Marriage: Great Risk, Great Reward It's not in what you get, but what you give. And give up.

Marriage is hard.

If you’re soon to be wed and you hear those words, you eschew them as the trite acrimony of bitter people. That will never be true for us, you say to yourself, sure of the truth of your conviction.

Without fail, you discover that the union of two lives into one is never smooth, easy, care-free, or any other blissful thought we hold before marriage.

I love my wife. I love her more than anyone ever. (Sorry, Mom…) She is so special to me, everything about her. It is truly difficult for me to imagine my life without her. I love her laugh, her smell, her eyes, her joy; her long, beautiful hair, her passion—be prepared for fiery discussion if you hit upon one of her passionate topics, of which there are many—and I love her gentle spirit maybe most of all.

But some days are so hard! So hard. When two people share life, it is not a 50/50 split. In marriage, the math doesn’t make sense. It’s one hundred percent, each way. Well, that’s hard to do! (It doesn’t “make sense”, remember?) But it’s the only way it works.

With that math, you are completely in the hands of another. That is the greatest risk of marriage. You are 100% vulnerable. All of you, with none in reserve. In that equation, you are giving up control. To work well, a marriage requires both spouses to contribute their all—100%—to the other.

Thus, success depends as much on your spouse as it does on you.

That is the great risk.

And, that is the great reward.

If marital success could be achieved by your own efforts (i.e. the things you have control of) then it would stand to reason that many more marriages would succeed. Why not “try” to have a great marriage, if all it takes it to “try harder”. That is obviously not the case, and most would agree, doesn’t make sense. Even if you are giving your all—and, likely, that’s an exaggeration of your own ego, more than a factual truth—your marriage could be a shambles if your spouse is not also fully in.

The risk, then, is entering into to this life-long commitment, knowing that you are actually giving up control. You can not produce a great marriage simply by your own efforts.


The reward of giving yourself fully to another, whom you are then trusting to do the same is, even in concept, astounding. The joy in that journey is incredible. To share all of life’s moments—euphoric, crushing, and in between—with another, as one…

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33 NLT

That quote is so often misused. It is not to require submission, or assign dominance. In the paragraphs before that one, Paul explains how a wife respecting her husband is like the church submitting to Jesus’ lead—in essence, trusting—and how the husband’s love is to be like Christ, who died for his bride (the church).

Both husband and wife are giving up themselves for the other.

I like how Paul refers to marriage as “a great mystery”. It is mysterious. How can two individual lives become one? There are still two individuals, but there is one new creation. A mystery.

We can have a great marriage. But the greatness comes—as in all of our relationships in life—by humble submission to one another. Giving up control, placing trust in the other, and enjoying the fruits of that rich soil.

[agree] wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:2-4

The great reward of marriage comes not from what you get, but what you give. And also what you give up.

DOMA Arigato

Defense of Marriage Act, section 3 ruled unconstitutionalJust about a week ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) was in the news for two rulings in regards to same-sex marriages. One was specific to California (Proposition 8), and I won’t address that here, but the first was regarding a case challenging the constitutionality of section three (§3) of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In a 5-4 decision, the SCOTUS ruled that §3 of DOMA was indeed unconstitutional, based on the protections guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. (The Full Faith and Credit clause.)

And so, what began as a not very good idea continues to crumble.


In 1996, Congress rushed through (with great approval, based on the votes) the Defense of Marriage Act. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton—who at that time personally, publicly opposed gay marriage, in addition to his belief that it should not be sanctioned by the Federal government—and ever since then, DOMA has been challenged by one court case after another, slowly eroding its frail constitutional structure.

And really, I agree with this ruling.

I do not agree with same-sex marriage. I think God was pretty clear (stick with me here) speaking strictly anatomically, that there is a proper “match” between a man and a woman. The physical is obvious. And then there is the story of Adam & Eve: when God made a partner for Adam, he made Eve. (Not “Steve”.. haha!! Good one!!!) 🙂

And, the other obvious reason for a marriage to be between one man and one woman for life is procreation. You can’t actually have kids without both sexes being involved. Are you with me?

