Marriage is like a FOOTBALL game....
Football season is finally here! Woot, woot! Saturdays in the fall are my favorite. These warm days are filled with friends, family, delicious food, and cheers for your favorite team! Football is a part of the fabric of my southern life. I am passionate about football and marriage and I see so many ways they are similar. Before we kick off the 2017 football season, I think there may be a message for us today in this comparison of football and marriage. Before you scoff... keep reading.
Now before the big day, aka GAME DAY, arrives, we must find the right person to marry. Our Mr. and Mrs. Right, so to speak. Then we must plan the perfect wedding event. Those activities are very similar to "signing day" in that each team is looking for the perfect player to complete their scheme. That ideal player, like the ideal mate, looks different for all of us. Some teams are looking for strength on the line, or a receiver with great hands. Some people are looking for a spouse with an adventurous spirit, and others want a best friend. People are weeded out through friendships and the dating process. In football, campus visits, are like dating or courting, if you will. The team and the 4-star recruit try each other to see if there is a good fit. Wedding planning is like the grind of two-a-days at summer camp. Having had all three of my children marry in the last five years, I believe that wedding prep may be harder than burpees, monkey rolls, tire drills, and the hot August sun! Admit it, you are beginning to see the similarities!
Now with the players selected and the venue prepared, it's time for the big day! Imagine entering the church as a guest on the day of the wedding. You are greeted by a tuxedo-clad and squeaky-clean face who asks, "Bride or groom?" So you pick your side, and if you know the bride and groom equally well, the usher will pick for you, no neutrality allowed. No one can sit in the aisle! Here in Alabama, this is especially true for football. Everyone has a team, or one is assigned to you. I remember when in the first grade I was asked what team I was for, "Bama or Auburn?" It was a strange question and one that I didn't know the answer to. So, I went home and asked my Dad (LSU '58). He replied, "Tell them you are a Tiger fan!" I did, and so for years, by default, I was seated on the Auburn side of the game. So when the nuptials begin, the church is filled with two teams, the groom's supporters on the right, and the bride's fans on the left. There is usually no cheers, per se, but both sides are quietly pulling for the love birds, and if the kiss is on point, a spontaneous round of applause may follow.
Now the game of football is played in four quarters and divided by an intermission half-way through. The teams line up on either side of the line of scrimmage - an imaginary line that moves throughout the game. This is similar to the logic in many marital disputes. Each team takes turns holding the ball while trying to push their way down the field to score. In football, there are referees who make sure everything is played fair and square, cheerleaders on the side encouraging the team and a whole stadium full of fickle fans! Oh, those fickle fans! This analogy is rich with blog fodder, but let me settle down and unpack the game itself!
1st Quarter- the NEWLYWED years!
If we break down the game of football, we can start to see that each quarter is like a season in our marriage. The kick off, is like the wedding night. All the anticipation that summer camp has brought revs up with the first touch of the ball. It's electrifying! The kick off quite often sets the tone for the game, as does the honeymoon! And if that kick off is returned for a touchdown, the fans go wild! And so will the blushing bride, if you catch my drift! Both football and marriage are incredibly exciting and full of promise. When the two teams step out onto that field of friendly strife, anything can happen! No losers at the moment, just potential winners! Undefeated. No regrets. No mistakes. When a couple starts off their marriage, the sky is the limit as well, and their track record is clean. The couple vows that they will not be saddled with their parent's kind of marriage and are excited to pave a way for a brand new exciting type of life together! This is virtually the tone for the whole first quarter. Anything can happen - each time either team touches the ball, the crowd is quiet and watches in reverent silence to see what will happen next. No disgruntled fans, but loyal spectators fill the stadium. All eyes straining to see which plays will be called, which hyped players are on point and which ones were over sold. By the third drive, or the first year of the marriage, the couple has gotten in their stride. The game, like marriage, is quickly taking shape with a rhythm of work, play, leisure, and worship. Sometimes a score or two are made in the game, as in the married life - maybe a new house is purchased or a new job landed. Then as soon as the quarter ends, the second begins. No fanfare. No marching bands.
