Six years ago, while I worked as a wedding DJ, I found myself backstage at a large Kansas City venue taking a break from the endless pounding of my own success at bringing energy to a room. I loved and hated my job, similar to the way a fireman loves being a hero, but hates watching a building go up in flames. I loved making a couple’s “big day” the best ever, I hated finding out months later that the marriage crashed and burned. After being a DJ two to three nights a week for a couple of years you start to get a certain feeling in your gut when you know a marriage was going to go sour. I found myself feeling the same frustration backstage that night. The signs that their marriage was headed toward a courtroom were easy to notice. The groom got trashed at the bar while the bride greeted guests. The maid of honor would be doing everything she could to convince herself that she did the right thing and remaining silent during the sober “speak now or forever hold your peace…” The signs were obvious.
Meatloaf, the singer, is a DJ’s best friend at weddings. Put on “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” and you’ve got time to take a break thanks to his prolific-eccentric-long-windedness. I sat on a cigarette butt littered stoop behind the building pondering the state of matrimony this week’s couple was heading into while trying not to notice the stench of the dumpsters next to me filled with the Chicken Cordon Blue no one ate. I began analyzing them in my mind and began finding the entire institution of marriage hopeless. By this time an old man came and joined me on the stoop. He pulled out a cigar he had previously snuffed out and re-light it. “You sure got them dance’n in there! Gotta say you got folks in there mov’n like they used to 30 years ago. Shoot! My wife’s in there danc’n and she’s on her second hip! Ha!” Then he paused. He looked at me as though my thoughts were streaming across my forehead like the Nasdaq ticker on wall street. In a voice that I swear sounded like Jimmy Durante’s exclaimed, “Ah! You don’t think they’ll make it!… I’m right eh?”
Shocked by the nature of such an inquiry I took a moment. Looking into this man’s eyes, it was obvious to me that not only had he lived a life worthy of a Hollywood screenplay, he had also learned from his adventures. The result of which was the wise, tender, yet fierce light I was witnessing in his eyes. Since I could hear that Meatloaf was still “sleeping on it” I had about 3 minutes left. So I just came out with it, “No, I don’t think they’ll make it. If I was a bet’n man I’d be rich with the amount of times I’ve been right. In fact I don’t even know how most people make it in marriages anyway. I’m a Christian, so I know God will help you, but even in the Christian world it seems hopeless. I want to get married one day- but I’m terrified of ending up with the wrong person.”
Sigh. Yes very few times had I been that honest and open with a complete stranger. I could hear Meatloaf entering into the transition bridge meaning he had about 1:36 left on the song. The old man chuckled to himself and with what seemed like a twinkle in his eye offered me some advice as he began to snuff his cigar back out and follow me inside. “Young man, nothing’s changed. Marriage was hard 50 years ago when I got married, and I was scared out of my wits just like you. Let me tell you something, marriage isn’t about what you can get, but what you can discover. It’s not about finding some “broad” with good looks and a little bit of charm, it’s about finding that one woman who turns out to be your best friend, and helping her with her life. In doing so you’ll find your own life. That’s how God intended it.” Astonished by his generosity in sharing I thanked him as a ran, not walked in to fade Meat Loaf out. As I left he slapped me on the back side and called out, “Best of luck to ya kid, remember what I said!”
Paul talks in Hebrews about entertaining strangers, because you never know when you may be entertaining an angel. (Heb. 13:2) I’ve never really thought much about that verse, but I couldn’t help but notice that the old man was nowhere to be found after that. I have my suspicions as to who he was, but I’ll never forget what he said: “Marriage isn’t about what you can get, but what you can discover.”
As I transition from my rookie year of marriage I have discovered many things about my wife, myself and life. To not risk sounding too pretentious being that it’s only been a year, I’ll narrow it down to one discovery: loving.
When I was younger I had always thought about marriage as that great institution that would take away my loneliness and give me someone to make me feel better about myself. I was wrong. The greatest thing I’ve discovered in marriage is that I take pleasure in and enjoy my wife so much more when it’s not about me, but about her. When I think about her needs and fighting for her destiny, loving and serving her where she’s at, I discover things about her I never noticed. I discovered that my wife is way more tender than I ever thought she was. I find that she is the funniest person I know. I began to notice why she gets frustrated from time to time as opposed to getting frustrated at her frustration. She became a person I marvel at and talk to the Lord about. I can tell when she’s hungry by the way she seems disinterested in anything I’m saying. I know that if I don’t make her sit down and rest she’ll work herself to the bone. I know that in loving her as an intentional action, I fall in love with her more every day. I know that doing things for her still gives me butterflies. I know that she has helped me grow into a better human being. I know that some people are at this point starting to get queasy at my gushy bloviating, so I digress.
My outlook on marriage after a year has been great. I love my wife, and in loving her she loves me. In fighting for her destiny in life, she fights for mine. Marriage has had its rough spots, loving no matter what is never easy. But like the old man said: “Marriage isn’t about what you can get, but what you can discover.” Thus far he has been proven right.
I love you Carrie Hensley- I’m looking forward to this next year.