Blog 2: Value of the vow
(Blog 2 aims to write the book from before the idea through the final work.)
“One thing good about growing old, maybe the only good thing,” Our Hero’s father told him. “When you get to be my age, women look good at 18, 19, and they still look good at 50, 55.”
Old Man was right, Our Hero reflects these nearly 30 years later.
His father was single then, long divorced. Our Hero, whose son is nearing the age he was when the Old Man shared this epiphany, is long married now. Devoted. Still in love. But … still.
Facts are facts. Or men are men. Or something like that.
In any case, Our Hero still notices women in a way he figures he should feel guilty about, considering his vows of betrothal. Is betrayal a physical act or in the heart, as Jimmy Carter admitted as one of his sins back when he was president?
It gets more difficult as the age range widens for women Our Hero finds attractive. So much simpler when 25, then 30, then 40 were old ladies. Soon enough, though, he’ll lust after 70-year-olds, while college girls still turn his eye. Oh, boy.
And worse. There’s looking. And then there’s feeling that something more for some women in Our Hero’s life. Emotional attraction as well as physical. Feeling a connection beyond mere looks. Sensing possibilities, had the precise events weaving the union that binds Our Hero and his wife together these 21 years of marriage missed a strand.
In some of these relationships ” that’s what they are, after all ” these feelings are mutual. Of course, most are not. Our Hero knows this. This is life. So full of possibility and temptation.
Such a minefield. A minefield in a roiling sea prone to storms. Lust, longing, love, vows, trust. It’s quite a stew we live in.
Our Hero remembers reading that the Rev. Billy Graham never allowed himself to be in the company of a woman alone. This puzzles him. Did the evangalist fear the sin in his heart? Or was this a pragmatic act to prevent any possible accusation of overstepping bounds?
After all, it seems it is the preachers who so infamously lose control. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s infidelity was legendary. Jim Bakker. Jimmy Swaggert. Every community has its fallen from the local pulpit, as well. Politicians almost never surprise. Their capacity for compromise waters the concept of hypocrisy down to thin gruel. But the pastors? The ones who bind us to our vows? Who hold us to them?
Our Hero feels. And he notes these feelings. But he’s never come close to straying in his married life. Why is that? Friends and acquaintences have. Some didn’t seem particularly disturbed about it, either. A few even appeared proud.
Early in his marriage, Our Hero wondered how he would deal with an opportunity to betray his wife sexually, whether one-night encounter out of town or some secret affair at home.
But this opportunity never turned up. He never fell into a compromising situation. No your place or mine? No spontaneous kiss that led to more. Nothing like that. Ever.
How is that? Slowly, so slowly, it came to him. He wasn’t looking. These things don’t just happen and oops, sorry, just got carried away with the moment, the alcohol, the dizzying, dislocating buzz of love-lust.
You have to be looking for this to happen, he decided. You have to want it to happen. The choice comes before the moment, not during. If you make the choice, the opportunity is bound to come, and you are bound to pounce.
Billy Graham’s answer is a false one. You must face the sirens straight up, untied by others. Otherwise, frankly, you cheat. Let others knot you to the mast and you haven’t taken the test, however much it tortures you.
It comes down to the vow, Our Hero figures. He’s not churchy in the least, has little patience with assertions that the gospel represents literal truth, and believes none of the holy tenets of any religion. But he holds to vows. They are sacred.
To break a vow is to lose a chunk of your soul. A vow is an expression of trust. Not your trust in others. But an absolute trust you offer others. To break that is a sin.
For this reason, Our Hero does not make many vows. Hell, he hardly ever even promises. Sometimes that drives people crazy. But promises ” never mind vows ” are holy themselves. You’d better live up to them.
The last vow Our Hero made was nearly seven years ago, in a Denny’s. He was having breakfast with the fellow who would hire him at his current job editing a mountain town newspaper. The publisher asked him about his history in newspaper work, changing jobs roughly every two years.
Our Hero vowed that he would stick around long enough for his prospective boss to celebrate his 50th birthday, a decade away, assuming of course he wasn’t fired before then.
It might have seemed flippant at the time, but Our Hero meant it. Still means it. Foolish perhaps. Job opportunities in this business abound. But the resume has yet to be updated, which truly is foolish on at least one level. The job is good and challenging, the lifestyle unbeatable, the kids in their teen years rooted, the mortgage requiring regular payment, to be sure. But the vow is the glue.
The vow keeps Our Hero committed when he disagrees with the company’s direction, gets irritated, imagines greener pastures, feels maybe a bit selfishly that he ought to put his career ahead of spontaneous promises. The vow brings stability. It’s the keel. Believe me, the author, Our Hero is better off for it.
So much more so with the marriage vow, with so much more at stake. Through the shoals, past the sirens, the minefield we know as modern life. Past the petty disagreements, the daily humdrum, the bright possibilities in the imagination, there is the vow.
Not the vow on its own. The vow is a promise, your word made official, etched. It means trust. You can trust me. This is the ultimate expression of commitment. This is what holds up enduring love, provides the backbone, gives the flames their chance to kindle and rekindle, forms the keel in marriage, keeps the ship right side up so that it can sail ahead. This is the most holy covenant for Our Hero. Your Word.