From Amber: We’ve been sharing the real-life ups and downs of marriage in this weekly series in hopes that we can encourage one another to fight hard for our marriages. This week’s writing prompt was “On Outside Influences.” If you joined Scott, Seth, Amber, and I writing this week’s letters, link up at Amber’s place. We plan to take the month of May off from this series, but follow The RunaMuck on Facebook for updates because I suspect we’ll be writing letters again soon. What topics should we write on next?
What have outside influences done for your marriage?
Almost our entire relationship has been carried out while one or both of us has been in school. I've written about those early years and our Bible College relationship. We married just a couple of months after I graduated from undergrad as you were going into your senior year. It was just two years later that you on to higher education. When it comes to our unique outside influences, the world of academia has been a powerful force in our marriage.
If I'd had my way we would've ended up somewhere like Notre Dame, but instead, you picked Dallas Theological Seminary and I groaned and was afraid that you would be brainwashed by some uber-conservative world. And also, it was in Dallas, which seemed entirely unexotic and unromantic, and it was a four year program (which makes you officially crazy). I didn't even know enough to be afraid of other things that I now know about: marriages growing in distance as the seminary-bound spouse is pulled into the all-consuming world of papers and deadlines and theological discussions and greek grammar. Now I know how many marriages end after graduation for a whole host of reasons.
Now that we're on the other side and I know the risks, I'm thankful for several things. I'm deeply thankful that I also love what you've studied in seminary. Our love for theology and questions about faith, scripture, and philosophy and ability to talk about them has been a foundational part of our relationship from the beginning. I really don't know how couples can go through seminary without being able to share in that passion together to some extent. Even with my interest, I would still tune out when you started talking Greek and Hebrew or something else too technical for me. Attending to and sharing in each others' interests and passions takes intentional discipline, especially as specialization grows.
I'm thankful, too, that DTS talked about the pressure that the seminary experience puts on marriage every semester and constantly reminded students to make their spouse their first priority, above academia. There were certainly semesters when you were worn down and I was lonely. Each time we'd talk it out, and I learned to remind myself mid-semester that it was about to get rough and that you would benefit from my support and extra care instead of resentment. I'm glad that you are someone who needs relaxation, because it meant that there were always quiet evenings at home rather than increased hours at the library or involved in other things.
I was relieved that in the end you were not brainwashed into fearful or simplistic fundamentalism. They weren't afraid of what some say are liberal perspectives on origins, politics, or innerancy. You were pushed deeper into the philosophical questions underlying theology, and text criticism broadened and deepened your approach to scripture. Your study of church history has allowed both of us to feel freed by broad orthodoxy and yet also understand the cultural context of evangelicalism. In the end you are more able and willing to discuss with with people who have different opinions than you, rather than less. You often say that you're more aware of how little you know now than you were five years ago. I even think you love people more than you did four years ago, and have an increased gentleness in your approach to them.
This stage of classes and papers and academic deadlines has been long for us, but it has taught us partnership to reach goals and intentional care and quality time in the midst of outside pressures. I think that, surprisingly, we actually enjoyed it.