Some Unexpected, And Brutally Honest Marriage Advice from Tolkien.

I stumbled on this blog post and had to share it. I am not a Roman Catholic, but I agree with most of this article.  Our culture is awash in selfishness. It is so deep that it has been camouflaged as “love.” We have attempted to twist the virtue of love into “loving yourself,” which is actually the opposite of love. The very nature of love is to put others before ourselves.

Concerning the article, I think I would temper some of what he says regarding self denial and monogamy with “the rest of the story.”  The honest truth is that self denial is necessary because of our fallen nature. The idea that men are “not monogamous” is true because we are fallen, discontent, and unfaithful creatures. It is true in the same way that men are not peace loving by nature.  Only when we operate in grace and practice self denial we will find the truest expression of ourselves.

Tolkien’s perspective reminds me of the premise behind Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage.  I would highly recommend the book and use it for premarital counseling.

The excerpt below comes from a letter that JRR Tolkien wrote his son:


“Men are not [monogamous]. No good pretending. Men just ain’t, not by their animal nature. Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of ‘revealed ethic, according to faith and not the flesh. The essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called “self-realization” (usually a nice name for self-indulgence, wholly inimical to the realization of other selves); but by denial, by suffering. Faithfulness in Christian marriages entails that: great mortification.

For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him—as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state as it provides easements.

No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial. Too few are told that—even those brought up in ‘the Church’. Those outside seem seldom to have heard it.

When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think that they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along. Someone whom they might indeed very profitably have married, if only—. Hence divorce, to provide the ‘if only’.

And of course they are as a rule quite right: they did make a mistake. Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgement concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates. But the ‘real soul-mate’ is the one you are actually married to. In this fallen world, we have as our only guides, prudence, wisdom (rare in youth, too late in age), a clean heart, and fidelity of will…(Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, pp. 51-52).”

Source: Tolkien Speaks: The Secret to a Happy Marriage | The Catholic Gentleman

A Bright Spot At A Nursing Home


Earlier today I went to visit my mom. She has lived in a nursing home for more than a year. She was recently admitted to the “regular” hospital for a severe infection in her legs.  The skin is red, and swollen, and hard from just below the knee. It is “cellulitis.” She has had battled this unsuccessfully for years.  The medications fight off the infection, but it always returns with fire. This time it was bad.  The doctor said if it wasn’t treated she could end up loosing her legs. At the hospital, the lab tests revealed it was a drug resistant strain- MRSA.

After several days she was able to return to the nursing home. She will be confined to an isolation room for a while. But she still has her legs, thank God.  Though they still look red and swollen.

After wiggling my large frame into the required yellow gown, and putting on the gloves, I entered her room. My dad was there visiting her, as he does every day.  He is there every day his own health allows him to come.  While I was there a couple of things occurred to me.

First, I am aware of my father’s love for her.  Today she was doing so-so. Not the best, not the worst.  But her mind wasn’t clear. Whether it was the medications or the infection, she was drifting off to sleep.  When she spoke, it made some sense, but something wasn’t right.  She reminded me of the aged Bilbo in the last Lord of the Rings movie. She would fall asleep while sitting in her wheel chair and the sudden bob of her head would startle her awake. Then she would look around embarrassed a little and laugh. We both encouraged her to lay down.  She took a long time to make this short journey. She kept getting distracted and falling back asleep. She rearranged the dishes on her tray.  She rechecked the locks on the wheel chair. She switched some of the pillows. It was frustrating because we were standing there waiting to help her and it was almost like she didn’t realize this.

And my dad was there. I made eye contact with him, both of us realizing that something wasn’t right. That her behavior was awkward. I smiled to him, trying to indicate that it was OK and there was no need for excuses or embarrassment. He smiled back. He is 78, and his own health is not great. He has battled through cancer, a heart attack, and several vascular surguries. But he is a faithful man in the real sense of that word.  And he has kept his vows to love my mother through the long years of sickness. To love her when love isn’t easy. To love her when the doctors don’t have any answers and there isn’t much hope. I was there with them today and this is what stood out to me.  His love. A bright light in a dark cave.  No doubt this is a gift of God’s grace. I am thankful for a dad like this. I want to be like him.

Second, I thought about my own future. This could be me some day. If I have the privilege of growing old, one day my body will give up. I may end up in a nursing home. What would that be like? I know my mom hates it here.  When we talk about this, I usually remind her that this is the best we can do under the circumstances. The nursing home is actually a pretty good one. But still no one wants this. But all things considered, this is where she can get the care she needs. And even with all this, she is still pretty sick. Maybe some day, this will be me. How would I feel about it?

Or maybe I will be the one visiting. Maybe my wife will be the one that is sick and stuck in a tough spot.  Today as I visited my mom, I was aware of the possible future that I would rather not consider.  But, I want to at least think about this. And I want to take it seriously. And I want to behave differently because I thought about it. I don’t want to arrive here at some point in the future and hate myself because I was too proud or too rushed to make such deliberations.

Photo Courtesy of Xavi Talleda. Some rights reserved

“Will I Ever Find a Man To Love Me Like That?”


This is a very moving story about a man that loved his wife through 20 years of sickness with Alzheimer’s.  Truly,  love is more than a feeling. This episode is recounted by Ravi Zacharias in his book “Jesus Among Other Gods.”

“Dr. J. Robertson McQuilkin was formerly the president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary. He is one of the most remarkable people in our world. He is a conference speaker and author of note. But none of those credentials exceed his exemplary and heart-gripping love for his ailing wife, Muriel. She has walked down the grim and lonely world of Alzheimer’s disease for the last twenty years. Dr. McQuilkin gave up his presidency and numerous other responsibilities to care for her and to love her. He has penned his emotional journey in one of the most magnificent little books ever written. At one point in the book he recounts this incident:

“Once our flight was delayed in Atlanta, and we had to wait a couple of hours. Now that’s a challenge. Every few minutes, the same questions, the same answers about what we’re doing here, when are we going home? And every few minutes we’d take a fast paced walk down the terminal in earnest search of—what? Muriel had always been a speed walker. I had to jog to keep up with her!

“An attractive woman sat across from us, working diligently on her computer. Once, when we returned from an excursion, she said something, without looking up from her papers. Since no one spoke to me or at least mumbled in protest of our constant activity, “Pardon?” I asked.

“Oh,” she said, “I was just asking myself, ‘Will I ever find a man to love me like that?’”

McQuilkin, J. Robertson. A Promise Kept. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1998. Print. pp 18-19


Photo used by permission Mr. Thomas. Some rights reserved.

The Ministry of Listening

The Ministry of Listening


“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.”

“Life Together” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer