Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cultural Differences

I meant to sleep in this morning but it was not to be.  By 5:00 it was all over as far as sleeping.  So, I got up and started a load of laundry, prepared a warm cup of coffee and sat down to watch "Mary, Mother of Jesus". It is a film from 1999 and seemed like a great pre-Christmas Day movie to watch.

(Mary and Joseph as portrayed in "Mary, Mother of Jesus")


As I am watching this movie I find myself wondering about Mary and Joseph and their relationship prior to their wedding.  This movie portrays them as very loving and tender toward each other as they plan to get married.  It is also possible that they barely even knew each other.  Either way, God was able to work with that marriage to provide parents to raise Jesus in a loving environment.

I met a lot of people this week. I've always been a person to whom others share personal information.  I'm not quite sure why but it has been true at least since I was about junior high age. This week I met two contrasting families.  In neither case did I ask the parents about the history of their marriage, they just volunteered information. Actually, the wives volunteered information.  In both cases the husbands were pretty quiet. One seemed cold and the other, just shy.

The first wife told me she and her husband had just had their wedding two weeks prior.  She made a little laughing sound and commented that they had three children together but wanted to be certain of their own relationship before marrying.  I was in a situation where I did not feel it was appropriate for me to comment.  She told me they waited so long because they felt it would reduce their risk of divorce. Then, she ASKED me, "Don't you agree?"  I kept my answer brief, something about statistics showing that couples living together before marriage actually have a higher divorce rate.  I was sorry that came out of my mouth. There was no point to it as they can't go back in time and do it differently anyway.  I stumbled along saying things about how the important thing is to work on having a healthy marriage now.

What I would have said to this couple BEFORE they had three children would be something about having a secure relationship prior to adding babies to it. A shaky relationship is a shaky foundation for children. Children are a big commitment and I certainly believe it works better if the parents are first committed to each other.  I doubt they would have listened anyway. We are from different cultures, even though we live in the same community.

The second couple had foreign names and the husband had a strong accent.  Making conversation, I just asked where they were from and I learned more than I'd expected.  The young mother was raised here in Wyoming but her father was from a middle Eastern country.  She simply said, "I had an arranged marriage." That came as quite a surprise! Her husband was pretty quiet but he seemed comfortable with her disclosure. She told me they did not meet until their wedding day!  I was fascinated and wanted to ask a lot of questions about that.  How did that work out? Were they frightened? Were they disappointed? How awkward did it feel? I asked none of those things only because it wasn't my place.

I didn't really spend an extensive amount of time getting to know either of them but my intuitive feeling was that the second couple seemed much more loving toward each other than the first. That may be a result of their individual personalities, their family culture or many other things.  All I know is the first couple seemed tense.  The husband actually seemed a bit angry and his new wife seemed to need a lot of reassurance.  I don't know how it would've been for her but for me I would've felt quite insecure all those years of waiting to be found deserving of a commitment. I know I jumped to the conclusion that it was her husband who dragged his feet to the altar. That is just how it felt to me as I spoke with them.

The second couple seemed to have a sweet relationship.  Do you know what I mean?  I caught them passing little looks and smiles between each other.  I'm telling you, it was hard for me to not badger them with questions.

Cultural differences are intriguing.  Of course some differences are seriously wrong, such as allowing the persecution of women and children.  Other cultural differences, though, might deserve our respect. No, I'm not advocating for arranged marriages but I am an advocate for commitment.

What are your thoughts on this?