Since I have OCD, I suppose there was something entirely appropriate – even unsurprising – about the fact that, when I asked my dad to preside at my wedding, I provided him with quotes for his homily that drew exclusively upon writers who published under initials rather than using their first names: G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien. It was like a secondary trinity of sorts.

My dad had already presided over my sister’s ceremony to her husband Paul, and my wife Becki and I could not imagine anyone else marrying us. While he was tearful at Alyssa’s wedding, at ours I think he was simply relieved; glad that his 30-year-old son had finally found a wife. Everyone knew I was nearing my expiration date, after all.

The first quote I sent Dad came from G.K. Chesterton, who wrote, “Marriage is an adventure, like going to war.” Becki and I have since had our share of blow-ups – battles over finances and career aspirations and the like. But at the end of each battle, instead of retreating to our respective battlefields, we skip off into the sunset, hand in hand, a puzzle for people like Patton. We are committed to loving one another even if it kills us!

Chesterton was a major influence on one Clive Staples (C. S.) Lewis, who has had an enormous impact on how I think about love and relationships. The quote below flies in the face of every Hollywoodism. The sort of love Lewis describes is more Hollywoodn’t than Hollywood.

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling … Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go … But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriage) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God … ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

Lewis, ever the elegant theologian, also writes of how love is something in which we partner with God. When it comes to love, we need God’s help. A look at the state of love in America will tell you we surely need something, for Pete’s sake. Why not God, who is Himself the living expression of love?

“God lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.

J. R. R. Tolkien, a fellow scholar and friend of Lewis’s, once wrote of marriage as a mistake. “Nearly all marriages, even happy ones,” he says, “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 be found more suitable mates. But the real soulmate is the one you are actually married to.” If we are all mistaken in our marriages but still choose to love our partners on a daily basis, perhaps there is something of God’s grace at work within us. Perhaps, by the grace of God, we can turn to one another and say, “I love you, you big mistake!”

Finally, I want to write about women and indirect objects. (Nothing more about that big, four-letter L word.) My wife speaks about things indirectly all the time, and I thought this was something unique to her. But my cubicle-mate Vanessa does it as well, and even more than Becki.

In my own estimate, communication in marriage is like two people firing ancient muskets at one another. Even at close range, targets are missed altogether, and much noise is made in the process.

Becki, as I said above, speaks of indirect objects constantly.

“I’m going to the thing with her and I need to take care of that before I go there,” she will say, cryptic as ever. Apparently C. S. Lewis was familiar with this phenomenon as well.

In the final installment in Lewis’s underappreciated Space Trilogy, one of his characters says,”‘The cardinal difficulty,’ said MacPhee, ‘in collaboration between the sexes is that women speak a language without nouns. If two men are doing a bit of work, one will say to the other, ‘Put this bowl inside the bigger bowl which you’ll find on the top shelf of the green cupboard.’ The female for this is, ‘Put that in the other one in there.’ And then if you ask them, ‘in where?’ they say, ‘in there, of course.’ There is consequently a phatic hiatus.'” I am glad I am not the only man to recognize the existence of this mysterious code-speak.

In the end, marriage is a war, a choice, a mistake, and a blunderous beauty. When Becki and I made our vows, we knew things would get messy. But making a mess together is something children enjoy very much, and in the end being children in God’s sandbox is a most enjoyable endeavor indeed.