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The Evangelical Power Couple

July 26, 2010

I grew up attending an Evangelical mega-church in the suburbs of Denver.  The kind of church where the pastor is a celebrity, the local police officers direct traffic in the parking lot, and the church sells their “old” stage lights to John Mayer (no joke).  For all of its production/rock concert flaws, I do have to say I will forever be grateful for the good people there who discipled me along as a young Christian.  I will also forever be grateful that my church introduced me to the iconic Evangelical Power Couple.

You know who they are.  They are the lovely couple holding hands, dropping their three (or four) kids off at various locations of the Children’s Ministry Center.  They hit up the nursery first, then move onto the toddlers theater, and then oldest kids go to the “large group” center to meet their leaders on their appointed carpet circles.  The wife is gracious and lovely.  Her J.Crew/Gap/Anthropologie skirt hits her at the knees (rightfully so for the modest Christian woman), and flows away delicately in that infamous a-line.  Her toes are perfectly pedicured and showing in her summery sandals, and her manicured fingers lace through her husband’s as they casually stroll to the sanctuary-auditorium for church.  The husband is usually a head taller than his wife, he wears khakis with a perfectly pressed line on each leg, a polo shirt neatly tucked in, and a smile.  They both carry their Bibles into the sanctuary, probably in one of those canvas cover bags so that there is a place to carry all of their pens and church bulletins where they feverishly take notes during every sermon.  The Power Couple will walk into the sanctuary, greet their friends from their Power Couple’s small group, and enjoy their Sunday the same way they do every week.  Ah yes, we all know this couple well.

I became intimately involved with the Evangelical Power Couple when I started babysitting.  On their small group Bible study nights, they would hire me and a friend, throw us in the finished basement of their 4 bedroom house and leave us to entertain 5-6 Couple’s kids.  Babysitting the kids was a nightmare, but I idolized the culture of marriage and faith and family that was being discussed in the Pottery Barn-esque living room one floor above me.  I wanted so desperately to be like that Power Couple growing up.  They always seemed so happy, so in love, so patient and compliant with one another.  The husband always seemed to be clued in to his wife’s needs, and she likewise.  The wife always seemed so happy to be home, to be with her children, and to be the center of hospitality and entertainment.  I was sure I would grow up to be like this woman.  I was sure my marriage would mimic the dozens of Power Couple’s I got to know.  I was just so sure.

It’s amazing what can change in ten years, even the things about yourself that you never thought would change.  My once black and white and legalistic conservative principles are not as present as they used to be.  In fact, they are practically gone.  My world view has shifted into tones of gray and my faith has come to provide more questions than answers.   As I have been preparing for marriage, I have found it increasingly difficult to let this fantasy version of myself go, because it also means I have to let the fantasy version of my Power Husband go as well.

A friend asked me a few weeks ago if I was excited to marry the man of my dreams.  Who’s that? I asked myself.  I felt increasingly guilty that that was my first reaction to her question, but have now come to laugh at the stupidity of my own expectations.  With 4 days until my wedding, it dawns on me that I am not, in fact, marrying the man of my dreams.  I am marrying the man of my reality.  The man of my dreams does not exist because the woman I always dreamed that I would be does not exist either.  The man I dreamed up after years of watching Power Couples would never in a million years fit the woman that, in reality, I have become.  No matter how hard I try to tame my rather dominant and “free-spirited” personality, I have to accept that there is no hope of me ever becoming the docile and subservient woman that I always imagined myself becoming.  I need a man who challenges me, argues with me, and stands up to me when I am teetering on the edge of ridiculous.  I need a man who knows when to be gentle with me, who listens well (because Lord knows how much I talk), and who becomes increasingly more patient the more he gets to know me.  That is the kind of man who fits me in my reality.  And that is the man I am marrying.  No doubt, however, that it takes work.  Because we are not the flawless couple of my fantasy, we will have to fight each day to make our marriage work.  We know that, and we are expecting that.

Over the past 9 months of being engaged, it has taken me a surprisingly long time to let my false expectations of my husband go.  Even more shockingly, it has taken me even longer to let my false expectations of myself go.  My ideas and fantasies about marriage were being intimately constructed in my mind for 24 years.  And even if I am nowhere close to the fantasy self I had in mind (nor do I even want to be), that is still the image I taught myself to expect.  And it is okay to grieve that.  It is okay to need some time to get used to the reality of me, and of my soon-to-be husband.  It takes a little while for God to talk us into the reality He has planned.   We can design our dreams ourselves, that’s easy, but only God is the constructor of our reality.  Kudos to God for finding someone to fit me, and kudos to my fiance for not spending one week with me and running and screaming in the other direction.  If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

I’m happy for all the Power Couples out there.  Really, I am.  I know I only saw a snippet of your world, and I’m sure it’s not as perfect as I dreamed it up to be.  I wish you nothing but happiness and more Pottery Barn furniture.  But I am more happy for the Reality Couples out there who, like me, have come to discover how rare it is to find that person who fits who you really are.  That person who you feel weak and strong with in equal measure, at the exact same time.  How is it that the person I make the biggest mistakes in front of, is also the person who consistently and unequivocally loves me?  How is it simultaneously scary and safe with this person?  These are the mysteries of love and marriage, and God.  Maybe we’ll be a new kind of Power Couple.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    July 26, 2010 10:33 pm

    Brilliant, Kemp. It’s like we are in Creative Non-Fiction again and I am once again struck by your style, consistent cadence and ability to be engaging while prompting too. Here here for the blog!

  2. Alli permalink
    August 6, 2010 9:05 am

    I love this, Lauren. It’s difficult to break the mold that we’ve set in our minds. The thoughts here are so real and reflect so much of my thoughts that it makes me a little embarrassed. Who IS the man of my dreams? Why did I project that in the first place? How long will it take me to really forget this projection? Will I be satisfied with my reality compared to my dream? But I shouldn’t compare. But it’s so hard not to. Great post.

    Congratulations on marriage! Now that the important day is over, let the most important days commence!

  3. Courtney permalink
    August 11, 2010 10:21 pm

    amazing. L.Kemp my brain is already shrinking without your daily words of wisdom.

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