For the guys (look out for a blog from the female perspective that Katie will be writing soon..)
This comparison is going to be a huge stretch. After all, if you like Game of Thrones, then you know King Robert Baratheon to be a fairly poor character to model your marriage after. However, there is a fundamental characteristic of George R.R. Martin’s character that I think is very, very typical of a lot of men as they enter marriage.
In A Game of Thrones, Robert says to his loyal friend and confidant, Eddard Stark, “I swear to you, I was never so alive as when I was winning this throne, or so dead as now that I’ve won it.” He’s the king. In many ways though, he feels just like Solomon did. For Robert, there is no satisfaction in sitting the Iron Throne. All of the wealth and women and toys of the kingdom cannot make him feel the same way that he did during the campaign. He was alive during the chase, the pursuit, the hunt, but not anymore.
For most guys, this is one of Satan’s deadliest traps. I said in an earlier post on divorce that my good friend Jim Gernatt once suggested that before marriage Satan will do everything he can to push you too close to your significant other. He wants you to make sexual mistakes and leaps of intimacy that God designed for marriage. But when you are married? Satan flips the switch. He wants to do everything in his power to pull those two people away from each other, and from God’s design.
So how do we avoid the Baratheon Curse? How do we avoid the longing desire for the thralls of adventurous dating and fight off the supposed “boredom” of marriage, of being seated on the throne. Let’s break down Robert’s two phrases and try to think about how we fight against it:
1. “I was never so alive as when I was winning the throne…” -We like to pretend pop-culture has transformed these younger generations, and it has its effect, but what are we teaching young men and women about dating? In a misguided attempt to make them men and women, don’t we set them up for a short-sighted failure? Men are told to “get the girl”, to “steal that first kiss”, to be on the “prowl”. I’m sorry, but what kind of caveman-oriented perception do we have of the dating world? I think there are a lot of young men that are set up to believe that they aren’t a “man” if they aren’t dating someone. It was incredibly common for guys to judge each other in high school based on how “far they’d gotten” with a girl. I know we’re competitive, but where did we learn that that is what authenticates you? Where did we learn that the “so alive” feeling comes from accomplishment instead of surrender and sacrifice?
The main problem with this centers around the words “never so alive”. I do not want anyone to think, even for a second, that dating can’t be exciting. You just met someone. You’re uncovering layers of who they are. You’re going out to movies or drinking coffee. You run to your car after a good date because you’re too excited to walk. It is exciting. But our society does many young men and women the disservice of advertising “dating” and “hooking up” as the most exciting parts. Marriage? That’s boring! We’re not after commitment, we’re after the “so alive” moments. (Katie wanted me to point out: “When you’re sitting and watching a “boring” movie, you’re doing it with God’s miracle beside you”… I love that)
Oftentimes, I think the problem is that we look at pursuit as an activity that has milestones. If I can just get her to give me her number. If I can just get her to go on that first date. If I can just get her to give me that first kiss. If I can just get her to say yes when I propose. And if we’re being honest, for a lot of high school guys, it’s “can I just get her to have sex with me.” What if, instead of pursuing to a certain milestone or goal, our pursuit lasted a lifetime? Surely, God does not get us to the point of being a Christian and say, “Well, my work here is done.” He’s not after a temporary romance with temporary benefits. Even when we feel polished, when we feel like God’s sanctification has done us a great service, would it be right for God to leave us “mostly complete?” The true pursuit of marriage calls us to walk alongside our partner and prepare them to stand before the real King. There is so much more reward in knowing that I have joined Katie for life than there ever was in knowing I got a girl to give me a phone number. As always, we are kids enjoying a sandbox when we could be enjoying the beach.
2. “… so dead as now that I’ve won it.” – This one. It’s the scary one, isn’t it? This phrase embodies the shocking divorce statistics we’ve all heard. This phrase would find a disturbing familiarity in the heart of many middle-aged men that are married. There is something, in this victory that we call marriage, that somehow deadens instead of enlivens. What is it? Why is it that some married couples display such beautiful growth? And other marriages carry the weight of such terrible burdens?
In the case of Robert Baratheon, the road to the throne was exhilarating. He was passionately pursuing justice. He got to slam his hammer into the chest of those who stood in his way. Dating can feel that way. You are excited and thrilled and ready for anything. There is an undeniable passion as you and this other person begin a dance with one another. So why should this taint and not sweeten our perspective on marriage? You fought for this. You pushed past bad dates and other people you weren’t meant to be with. You went through months or years of wondering “why it hadn’t worked out.” And when you met, you fought for each other. You fought through awkward first dates and late night phone calls, you fought through miscommunications and long distance. You really did fight for each other, don’t forget how sweet it is to finally have one another in fullness, to be one.
So what if things are going south? If the statistics in America are any indication, half of the people are looking to fend off future problems and the other half are already standing on the side of the road, wondering how they didn’t see the other car coming. You know, dead bodies, they smell a certain way. They don’t really move. Corpses can’t speak to you. There are certain signs that you don’t need a doctor to interpret when it comes to the dead and dying. If you find yourself more apathetic, or you get annoyed more easily, or your tongue is a little sharper. If you find yourself bored or tired or worn down. If you find the matters of marriage, like the matters of Robert’s kingdom, to be tedious and cumbersome… go to the doctors. Our pastor, Geoff Bradford, was very clear on our marriage retreat that seeking counsel is not only normal in the life of the Christian, but expected. You are broken people, in a broken world, surrounded by broken systems. It takes work. So go to the doctors. Seek the advice of Christian friends and pastors and community groups. Pray more. Have quiet times. God is more than willing to heal the brokenhearted and to bind their wounds.
The last thing I’d want people to think about is what throne your preparing yourself for. What do you consider the throne in relationships? Seriously, what’s your goal? I’ve had plenty of friends who believe they’re still holding to the “I want to eventually meet my wife and I want to pursue her as a Christian man should”…. but all of their actions reflect a very different throne, a very different goal. Even though Robert wasn’t the best example, a part of winning the throne means becoming a King. When you fight to be that person, there are duties and responsibilities that come with it. The biggest mistake you could make is to believe, even for a second, that those duties and responsibilities will be anything but life-giving.
I am Katie Reintgen’s husband. Our journey, our story, is only just heating up. I would be an utter fool to consider our adventure anything more than just starting. God promises that she has been put in my life to make me holy. What an honor. To have someone that He hand-picked. To have someone that he knew would suit me. To be loved enough by the great God of the universe that he had my interests in mind. I swear to you, I was never so alive as when Christ transformed and adopted me into his family, and never more at home as now that I’ve been united with Katie in a marriage that will serve him.