Now, I know there are seemingly a billion nuances to this. There’s one side yelling, “Homosexuality is a SIN! God hates fags!!!” And then the other side—properly and rightly offended—begins to hate the God whom these “Righteous Ones” claim to represent. And the former dig deep into the scriptures to sling judgmental condemnations straight from the Mouth of God upon these forlorn, wayward, despicable sinners! (Meanwhile ignoring their own filthy rags, and/or logs in their eyes, etc.)

The debate about what is right and what is wrong will never, ever get us anywhere.

So, if we’re arguing from the Bible, let’s take a look at Jesus. He is the final, fullest revelation of the Father, right? So, Jesus must have said plenty of times that he hated homosexuality (and then, it stands to reason, he hated homosexuals too, right?)—AND he hated, opposed, campaigned against gay marriage. Of course.


But… I don’t think Jesus ever addressed homosexuality? Weird.

Does that mean it is not a “sin”? No. Does it mean it’s “right”? Still, no. (In fact, logically you can’t presume something is “right” from the absence of a declaration of it being “wrong”, can you?)

Liberty is Paramount

What I think it does show us is the first way that we can deal with this issue.

Back off. Love people. “He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

We are not the police of anyone. (Unless of course you are a police officer, and then, well, we thank you for your service.)

It’s not my job to tell you—or as is the pattern of some—to make you do what I think you should do. If you want to marry someone who has the same body parts as you, well, I personally can not “sanction” that, but, I do sanction your right to choose differently than me.

And I expect you to do the same for me.

This is the crux of the whole thing for me: Liberty. It’s not a moral issue, though of course underneath the minutia of all these cases, and legal and political battles it has moral implications.

It’s an issue of liberty. And not only that of the people wanting to legalize same-sex unions.

I may strongly disagree with you, but inherent in my understanding of liberty is your liberty. You are entitled to live your life however you please, so long as no one else is hurt (without their full, willing consent) in the process. We are all guaranteed these inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Even if it’s “wrong”, or even if it might hurt us. (Larger portions at fast food restaurants? Smoking? Drinking? Marijuana? Driving without seat belts? Riding bikes without helmets?)

We have become a people who no longer celebrate diversity, and we are increasing the pace toward total control over everyone’s lives.

Equality? Or Victory?

The cry from those who want to legalize same-sex marriages at the Federal level—thus requiring all States to abide by this legal status, whether or not they sanction such unions—is that of “equal rights”. But what is happening is really just an attempt to gain control, and force others to do what you think they should do. One group telling another how they can and will act. Bakeries have to make wedding cakes, and churches will be forced to perform same-sex marriages1.

The bottom line is: if you want freedom, then you must also give freedom.

You can have freedom, and the consequences of freedom, and you must concurrently and equally allow others to think and live differently than you. There are obviously places where these freedoms intersect, and at that point a society must decide how to resolve such disputes. That is what our Constitution (and the government it created) allow for.

I am opposed to gay marriage. But I am even more opposed to legislating any bit of this. In fact, I’m all for unlegislating marriage altogether. I love being married to Jen—it’s maybe the most important piece of who I am after being a child of God. Do I care that New York State “recognizes” my marriage? Not really at all.

Much of this fight is because of tax penalties (including the case that brought about last Wednesday’s ruling) and legalization of immigrants, and other financial/taxation concerns. So drop them, as much as possible. Don’t tax money bequeathed to a loved one. Don’t provide financial benefits to married couples.2

Just leave me be.

Legislating Morality

I agree with the Supreme Court that defining marriage is unconstitutional, but not because it violates the constitution as much as because the federal government has no place defining marriage in the first place. Traditional marriage, or same-sex marriage, or multiple concurrent marriages, or polygamy, etc, etc.

