Before I was married I used to lead a Bible study in my parish that brought together mainly young adults. As the resident guy with the Theology degree, I became the study leader, leading the discussion and doing the research into what we were reading at the time. I enjoyed it immensely, because it was a great social gathering (we always went for food and drink at Salem Beer Works afterward) as much as a wonderful intellectual and spiritual stimulation. I loved exercising those theology muscles again.
(The memory of the Bible study is also near and dear to my heart because it’s where I truly started the courtship of Melanie. After our near-disastrous beginning, she started coming to Bible study with her roommate and she saw I wasn’t just an impetuous cad.)
We haven’t had anything like the Bible study in a long time. After we and our friends started getting married and having kids, getting a free night to have people over the house became more and more difficult. Then we had to up and move to the South Shore of Boston, at least an hour away from our old place (at best). I’ve been attending the Men’s Group in our parish, but it’s not the same.
However, Melanie just started something new, which brings back the old theological joy, while also making me appreciate all over again what a smart, intellectual woman I married. Someone (I forget who, sorry) linked to 2006 academic article by Dr. Scott Hahn published in the journal “Letter & Spirit”. It was entitled “The Authority of Mystery: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI” (PDF). It looked intriguing so I downloaded it to my iPad, but I was having the hardest time reading it. Maybe it’s the lack of hard theological reading lately or just the many nights of sleep interrupted by wakeful children, but I couldn’t grasp it.
However, when I mentioned this, Melanie asked me to start reading it aloud to her. So I did as she cooked and cleaned in the kitchen, with punctuations from children seeking a drink or something. And what do you know? It worked. Suddenly I was grasping it. Not only that, but we start discussing it as we went, digging into the meaning, applying to our own situations or more broadly. As if by magic, we were back in our dating days, when we’d have long intellectual discussions while sitting in my car in front of Melanie’s house, as I was dropping her off from a date. Or standing by the door of my house after Bible study, her hand on the doorknob, for two hours.
A large part of our mutual attraction was indeed the intellectual curiosity and capacity of the other, but as we settled into the routine of family life, we seemed to have let that slide somewhat.
(While I’m shallow enough to admit that Melanie’s good looks were an equal part of my attraction to her, I’m also lucky that when Melanie considered me, looks were not as important as intellect.)
I’m reminded again what a blessing it is to have a wife with whom I share not just so many interests, but whose differences from me are also intriguing. I’m not a big poetry or “literature” fan (I like books just fine, but serious English Lit eludes me), but with Melanie I can begin to appreciate it. Likewise, Melanie has never been big on politics or science, but she likes to talk with me about them. And when it comes to faith and theology, that is a shared love we dig deep in together.
Some of the best husband-wife couples I know include two great intellects in them, which seems to spur both on to greater accomplishments. I’m thinking of Scot and Kimberly Hahn for one and Phil and Leila Lawler for another. Certainly, the life of the mind is a key element to a happy marriage, I think.