Ten years ago this week, my wife and I were seniors in high school going on our first dates. So where did we go? In my humble opinion, there are few places more romantic than sitting in the luminescence of the kelp forest exhibit with a bunch of disease-carrying kids on their school field trips pushing their greases faces against the freshly cleaned glass. Just kidding, the glass wasn’t freshly cleaned.
It’s crazy to think that 10 years ago we were in high school trying to decide which college we want to go to and considering what we should major in. Some of our high school students who are in relationships now, want to know our story. Part of me thinks that it gives them hope that their own relationships will last. While we always preface our story with, “don’t let our relationship story give you false hope because it’s rare… and don’t think that in those years we didn’t have any struggles”, they always exchange glances at each other with a look that says, “you see, girl! We’re gonna’ make it!”
One of the things that really helped our relationship was learning how to let each other grow, change, and become who God wants us to be as individuals. We never wanted to hold each other back from who God created us to be and what he has created us to do. I think that this is vitally important in any relationship, but especially in college because so much of your formative growth and identity formation occurs during this time. In my opinion, I think those who struggle the most, are those who allow themselves to be defined by the other person or to be defined by the relationship itself, so when/if that relationship ends, they find themselves at a crisis and most likely, are quick to jump into the next relationship right away because they become used to the tangibility of allowing another human being to define them. While, I agree with theologians and ecclesiologists who argue that identity formation occurs in community, I think that this is referring to a broader ecclesial community. I believe the healthiest thing for couples in college and especially for married couples, is to engage and be apart in a broader community bigger than themselves. I believe those communities should be unique, taking place within and outside the church because it is important to center your marriage on something other than yourselves.
While it’s been popular with my generation, I absolutely do not agree that couples should spend their first years isolated. One of the healthiest things in our marriage has been to make ministry apart of the mission of our marriage. I believe marriage is one of God’s ministries in the world, that through marriage we live out the self-giving love of God to a broken world. I do not believe that marriage should be selfish, because the Trinity is not selfish, rather, the Trinity invites humanity to partake in the oneness, love, and community that is shared between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
All this theological talk aside, returning to the aquarium brought back a sense of nostalgia and reminded us that our relationship is also not all about ministry and that we enjoy each others company!