Some seem to see government as the protector of morality, but is that really our government’s role? I heard a statement in regards to this subject on a podcast just this morning:

“It’s the government’s job to treat [marriage with] equal[ity], it’s not the government’s job to make moral choices for people.”3

Spot on.

Stop thinking that you can pass laws and make people into what you want them to be.

Laws do not shape people’s minds and hearts. Education, the Holy Spirit, and in general, a caring instructor will do that. (As well as common sense and life experience; those can be the best teachers sometimes.)

You can’t say “Gay marriage is legal and approved!” and change people’s beliefs by that statement. Nor do we conform people to “right thinking” by saying, “Gay marriage is abhorrent and banned!!!”

It just doesn’t work that way. The morality of our laws and government reflect who we are, the do not make us who we are. In addition, our laws are about blind justice (not preferential prejudice) and equality, for all.

God made us free. Our Founders recognized that. We are born with the right to choose, and our government is We the People, protecting each other’s inalienable rights. I’m still going to disagree on the specifics regarding gay marriage, but that’s my inalienable right. And yours.

And that is what we most need to protect here.

It’s not “hate” to say that homosexuality is a sin. (Nor is it usually very helpful, in a public setting.) It is encroaching on freedom to say that someone can’t think that, or even express that.

(Again, it may not be helpful, but let truth be truth. If you say homosexuality is not a choice, but as natural as different skin or hair colors, then let that be true. Don’t force it on someone who strongly disagrees.)

But that’s where we fall sadly short. We are supposed to be the Land of the Free, but we really want to be free to make other people like me.

How sad. We’re meant to be more.

Love mercy, do justly, walk humbly with your God

So let’s be. Love your neighbor—whatever they believe. Find common ground, even if there’s barely any to be found. Stop trying to make other people think like you do!

And most of all, pray. Not for God to change other people, but so your eyes will be opened to what he is doing. First in you, and then around you.

I think it’s good that DOMA is being questioned. DOMA arigato, SCOTUS. Hopefully that means there is a semblance of constitutuional liberty still present in our bloated, overreaching federal government.

And now we proceed with liberty our goal. And justice for all.

True justice, not petty political victory.

May God help us as we do.


  1. Note, I realize this is in Denmark, but this mentality is being championed here in the US. When we make the gay view the “right” view, the same errors in how we treat each other will inevitably be carried out, just in the reverse.
  2. I’m sure there is much more here than I even have time to consider, but the general principle makes sense to me. Less government is better government!
  3. Wayne Jacobsen, The God Journey Podcast – Sexuality & Transformation (6/28/13)


Yesterday was not a great day. There was not any one particular reason for it being “not great”; or maybe there are too many to bother with detailed listing.

After all the children were in their beds, I grabbed a book and collapsed in my own bed, allowing the story to distract my mind and heart from all it had toiled over throughout the day.

Not too much later, Jen arrived in our room and asked how I was doing. We talked a bit (which I usually do love) and she shortly thereafter climbed into bed (clumb? clambed?) with me and just gently placed her arm on my shoulder and back, tenderly caressing while she read her own book.

In those moments, and even throughout the day as Jen expressed her concern for me, I was so well aware of how much I love her, and how much I love our life together.

I am so thankful for my Jen.


Now, please don’t get me wrong… our life is full of hurt, and disappointment, and misunderstandings, and brokenness, and even pride and selfishness and uglinesses of that sort. Jen is not perfect. Nor am I.

But in the midst of a day with six children to care for, much less of their father helping, and the rest of life to deal with, Jen repeatedly took time to care for me.

You may not realize this, but, being the home schooling mom (or, just… the mom!) to six young people is what some could rightly call and “arduous task”. Not that it’s bad, nor that she’d choose to do anything other than that. But, it’s plenty taxing.

greg-jen-thenSo many long years ago, I got to know this beautiful young woman named Jen, and I loved being with her. The sweetness and depth of her spirit, the glow of her smile, the rich sounds of her frequent laughter, and even then, feeling like she cared about me. She’s quite a good listener. Always has been.

