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Kid these days. They aren’t like Karen and me, just as we weren’t like our parents, just like they…well, for instance, Great-Grandma Beck was 14 when she married, Mom and Dad 19 when they married, and I was 25. My kids will be drawing a pension by the time they marry. And they probably won’t marry in the church house of their youth. It will be a timbered barn or a country club lawn, a rich aunt’s backyard rose garden or in a chapel of a cruise ship, or under the sea with scuba gear and “Little Mermaid” decor.

Apparently, marriage has been on my mind so much that I’ve been dreaming of marriage. Why do we marry? Who do we marry? How do we marry? What is marriage?

And it’s Daryl Hayes fault…he has me thinking. He’s teaching our Bible class and that was the topic last Wednesday evening. The joke in our house is that our marriage has always been common law, that we don’t have any legal documents to prove we are married. Karen’s social security card still says, “Karen Mason.” As a yoga instructor, she was required to submit her S.S. card while filling out her employee documents to allow her to teach at the local Tech school. Which required her to provide a marriage certificate from Tabernacle, NJ, which we didn’t have, so Karen requested a copy from Tabernacle township. I’m looking forward to seeing it as I haven’t looked at it since 1985. We were both relieved to find out that the township actually has a piece of paper that confirms our bond.

I recently read an article about a method to find out if you could fall in love with anyone. Or at least find intimacy with a total stranger by working through a list of 36 questions and then continuously staring four minutes into each others eyes. Here’s is the link in case you want to speed along the intimacy process.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/no-37-big-wedding-or-small.html?_r=0

Or if microwave digital intimacy isn’t your thing, here are some tried and true crock pot tips for marital intimacy.

Marriages that establish solid criteria like these last longer and result in a life of marital bliss and matching cemetery headstones:

1. The woman is thinner and better looking than the man. (I’ve got that)

2. Woman find men more attractive when they are wearing an apron or scrubbing the toilet. Which leads to more…ummm…cinammon rolls.

3. Never win the Oscar for best actress, as every actress that wins is shortly thereafter splitting up: I could list every year, but here are a few: Claudette Colbert (1935 It Happened One Night), Bette Davis (1936 Dangerous and 1939 Jezebel), Elizabeth Taylor (1961 Butterfield 8 and 1967 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), Julie Andrews (1965 Mary Poppins), Barbra Streisand (1969 Funny Girl), Cher (1988 Moonstruck), Holly Hunter (1994 The Piano), Susan Sarandon (1996 Dead Man Walking), Helen Hunt (1998 As Good as It Gets), Gwyneth Paltrow (1999 Shakespeare in Love), Julia Roberts (2001 Erin Brockovich), Charlize Theron (2004 Monster), Hilary Swank (2000 Boys Don’t Cry and 2005 Million Dollar Baby), Reese Witherspoon (2006 Walk the Line), Sandra Bullock (2010 The Blind Side)

4. Married folks have more money, federal benefits, better jobs, live longer and are empirically happier, although I have no verifiable evidence of this except Facebooks posts.

Intimacy is a funny thing. Sometimes we fool ourselves into cherishing one another with an app and some googly eyed stares. Or, we can marvel at the imagination, the original app, the one that works through the wondrous God-given transcendent, that is our brain, our heart and soul. The part of our being that never shuts down or needs backing up or restarted, but sometimes needs powered down, extended REM sleep, to tell us about one another. It’s the stuff we dream about, and sometimes the stuff we dream of is sad, and the people we love are missing. That’s difficult to replicate in a psychological test or an app. Last night I dreamed a dream.

Last night, in my dreams, I died. When I arose, outside, on the patio of our home I saw her. My wife looked different, but it was her, and elated, I quickly walked to her with outstretched arms. She was walking to me and I knew her, but her eyes were unblinking crystals, and she walked through me like a deer walking through morning mist. She didn’t know me, and we were separated by a bizarre invisible wall. I instantly felt sad, alone, separated from the woman I’ve shared life with for 30 years. And then I woke up, for real this time, and she was there in bed, beside me, and I was relieved and happy and I rarely remember dreams, but for some reason, I remembered this one.

Which leads me to the manager at Panera and my quoting scripture to him when he questioned my identity. When he asked if I had a Panera card, after I had ordered my sandwich, I said, “Yes,” and gave him Karen’s phone number and he looked it up and said that I did not look like Karen Taylor, to which I replied with the words of Jesus from Matthew 19, “Haven’t you read…that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘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 flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

He laughed and said, your order will be ready down at the end of the counter when they call out Karen Taylor. And I felt whole again, not like my dream when I couldn’t touch you, or talk to you, or share a story about my day, or talk about our children. Before long they called out, “Karen Taylor,” and I picked up my turkey sandwich with a pickle and baguette, and the dream from the night before flashed before my eyes, and I realized how little I knew in 1985 as I signed that marriage certificate, how I still have trouble defining what it is that defines marriage, a legal document? A Panera card? Our home? Our children? God?

Thanks, Daryl Hayes, for asking the question. I’m still working on a good answer. Meanwhile, I’m keeping a pad and pen on my nightstand, to help me when I wake from dreams, dreams of the next thirty years of what God has joined together.

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