. Yes, it can be romantic. Yes, it can be emotionally satisfying. And, yes it can be physically stimulating. But, it is complicated. And, none of us do it right all of the time.
That is why it is so important to have trusted people (who are also married) with whom you can share your experiences. Marriage is done best among accountability partners that challenge each other to be the best spouse possible--heartily pursuing God's purpose for their marriage.
You never know what person is going to bless your marriage. My wife and I have had people who don't even know us give us a prophetic word that could ONLY have come from God. At certain seasons of our married life, we have had certain married couples who have come alongside us for encouragement--but those relationships lasted only for a season.
The bottom line is that you never know who God will use to speak truth and blessing into your marriage. And, conversely you never know who God will place in your path for you to be a source of encouragement.
Like the scripture says there are times when we entertain angels unaware.
This week Rob has decided to apply some of what he has been reading in devotions by engaging his colleague at work. We don't know where this conversation will go. Maybe, it won't go anywhere. But, maybe, just maybe it could be a divine connection. And, that is something that all of us need to be on the look out for on a daily basis.
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