Plural Dating

When Alyson and I married twenty-three years ago we were the youngest of adults, both a few months past our twenty-second birthday.  From our vantage point now, I would say we were kids at the altar.

Now, we have kids of our own, and with each passing day they live closer to their adult years than their childhood ones.

My sweet wife is now the shortest member of the family. Again.

And while that may seem like a strange way to begin a tome about our most recent Tired Date, a double with fun friends, I know of no other way than to name the overwhelming context of our lives right now: time flies.  And it is scary.

It’s true.  We are afraid.  Granted, we love Jesus.  We pray to God.  We worship regularly.  And as yet, we haven’t found the magic button that eliminates our fist clenching frustration at bouncing checks.  We lament some of our dreams more apt to be crossed off the list than realized, much less attempted.  Our career angst is palpable.  Our retirement plans are but a whiff of smoke in a wind tunnel.  And the kids, well, we have never been here before, raising a middle school-er, a high school-er, and a collegian at the same time, so wondering if we are doing it right is a daily question.

So while you may think our double date with Chris and Lisa A. was just that, a momentary diversion from the rote survival of every day, think again.  In a way, it was salvation, and I do mean the eternal kind.  See, without divulging any of their stuff, I will tell you here that doing life with people who are walking a similar path is not only a good idea, but essential to health.  And that is Gospel, because at its very core it is communal.  The best marriages I know aren’t lived in a vacuum, but rather, in community.

With Chip and Jo…we had no idea how tired we would all be twenty three years later.

Comfort of any kind starts with the elimination of loneliness.  I cannot imagine doing life without dear couples that have accepted our invitation to live seasons with us and have invited us to do the same.

While I won’t list the brilliant names of friends dating back to 1989, I will say an existential ‘thank you’ to all of them by way of thanking Chris and Lisa for going to dinner and a movie with us while embodying the spirit of what we love in all our dearest friends: authenticity.

And Chris, in closing, I do want to thank you for an act of friendship that no man, let alone any person, has ever provided me.  When I was looking at our photos from Saturday night, I noticed a special gesture on your part.  While I took the picture at the movie theater, you placed your hand on my seat to keep it warm.

Real men keep their buddy’s seat warm

Wow. No fear, a tad creepy, but oh so authentic.  Thanks man.

Missing Church

attendance not required

February’s date is a memory and March’s date has yet to take shape, but in just two months of tired dating, I have already come to some conclusions.

Conclusion number one:  I am solidly middle aged. I am not sure of the “how” or the “when,” but nevertheless, middle age is upon me, and there is nothing I can do about it but cry just a little.  Take our last date for example.  We paid $98 to go to a French cooking class, something I would have NEVER done in my early years of marriage.  But aside from dropping a Benjamin for a Lobster recipe I will never use, I actually had a conversation with a man in the class about herb butter.

Herb butter.

Let that sink in.  Herb butter.

Dates in my earlier years always concentrated on the final outcome, the waning moments before sleep.  At least that is what I was always concerned with, and if you are a man, and an honest one, you will admit the same.  But in my middle age, enter holistic conversations about…herb butter.

In my twenties or thirties I would have told you I would rather dig lent from my toenails than have an intelligent conversation about the subsequent bouquet that is created when herbs are mixed with butter and lobster.  But not now.  Now, in middle age, I talk about herbs and butter.  And lobster. It’s depressing, and, or, maybe illuminatingly refreshing.  I’ll tell you in my fifties.  Oh God!

Conclusion number two:  when you aren’t so focused on the end result of the date, the end result is better.  Duh. Or, Dang!  Took me twenty three years to figure that out.

Conclusion number three:  we missed a church event last month for our date…and we lamented it.  And THAT felt good.  For those who know us well, you know that as former professional religious people, for the past twenty years you could count on one hand the number of times we missed a church function.  We went to all of them, didn’t miss a one.  At times, our kids were the totality of the children’s department and youth group.  In a word: sucked.

But we have fallen in love again with a church home.  We have learned much from the Canterbury trail we now trod, and when we realized our date would coincide with Shrove Tuesday, we actually gave pause and almost cancelled Fleur de Lys.

But we didn’t, and I am glad.  I think God is pleased with perseverance.  I have had a front row seat for dramas of marriage and faith where people I know and love decided for one reason or another to throw in the towel on one or both.  For Alyson and me, our struggles with the ordained life have been public, and while we have never been close to throwing away our wedding vows, some days have not brought out one another’s best.

But we stuck to it, these relationships of faith and family.  Could have walked away.  At times maybe even considered it.  But like I said, God is pleased with perseverance in all our relationships.

And missing church sometimes is more than okay.