“The word of the cross for marriage is the word of perpetual absolution. It is the word that forgives the existence of the other.”
Paul Zahl, Grace in Practice
In the next two weeks, I will be attending two weddings. Because I will merely be a guest at both weddings, I have no legitimate basis for insinuating myself into the toasting. There is thus no captive audience for my unsolicited advice, nor (unfortunately) is my advice ever solicited.
But marriage advice is readily available; it depends only on your attention span. A quick Google search will give you anywhere from “6 Scientific Tips for a Successful Marriage” to “The 50 Best Marriage Tips, Ever.” Or you can get marriage tips from Dr. Phil or the Huffington Post.
My favorite source for marriage tips, though, is movies and books. Especially movies and books that depict bad marriages.
Last week, one of my favorite movies about a bad marriage came out on DVD, This is 40:
In 2010, Adam Ross wrote a book called Mr. Peanut. Like This is 40, Ross suggests that husbands spend many of their waking hours thinking up ways to off their spouses:
“When David Pepin first dreamed of killing his wife, he didn’t kill her himself. He dreamed convenient acts of God. At a picnic on the beach, a storm front moved in. David and Alice collected their chairs, blankets, and booze, and when the lightning flashed, David imagined his wife lit up, her skeleton distinctly visible as in a children’s cartoon, Alice then collapsing into a smoking pile of ash. He watched her walk quickly across the sand, the tallest object in the wide-open space. She even stopped to observe the piling clouds. “Some storm,” she said. He tempted fate by hubris. In his mind he declared: I, David Pepin, am wiser and more knowing than God, and I, David Pepin, know that God shall not, at this very moment, on this very beach, Jones Beach, strike my wife down. God did not. David knew more.”
The advice from these sources: Marriage is murder, and the only way to fix it is to murder your spouse.
Let me be clear: I don’t mean literal murder. That can get you in a lot of trouble. What I mean is that, if you are married, you want your spouse to be a different person. You want him to lose weight. You want her to spend less money. You want her to clean the house. You want him to stop playing video games. Your demands are endless because your spouse’s imperfections are endless.
You cannot fix your imperfections; you can only die to them. So the only way to fix your marriage is for you and your spouse to murder each other, to die to your insolvable problems and hope to become something new. Or, as Robert Farrar Capon puts it in Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus:
“Death and resurrection are the key to the whole mystery of our redemption. We pray in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are forgiven in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and we forgive others in Jesus’ death and resurrection. If we attempt any of those things while still trying to preserve our life, we will never manage them. They are possible only because we are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). And they can be celebrated by us only if we accept death as the vehicle of our life in him.”
But please, for heaven’s sake, stay away from the woodchipper.