Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, April 5, 2013


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a place of winter For the Years of Winter…

Karen [1] came to see me first. Her husband, Dan, came a few days later. I had married them a couple of years before. Apparently my pre-wedding counseling hadn’t been very effective. Neither had my warranty checks.
I usually started pre-marriage counseling by asking, “What do you like most about him/her?” One prospective bride answered, “He doesn’t hit me.” I did a lot of counseling, but I don’t think I ever felt sadder in a counseling session than I did right then.
That wasn’t the case with Karen and Dan, though. They were bright and happy and in love. Each had a whole long list of things s/he liked about the other. They didn’t have to get married. They weren’t trying to get away from something else. It was a good match.
In pre-marriage counseling I always talked with the couple about seven areas of problem potential:
1] Money: What is one person’s luxury may be the other’s necessity. Make sure you understand the differences and work them out before you get married.
2] Sex: What strengthens love is good; what weakens it is not good. Neither use nor abuse is love.
3] In-laws: You aren’t marrying just each other. You are getting new families and new traditions. But remember where your primary commitment is.
4] Religion: What does the other believe/practice that is different from your beliefs and practices? Can you live with those? If not, what are you going to do about it?
5] Children: How many? When? How and by whom will they be raised?
6] Housework:  Who does what?
7] Communication. When you have disagreements, how will you resolve them?
The idea, of course, was to work out each of these areas BEFORE the marriage. Through the years I learned that that wasn’t very effective, because they didn’t pay attention. They were so eager to get married that they would say anything they thought I wanted to hear and assumed their love [or need] was so great that they could handle anything that came up. That hardly ever worked.
So I began to do warranty checks: thirty days, 6 months, one year. I would go to their home and we would run through the list again. Every time I heard some variation of: “We thought we had this worked through, but it turns out that…” The unresolved problem that came up most often in warranty checks was money.
Karen’s and Dan’s warranty checks had gone well, so I was surprised when Karen came to see me. I was pleased, though, because it gave me a chance to play with their one-year-old.
“The problem is, Dan wants another baby. I know he does. And we just can’t afford one now.” “Have you talked with him about this, the way we did in communication practice?” “I don’t have to; I can tell.”
Then Dan came. “I know Karen wants another baby,” he said, “but we just can’t afford one now.” “How do you know?” “I just know.”
“Tell you what,” I said. “Simply talk to each other the way I taught you. Trust me, it will work.”
Another thing I learned about counseling over the years, unfortunately late in my career, is that I’m really bad at it, for three reasons: 1] I’m gullible. I believe anything anyone tells me, but a counselor needs to be able to smell it when something is B.S. 2] I want people to like me, but a counselor can’t worry about that. In fact, if folks like you, it probably means you’re letting them skate by without really dealing with the problem. 3] From the time I was a child, whenever anyone told me of a problem, I thought it was MY responsibility to fix it, but a counselor needs to help people fix things for themselves, not do it for them.
Karen and Dan didn’t see any of my counseling deficiencies, though. They talked to each other, as I told them to. They told everyone that I was a marriage counseling genius.
John Robert McFarland
1] Karen & Dan are not their real names.
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where life is defined by winter even in the summer!
You are always welcome to Forward or Repost or Reprint. It’s okay to acknowledge the source, unless it embarrasses you too much. It is okay to refer the link to folks you know or to print it in a church newsletter or bulletin, or make it into a movie or TV series or Broadway musical.
{I also write the fictional and infrequent “Periwinkle Chronicles” blog. One needs a rather strange sense of humor to enjoy it, but occasionally it is slightly funny. It is at}




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