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A Meditation on “My Wife has Tattoos: Marriage, New Birth and the Gospel.”

Wedding sxc hu smallThis is a sensitive post for me today. I want to respond to another Christian blogger’s post. Unfortunately, by doing so, I set myself up to look bad, to look like a big meanie who poo-poos a post meant to be loving and honoring. I set myself up to look judgmental, unforgiving, and condemning.

I don’t feel any of those things, but I do feel that the sentiments expressed in this post, one’s I have encountered numerous times, should be discussed realistically and with a touch more theological precision. I might quote, “‘Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off,'” from 1 Kings 20:11, but that would only prove me mean.

I would like to start a dialogue on certain issues raised by the post, “My Wife has Tattoos: Marriage, New Birth and the Gospel.”[1]

On the day of his wedding, this author writes about his bride, “Today is the day of my wedding. And I am not marrying the girl of my dreams. …This isn’t my dream–it’s better.”

He then goes on to detail how he, being a good Christian boy growing up [I’ll have to take his word for it.] always imagined that he would grow up and marry a good Christian girl. Instead, he fell in love with and married a girl with a sordid past of drugs, alcohol and all the illicit sexual experiences that go along with it. At the end, he heralds his new union as “the display of the… reality… that God sent his Son to die to redeem a people for Himself.”

I do not wish to take anything away from this noble young man’s desire to openly bless the broken road that led his wife straight to him, nor do I wish to impugn this young woman who has repented and wept over that broken road. I am happy that they found love. I am happy that she found Christ. I am happy that he, not sharing her past, was able to forgive it, and move beyond it, and embrace her in the full love with which Christ embraced her when she came to Him. So let me say, congratulations on your nuptials. I hope you will both be very happy together. I will pray for your endless joy.

Being what I am, however, I always have to add a however. However nice and hopeful and full of grace these individuals may be, and I have no reason to doubt a single intention in this fine young man’s post, they also represent a path and an example… and I want them to have and be the best one’s they can for everyone’s sake. This demands a caveat. I have three daughters in their late teens and early 20s, and a son in his early 20s, and I would give very specific advice were one of them to come home wanting to marry a person, even a saved redeemed person, with a sordid past.

Thus, while I would not expect this young man to say anything less than he did on the day of his marriage, I think many things should be said about the issues confronting this couple, and many like them, as they seek to stay married and to keep from killing or otherwise torturing each other over the next few decades in the myriad of ways that only married people can find to do.

When Ruth Graham, wife of Evangelist Billy Graham was asked if she ever contemplated divorce, she is reputed to have replied, ‘No, I’ve never thought of divorce in all these 35 years of marriage, but, I did think of murder a few times.”

Personally, I think the language of BETTER, employed by the article’s author, is, in such situations, a bit of overcompensation, as if such a past is some special blessing. It’s not.

Extremely broken people do have a unique gift to give others, but that gift is the gift of trial and suffering, the gift of opportunity to be the bigger person, to force those around them to dig deeper into themselves than they might otherwise do to find that little bit of extra-grace, mercy, and emotional energy to sacrifice more of themselves in those relationships than they might be called upon to sacrifice in other relationships.

When people with sordid pasts marry, they have by choice or force or both, denied their future spouses many things long before they ever entered into such a union, and have placed themselves statistically in the worst categories for divorce and infidelity predictions—saved or not.

Am I denying that “When sin does abound, grace does yet more abound”? Not at all… but that is a boast about grace not sin. Sin is not made less ugly or less destructive for the bounty of grace that it encounters in God. We should not confuse the glory of justification for the anguish and tediousness of sanctification.

I am happy that this man’s wife loves him and has a desire to be a different kind of person than she was in her formative years… emphasis on FORMATIVE years. She and her past have, no doubt, drawn out from him by the demand of love, things that a GOOD GIRL wouldn’t—an increased measure of grace and mercy. But, I read his article and thought… hmmm.. so young and naïve. Lord, keep them by your special grace.

I don’t consider GOOD GIRL a slam… I hear in that epitaph, “measured,” “self-controlled,” “practiced in faithfulness and honed in wisdom and good judgment.”

Frankly, while good behavior doesn’t earn salvation, in the real world, wisdom has every advantage over folly. All sin may be equally sin before God, all sinners may be in equal need for salvation before God, but in the day to day dealings of life under the sun, all sins are not equal.

What happens in Vegas NEVER stays in Vegas, it stays in your soul, and while Christ offers grace and forgiveness and a measure of change, life has taught me that the crud of our past is a part of who we are as people. Much of our baggage continues to plague us. Stress and disappointment and loss in life tends to bring many of our old habits back in unexpected ways because these habits were rooted in the kind of people we are, woven into our primary hardware and never fully erased software.

Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. There was a reason why we went down the broken road in the first place, and that thing, that “reason” usually takes more than a little sanctifying struggle to thwart in the end.

This couple’s journey is just beginning, and I am glad he’s hopeful… but they have a long road ahead of them, a road made all the bumpier for the brokenness that preceded it.

 

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