I don’t stand in the checkout line and say, “I can count money because my third grade teacher Mrs. Bell taught me to do it this way.”
My brain stores millions of skills in neural pathways then reproduces those skills as naturally as breathing. Each function happens without giving credit to my parents, dozens of teachers, and hundreds of books. Good thing it’s subconscious because I’d fail miserably if I had to acknowledge each source. Only my life changing moments are remembered in vivid detail.
I have one memory of one fact learned in high school. I was sitting in the second floor classroom of the back wing at Collins High. My desk was to the right of the teacher, the side with the windows. I sat on the front row of three semicircles, third seat from the end. On this day, my teacher sat behind his desk in the middle of the room in front of an unused blackboard. A single textbook, Intro to Psychology, rested unopened on the desk.
I don’t remember Mr. Morris ever giving a test. He assigned reading and then he chatted about whatever popped into his head. Everyone loved him.
“Women can make men do anything they want!”
In that hour, he gave the girls the tools to make life fun. He warned the boys that they didn’t stand a chance. I left class motivated to put the lesson to daily practice.
There’s a scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Maria taught her daughter Toula the same truth. Frustrated Toula cried, “Ma, Dad is so stubborn. What he says goes. ‘Ah, the man is the head of the house!’”
The wise mother responded, “Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”
Then the movie went on to teach a wise method to use this power. Maria instructed, “We must let Kosta think this was his idea.”
The scene that follows was brilliant. In a few short lines, Kosta exclaimed his brilliant plan, in the exact words Maria had guided him to discover. The bewildered Toula stared at the satisfied Maria while Kosta patted himself on the back for such genius. Everyone was happy. No one got hurt in the process only because this was a scripted movie. Life is not so easy.
Since the Garden of Eden this truth is undeniable. I offer two reasons. One, men are visually stimulated. Adam looked at his deliciously naked Eve with the juices of that forbidden fruit still on her lips and he chose to rebel with her. For this reason, the porn industry is a growing multi-billion dollar evil in our society.
But there’s another reason, we are by nature a stiff-necked people and will always rebel against a law from outside us. We don’t like being told what to do. Yet, like Maria proved, we joyfully embrace the same law springing up from within us.
Here’s how it works, take a stiff-necked woman who is selfishly wanting to rule over the man to get something to satisfy her lust and then have that same motivation controlling an equally selfish man who doesn’t want to be dominated and only wants to satisfy his lust of her body and well, you soon have domestic violence and divorce. Everyone gets hurt.
But suppose this stiff-necked couple learn a higher truth. What would happen if they let the Almighty, loving, unselfish God take possession of their necks, their heads, and their wills?
“We are all in the gutter. But some of us are looking at the stars.” Lord Darlington from Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde.
I found few lines that matched Wilde’s original play in the 2004 remake, A Good Woman. The movie was set in 1930 Italy with cinematography that delights the senses. The Mediterranean blue waves kiss the white beaches and caress the stone embankments along the Almafi coast. The slender seductive roads clinging to the mountain ridges and skirting the water’s edge twist and interlock like the scandalous affluent men and women shirking the disastrous consequences from their elegant gutters.
The characters in this movie are as ornate and colorful as the stone and stucco dwellings that cling to the steep cliffs. The wanton Mrs. Erlynne, the scheming playboy Lord Darlington, and the selfish gossips threaten the starry love of newlyweds Meg and Robert Windermere. No one believed in love and marriage but the Windermeres. Contessa Lucchino expressed her sentiment with, “Undying love is like the ghost in your villa. Everybody talks about it, but try and find one person who has seen it.”
The humorous elderly Dumby and Cecil poke fun at marriage. They try to stop Tubby from proposing to Mrs. Erlynne, “Do you think she’d look at you if you were poor?” Tubby replies, “Do you think I’d look at her if she were ugly? Fair’s fair, exchange rates and so forth.” So they try again, “You know why they call it the altar? It’s where they make human sacrifices.”
When Mrs. Erlynne described why she ran away from her marriage and daughter twenty years prior, her poetic words sucked me into her pain, “Marriage. When I think of it, I think of a room where you can’t open the window. Everyday, you wake up, and the room is smaller. You don’t notice, not at first. It happens slowly. In inches. Then one morning, you open your eyes and the room’s so small you can’t move. You can’t take a breath. You have to get out. You can’t think of anything else, or anyone else.” Tubby tried to console her, “You married the wrong man.” Mrs. Erlynne conceded, “He married the wrong woman.”
My first trip to Italy was for our 25th wedding anniversary. We toured Rome, Pisa, Florence, and Assisi. Most of the ten days were spent leisurely driving through the Tuscan countryside stopping in to savor the magic of each small village. Our children used their savings to buy us the trip. They gave all they had so we could experience our dream vacation. Their sacrificial love made Italy a special place for us. Someday I hope to return, with all my family, and give them a vacation to match the stars.
Just maybe as we stand on the beach, I can share with my loved ones the advice Mrs. Erlynne gave Meg, “A marriage takes your whole heart. Selfish people can’t pull it off, but you’re not that… Never step over your love to pick up pride and guilt.”
We shouldn’t celebrate anniversaries to mark another year accomplished. That has a negative connotation. “Whew, we’ve made it another year. I wonder how many more we can go.”
That sounds a bit like doubtful survival. Anniversaries should be more than that. It’s taken me 32 years to discover the proper attitude. Now I’m counting on 32 more years to do it right.
Anniversaries need to be a day of new beginnings, very much like your wedding day. The celebration be spent creating goals for the future, expecting better things, while anticipating God to far exceed anything we could imagine.
Mark Driscoll, author of Real Marriage, challenged me to step out of survival mode and march into conquering mode. Mike and I are making exciting goals in our marriage and in our ministry. Together and in His presence the process begins with this question.
In five years from now, where do you see yourself?
For our 33rd year and beyond, we’re going forward to places we’ve never been before. So we started with a trip to someplace we’ve never been with three consecutive sunny days in the green gardens of Seattle.
God delights to bless us.
It’s going to be a grand year.