2nd Quarter - the GRIND
In this quarter, the players begin to show some wear and tear. In this stage of marriage, most couples have a child or two or haven't been able to have any yet. All chips away at the excitement that happened with the first touch of the ball just 15 minutes before. The second quarter is a grind. Injuries happen. This is where the bulk of life, and football, happen. Memories are made and highlight reels are recorded. If things are going "biscuits and gravy," it can be the happiest time of the game. If things are challenging the fans may get restless and begin to kibitz. Armchair quarterbacks, like the fans who attended the wedding ceremony, get mouthy - "Run the Ball, Kiffin!" The "never has their been such a perfect couple," as stated by the doting relative, is replaced by, "I don't believe he is helping you enough around the house," and "Stand up for yourself, you are no one's maid!" If the game doesn't improve quickly, the restlessness becomes contagious. Some may be calling for a change in the QB, or coach (poor Les), as others are thinking of quitting the whole thing altogether because "marriage is too hard!" Thus, the 7-year itch occurs somewhere in this 2nd quarter of marriage. This quarter always feels like the longest quarter in the game. Maybe because some need a bathroom break, or are dying to see the marching band! Finally, and after what some feel is an eternity, the 2nd Quarter ends, and intermission happens! The kids have grown up and have gone off to college, and the band comes rolling in!
3rd Quarter - EMPTY NEST!
As the fanfare of the half-time show fades, the 3rd Quarter begins. This quarter is a gentler quarter. Those who come back to the field know that victory is within their reach. They are all in their groove and play together like a well-oiled machine. Everyone knows their assignments, for they have been battle tested. They've had a fresh pep talk from the head Coach and have a second lease on life. The same is true for the empty nest stage of marriage. As long as you keep playing together, good things are bound to happen. God rewards the faithful! You have a few more resources, stronger ties that were forged over the first two quarters, more time together, and in short, less stress! Now if at this point you are not winning, and the only thing that was holding you and your spouse together just went off to college, you may throw in the towel and miss the 4th quarter! Don't miss the 4th Quarter! Keep the love of the game alive! Cling to God, our ultimate coach! And read the PLAYBOOK, God's Word - every answer you need to keep scoring points and winning this game is there! Don't quit!
4th Quarter - GLORY!
The 4th quarter is the quarter that gets everyone to their feet and raising their hand in the air showing four fingers - "4!" In this quarter the celebration occurs - fans are once again on their feet, cheering and clapping! Fight songs blare from the band. If it is a close game, the energy is palpable! The teams, although virtually worn out, are giving it their all! They want a victory. In this stage of marriage, the 50th anniversary party is thrown, the children celebrate their parents love and the glorious day of Homecoming looms brightly. It is at this point, when the team, and the couple, have been refined by fire, that they look like championship material. At this point in marriage, so much of the dross has been burned off that each of the couple look more like Jesus than themselves. Then as the team, or the couple, crosses over into heaven, or the SEC Championship, celebration breaks out with the multitudes and the Heavenly choir! And God says, "Well done, my good and faithful servant!" Your marriage was the vehicle to help get you here, just like a quality coaching staff lands the team in the play offs! What a visual! And admit it, the comparison is valid!
The only real difference I see in marriage and football is this: in football you can't quit in the middle of the game. At least, I've never seen it happen. Think how disappointing it would be if you were sitting in the stands, watching LSU beat Bama, and then after the half time an announcer comes over the intercom and announces, "I'm sorry to inform you that the game has been called off. The Alabama football team is loading their buses and leaving early. They have had enough, the game was too hard, the cheering hurt their feelings and they just want to go home to Momma!" OK, maybe that was a bad example, but many LSU fans, myself included, would be fine with that scenario! :) But seriously, this is sometimes the case in marriage. I see the struggle get hard and marriages fail and end up in divorce. Ouch! I know there are times when divorce is the correct answer, so don't be offended. But there are plenty of times when I see Christians give up because the battle is hard and they are trying to do marriage on their own strength. Don't do it! Fight for your marriage! Put in some extra practices, seek professional help. Talk to your head Coach - nothing is impossible with GOD! NOTE: I had to clear that reference up because I know that many Alabama fans thought I was talking about Saban! Stand firm on the field, do not lose your footing and do not forget why you started the game or the vows you spoke before God. Do not give up! If you need a new fight song, go listen to Grayson/Reed's, "Fight for You." It will pep you up for sure!
Love each other well, friends! And, please keep reading!
Now the big question is: Who is ready for some football?