"Is this why we got married?"
That question usually comes up when Susan and I are rushing to yet another event, somewhere between our jobs, our volunteering at school, church and park district, one daughter's piano and basketball lessons, another daughter's gymnastics team and our son's swimming class.
I used to think the reason you got married was for companionship, support and, certainly, the joys of intimacy. But if you're fortunate enough to have a marriage with those attributes, you then find yourself wondering: Isn't there more to marriage than just a decent relationship? Isn't there something we should be doing beyond running errands, getting the kids to their activities and keeping your marriage healthy?
As a man who remained single until he was 29, I never imagined that married life would be so … nonstop. So exhausting. And so rewarding. But some rewards come unexpected.
Three years ago, Susan and I agreed to host a Japanese exchange student for a month of orientation prior to her going to Ohio for a year of school. That's when we met Satomi, a quiet but focused young woman who was determined to become fluent in English. Our conversations required frequently thumbing through the Japanese- English dictionary to find a key word. We falteringly discussed cultural differences, her Buddhist background and our life as Christians. After a quick four weeks, she left for Ohio, where she completed her sophomore year.
But at the end of the school year, Satomi's English was still not what she wanted it to be. So she asked if she could live with us while she completed her high school education.
Our kids were young. Did we want a teenager moving in with us? It's one thing to have a guest for a month. But to have someone become part of your family for two years, observing your habits, your quirks, your squabbles, your discipline (or lack of it) …
After thinking and praying about it, we invited Satomi to live with us. Would this add more stress to an already fully loaded family life? Would our marriage be changed by having someone new join our family? Would we live to regret this decision?
The two years have passed quickly, and I'm glad to report the answers are yes, yes and a resounding no! Yes, we suddenly became parents of a busy teenager, which meant more activities (and more questions about calculus homework that I couldn't answer). But it also meant help with dishes and child care. Satomi plugged right into our active, church- and sports-centered lifestyle. She became a church youth group regular and a varsity soccer player at her school.
Yes, she saw our hugs and spats, laughed with us and discovered that a Christian couple can be both tender and trying. And, two months before she graduated and returned to Japan, she told us her life had been changed. Not only was her English almost fluent, she had decided to become a Christian. She was eager to find a church when she returned to Japan.
Our house guest had truly become a family member. And our marriage had made a small contribution to something beyond itself.
Is this why we got married? Yes!
Copyright © 1996 by Christianity Today/MARRIAGE PARTNERSHIP magazine.