Exactly seven years ago today I married the amazing, beautiful, gorgeous Carole Benton!
Of course, this means that I have had to deal with another of the “dreaded days”. These “dreaded days” come along to get me regularly during the year, cropping up every month or two. I find them awful and each time seek to put off the inevitable panic with my advanced procrastination techniques (I genuinely feel I should have a PHD in procrastination by now, given just how advanced I have become at it). But, come what may, I eventually pluck up the courage to go into that terrible place … the card shop!
I mean, what kind of card are you suppose to get? I hate the fact that so many shops seem to have about three cards to choose from. So, for example, it may be my Mum’s birthday, I need to post the card that day (due to the before mentioned procrastination) and the shop is closing in ten minutes. I then have to make the choice between a card with a bear on it, a card which suggests my Dad should look more like Brad Pit or a card that is designed so badly that even an OAP home would describe it as “a tad out-of-date”. It is at this point that my heart quickens, I feel a cold sweat appear on my forehead and I come to feel a unique sympathy to that fabled “rabbit-in-headlights”. I can practically hear the countdown clock rushing towards the “bong” sound as I am forced to pick between three bad choices.
However, as much as I hate that particular situation, I hate another one even more. Unfortunately, it is just as common. Please, if you can, picture it. An occasion is again creeping up on you. An occasion for which, you will have to buy a card. A card which is supposed to express something about how you feel about the occasion, and person, in question. You have left yourself time to choose the card without feeling rushed, you enter the card shop and discover that, once again, they have … a huge selection of cards! I mean could anything be worst. This time, when you inevitably fail to get the right card (often, for me, because I give into my Northern inability to express emotions and get one with a terrible joke on it!), you will not be able to explain that there were only three cards to choose from.
These occasions crop up all the time: birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Christmas etc etc. I hate them! I hate them whether I’m buying a birthday card for my brother (which is tomorrow, sorry about the terrible joke that appears on your card, Peter), a Christmas card for my parents or a congratulations card for a friend. But I don’t hate any of them nearly as much as I hate buying anniversary cards (or Valentine’s Day actually).
You know the Bible says some pretty amazing things about marriage. Listen, for example, to what Jesus has to say about it:
At the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female’. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. Mark 10: 6-9, quoting Genesis 1:27, 2:24
Now I’d like to sidestep both the creation issue and the divorce issue (maybe another day!) and instead pick up on the absolutely terrible maths! In my old life I was the maths co-ordinator at the amazing Euxton C.E. Primary School (best school in the world, I still miss both the staff and pupils), so you can take my word for it that one add one does not equal one! I’m very confident about this. I’ve rechecked it a few times just to be sure, and one add one always equals two, every time. Feel free to try it yourself if you don’t believe me.
And yet, Jesus insists that, when it comes to marriage, one add one equals one. He explains this by saying that God has joined them together. That’s it, God does it. I mean what on earth is he talking about? Stand me and Carole together on the street, ask a passerby how many people are stood there and the answer will be two. Try it if you like, get a married couple and start asking how many people are there. Let me know how you get on.
And yet … I get it. For me, it rings true to my experience. Carole is part of me, part of who I am. Only that doesn’t really explain it, does it? How can it be put into words?
It’s like she’s a body part, a hand for example? … No, wait that’s not right at all. My hand isn’t really part of me at all. Chop my hand off and I’ll still be me, only me without a hand! Take Carole away and I wouldn’t be me. Let’s try something else.
It’s like two vines choosing to be planted next to each other and over the years the branches cross, weave and intertwine, so that it’s impossible to tell which leaf and branch belongs to which plant … That’s closer, but still not quite right. I mean there are still two plants.
Let’s try again. It’s like she’s part of my soul. You can’t rip someone’s soul in half, not without radically transforming who they are.
I guess that’s about as close as I can get. Only it’s still not right. To use the words of Joe Black “Take that idea, times it by infinity, take it to the deepest depths of forever and you still barely have a glimpse of what I’m talking about.” The only experience I’ve found that is similarly hard to describe is faith. (Interestingly, as far as I know, coming to faith is the only other thing in the bible which is described in similarly transforming terms e.g. 2 Cor 5:17). But that’s not exactly a useful description for someone without faith, and besides, it’s not quite the same anyway. Of course, sometimes Carole and I still annoy each other and get cross at each other, just like I often get annoyed and cross at myself. It’s just that even when I get annoyed, she’s still part of me, still me. Just as I’m still part of her, still her.
I’ve realised this close connection recently with the death of my Granddad, nearly a year ago. Truth be told, I’m still not quite ready to talk about this, but one of the biggest shocks was the change in my Grandma. They had just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, where Granddad advocated the institution of marriage to the family and then, not long after, went to be with his Lord. My Grandma is no longer the same. It’s hard to explain exactly how, but she’s not the person she was. But this shouldn’t be a surprise. How can two such interwoven vines be separated without radical transformation. Her soul has been ripped in two. The intricate web that is marriage has been untied and left Grandma … well, different.
This is marriage. This is my life with Carole.
Now traditionally we do have a word to describe this: “love”. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s even close to adequate. I mean, after all, I have quite truthfully told people such things as: “I love pizza”, “I love real ale”, “I love my studies”, “I love sausages” and, oh yeah, “I love my wife”. I mean, honestly, how can the same word be used to describe my feelings for Carole as my feelings for pizza? It’s pathetic!
How on earth am I supposed to find a card that puts, what I am pathetically and stumblingly trying to explain, into words. I’m not sure it’s even possible. And if it is possible, would I even want to cheapen it by putting it into words. So, instead, I have gone for a pathetically inadequate card, as normal.
Seven years ago today I married the amazing, beautiful, gorgeous Carole Benton and I’m sorry Carole, but all I can say is “I love you”. That doesn’t even come close to expressing what I wish I could put into words, but I’m afraid it’s all I’ve got.
I love you.