"Let marriage be held in honor among all…" (Hebrews 13:4)

I heard the Tim McGraw song Live Like You Were Dying in the most unusual of places the other day – my head as I slept. Normally that’s a huge annoyance, a song looping through my brain while I toss and turn. This time, however, I think I was so relieved it wasn’t something by The Wiggles or VeggieTales that I went along for the ride.

Only thing is, I began to dream along with the music. As weird as that sounds, the dream varied just a bit from the theme of the song, which, in case you are one of the five people without Spotify, is: in order to make sure we don’t live carelessly, we should check off that list of things we’ve always wanted to do, and also that we do not go gently into that good night, but rather sit on top of angry bulls. Or something like that. Basically, you should act like you don’t have much time left, because really you don’t.

The montage that played upon my closed eyelids wasn’t about me, important moments, my death, or things I want to accomplish. Instead, I was treated to a slide show of moments from my three-year courtship with Valerie. What fun life was then. The things we did, the places we traveled to, the way we treasured each other and every moment together (even more so because a lot of that time was spent dating long-distance).

I awoke in a very good mood, even if I was confused about the connection between the song and the dream. On my drive to work some of the words from the song slapped me upside the head:

"… and I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying…"

Ah, I see… that sentence sounded a lot like the guy I was when I was putting the moves on the tall, big-eyed, opinionated babe who liked my jokes. It did not sound so much like the decade-long married version of myself who has been going through the motions of marital/fatherly duties, plus work, church, sports, writing, hobbies, world news, and everything else.

The message was becoming clear, but still I wondered, how can I live like I was dating, when I have none of the freedoms afforded me during those years of getting to know Valerie? Unless I’m mistaken, the very word "dating" implies occasionally going on a date, and with a breast-feeding one-year-old around, movies, walks in the park, weekend getaways, and romantic (read: non-fast-food) dinners aren’t even on the radar screen.

I interrupt this article because at this point Valerie calls me from her cell phone saying she can’t get the car to start. The ignition won’t turn because the steering wheel is also locked, and she can’t jiggle the keys or wheel enough to get either to turn. She’s embarrassed, and I can hear her banging and straining away on the dashboard components. She thinks she’s gonna be stuck in someone’s driveway all day with a baby in the back seat. I suggest looking in the owner’s manual to see if there are suggestions. There aren’t. We decide she’ll have to call a Toyota dealer or Triple-A because I’m too far away to help. 10 minutes later I check in on her because I read online that she might want to use the parking break from now on to prevent this from happening again. Turns out that wasn’t the problem. It was that she was trying to start her Camry with the key to my Corolla…

And so it occurs to me – not only can I count on my wife to spice up our life with a good laugh once in a while, but maybe our dating engine simply has to be redefined. It still exists, but it’s not going to be started with the same set of keys that got it running 10 years ago. That doesn’t mean it’s not a reliable vehicle for shuttling us to all of life’s events in a manner befitting our faith. If I could find a way to regularly appear as outwardly joyful as I inwardly feel whenever I reflect on how blessed I am to have such a mate, I’d go a long way towards helping fulfill the purpose for this marriage, which Valerie and I long ago decided was to be better for the Lord than we are apart – to be a living metaphor of Christ’s love for His Church. That felt easier when we were dating. So with a cue from Tim McGraw, here are some ideas…