Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus is one of my favorite plays from the English Renaissance. There’s a scene in which a stable boy named Robin gets hold of Faustus’s book of spells and, much to his surprise and terror, conjures up the devil. He’s mostly just messing around; if I remember correctly, his main objective in dabbling in the dark arts is to get free beer. But then the devil Mephistopheles shows up, and the stakes are suddenly much higher. The scene is played for laughs, but it’s one of the truest things in the whole story. We are forever meddling in things that are too much for us, sticking a toe in the sea of eternal things, then finding ourselves neck-deep and deeper.
Seventeen years ago, my wife and I did something not so different from what Robin did, though with much happier results. We got married.
I have forgotten many details from that day, but one thing I hope I will remember forever. Shortly after coming home from the church, we knelt beside our bed and prayed that God would give us children some day. We didn’t know what we were asking for, of course. We had been husband and wife for all of three hours. Yet God answered that prayer…and answered and answered. Six children by the time the dust had settled.
When raising six kids seems impossible, it helps to remember that this is what we asked for–the very first thing we asked for as husband and wife–even if we didn’t know it.
That’s a picture of what marriage looks like. I don’t mean the kids; God blesses marriages in many ways besides kids. I mean this: you invoke the Almighty himself, asking him to establish this new life on which you’re embarking with this other person whom–let’s be honest–you don’t know all that terribly well. You’re taking it as seriously as you could possibly take it. And yet there’s no way you know what you’re asking for.
But God shows up anyway. Sometimes you feel like those fishermen whose nets nearly broke and whose boat nearly sank with the weight of the fish Jesus blessed them with. Sometimes you feel like the children of Israel wandering through the desert. But still, this is what you asked God to do. It helps to remember that we’re all meddling in things that are too deep for us. Halleluiah.