I recently read an article by David Mills revealing insights into the marriage of Tolkien, who was married 55 years to Edith. By all accounts the marriage was successful but not necessarily happy. Near the end of his life, after Edith had died, Tolkien shared some reflections on his marriage with his son Christopher.
After three of his insights I would like to add my testimony. At this stage in my marriage, God has wonderfully drawn me closer to my bride (55 years). I am very grateful and humbled at the work of God in my heart. I give him glory and continue to cry out for his mercy.
First, Tolkien warns that a romantic view of men and women, can take “the young man’s eye off women as they are.” Tolkien describes them as “companions in shipwreck not guiding stars.” Not seeing the woman realistically makes young men “forget their [women’s ] desires, needs and temptations. It inculcates exaggerated notions of ‘true love,’ as a fire from without, a permanent exaltation, unrelated to age, childbearing, and plain life, unrelated to will and purpose.
Men, your bride needs to know she is “the total package” as you both age. “Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Prov 4:18). Take this advise from brother Al. Express your delight and fascination with her as being “your bone” (Gen 2:23). It will breathe new life and spiritual refreshment into your marriage.
Secondly, Tolkien refers to marriage as a “great mortification.” In a fallen world, “the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or what is called ‘self-realization’ (usually a nice name for self-indulgence, wholly inimical to the realization of other selves); but by denial, by suffering.”
The early monks thought of marriage as martyrdom (death to self). “Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged” (I Cor 13:5-6). I am more sensitive to my failures, especially in my self-pitying attitude. I humble myself, rationalize less and ask for forgiveness, knowing I still have a long ways to go.
Thirdly, Tolkien speaks of “self-denial.” “No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man,” insists Tolkien, “has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious of the will, without self-denial.” In his view, “nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes.” But he insist “the ‘real soul-mate’ is the one you are actually married to.” His advice, “in this fallen world, we have as our only guides, prudence, wisdom, a clean heart, and fidelity of will.”
The Lord is helping me to put the needs of my “soul mate” forefront in our daily life. “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (I Cor 13:7). In our relationship I am more like a yo-yo. Judy is consistent. I am becoming more honest with my emotional state, admitting my downward cycles, and asking her to pray for me.
It is hard to admit my childish ways. “But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now” (I Cor. 13:11-12). One day I will understand, but in the mean time I ask for grace to mature in my marriage. God help me to be your MAN for Judy.