Love & Marriage: Mutuality of Purpose!

In the little bit of television that I get to watch last night was one in which the shows featured their annual Valentine’s Day entrees. Whether through sitcom or sermon this is a perfect time to focus on relationships – with each other and Christ. Both remind me of Lucy and Schroeder from the “Peanuts” comic strip. Schroeder is the toy-piano Mozart playing intellectual type and Lucy can be a bit difficult, but she’s had a consistent crush on Schroeder. Anyway, in one of the comic strips she walks over while Schroeder is playing and tries to get him to think about her and love. She asks him, “What is love?” He gets up from the piano and looks out into space and says, “Love: a noun or a verb meaning having a deep affection for a person, place, or thing.” Then he sits back down and starts playing again. Lucy then looks off into space and says, “On paper he’s great.” Unfortunately, this is too often true about our interpersonal relationships, and our relationship with Christ. On paper we’re great. How about our actions?

The Call to Action legislation says that we can fix our denominational problems through restructuring. I’m wondering if our real dilemma is a spiritual issue that all the tinkering in the world can’t fix. We need to bathe this whole process and the upcoming General Conference in prayer so that a spiritual renewal takes place. Perhaps if we do that first then all the structural pieces will fall more easily into their proper place. Paper answers cannot solve a spiritual problem. Love in action is a better place to start!

The speaker at a woman’s club was lecturing on marriage and asked the audience how many of them wanted to “mother” their husbands. One member in the back row raised her hand. “You mean you really want to mother your husband?” the speaker asked. “Mother?” the woman said. “I thought you said ‘smother.’” In a true marriage smothering doesn’t take place. There is a free mutuality of purpose and a partnership of respect.

Unfortunately there have been lots of people who seem to totally misunderstand what marriage really is. Such a man lived in Redlands, California. His name was Glynn “Scotty” Wolfe. Wolfe was married 29 times. Worse, this guy was a Bible-thumping Baptist minister! As far as I can tell he still holds the Guinness’ Book of World Records title as the most-married man. He died in a nursing home in 1997 at age 88, just 10 days before his first wedding anniversary with No. 29, Linda Essex-Wolfe, the world’s most-married woman with 23 husbands.

Even though they lived apart – she in Indiana, he in California – their 11-month marriage lasted longer than some of their others. Wolfe’s shortest was 19 days, while Essex-Wolfe once ended a marriage after 36 hours. Both of their longest marriages lasted 7 years. Wolfe left one wife because she ate sunflower seeds in bed, and divorced another because she used his toothbrush. When he died Wolfe’s body lay unclaimed at the San Bernardino County morgue. Big surprise! No one wanted to pay the cost of burial. Since no one stepped forward to claim him, Wolfe was cremated by the county and put in a collective grave.

Wolfe attracted worldwide attention the year before he died when he wed Essex-Wolfe. The National Enquirer introduced the pair in his hometown of Blythe, California. At the time, he was married to a 17-year old girl from the Philippines. “As soon as I saw him, I knew I cared for him,” Essex-Wolfe said. “He was a charmer. He married a lot of beautiful women, a lot of young women.” They spent only one week together before getting hitched in front of cameras for a British documentary about marriage. Unwilling to leave her hometown, the bride flew back to Indiana the next week. Unwilling to venture into the cold weather of the Midwest, the groom remained in California. They stayed in touch by writing letters.

Scotty Wolfe was married 29 times, but he died alone with no one to give him a proper burial. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. The man didn’t understand either commitment or very little, it seems to me, about true love. If we don’t do better than Scotty Wolfe in loving our spouses, other people, and especially Jesus then we can forget about solid relationships! The Call to Action for me this week through Valentine’s is a Call to Love in Action!

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