Life has thrown its punches at us, at her. And the amazing thing is, even though we can’t even really count the number of knockdowns anymore, she just keeps getting back up; she keeps pressing on.

I love her. I just wanted to say that here, out loud.

We’ve known each other for a little over twenty years. We’ll be married for sixteen of those this coming October. Not being omniscient, I can’t know how many more we’ll get to enjoy together—maybe fifty, like my aunt and uncle are now celebrating… or sixty-seven like my grandparents celebrated in April? 100?—but however many it may be, I am so glad that God decided to bring Jen to me.

And he brought her to the man. —Genesis 2:22

I love you, Jen.

Sad Things

There are a few things in life that seem to really get to me emotionally any time I hear of them. Divorce is one, especially involving people we know. It just breaks my heart, every time. Then any injustice involving kids… that’s another. (Don’t think that’s at all unique to me, think that’s built into nearly every human being, especially we who are parents.)

The other one though is suicide. I heard this story on the top-of-the-hour radio news, and just immediately felt sad. I’m really not sure what it is, but my heart instantly breaks for the person who felt that was the only remaining course of action. I’m not sure how you get there, but as I said, it just makes me overflow with compassion for them.

I’m not sure why these three things affect me so much, but they do. Perhaps I could be a helpful, listening ear to people facing such tragedies? Perhaps.

Whoever you are reading this right now, I hope they are far away from you.

Who You Know

I was thinking tonight about how things have happened in my life. I got to chat briefly with a long-time, good friend – Adam – whom I do not get to really share life with any more. He and his family live in another area of the country, and aside from the occasional conversation over electronic mediums, and the even more occasional (meaning, almost never) in-person conversations, our friendship is mostly something from our past.

We can always pick it up again, whenever we strike up those conversations. But with such distance geographically, and chronologically, our friendship is definitely different than it was “back in the day”. (When I would say he was probably my closest friend.)

What is so interesting though – perhaps only because I’m thinking these things after two in the morning? – is how when you look back on life, it’s so cool to see how all things do work together for good. God crosses paths at just the right times. Somehow, reminiscing about the good ol’ days with my friend Adam reminded me that his friendship with Jen (and the words he spoke when he introduced the two of us) eventually brought five super-awesome people into the world.

Not directly, of course. Not even intentionally. But it happened. Adam knew Jen, and thought she was awesome. He said, “Jen’s the kind of girl you could marry,” meaning the general you, but … truer words he never spake. 🙂 Now eighteen and a half years later… I can’t imagine my life without Jen, and God has given us five tiny people to love and to be Dad & Mom to. Crazy.

That’s the other thing. Thanks to my friendship with Adam, I met Jen. Many years later, we married, and God added to our family… and not just “some people” but specifically, Ian, Alex, Kirsten, Julia, and Emma. Those are the specific people that God created – from me and Jen – and he wanted us to be the ones who were Mom & Dad to them. Sometimes that blows me away. Other times it just makes me smile. How cool that God set it up that way. He is the giver of life, and he has given these specific lives to our care, and us to them. So cool.

So just remember tonight (or, likely, this morning or later) that you are who you are supposed to be. All your strengths, and all your weaknesses. You are also in the right place, and in the right relationships, and perhaps you are even the Mom or Dad you are supposed to be. That doesn’t mean complacency about destructive behavior or relationships. It does mean that when you start to doubt your worth, or your impact… it’s time to remember that YOU are the perfect you.

Who knows what will be credited to you eighteen and a half years from now?


GrandpaMy grandpa turned 85 years old on Sunday. I called and got to chat with him just a little. Had a fun birthday planned with his family (my mom & dad, aunt & uncle, and a couple others) and told me he doesn’t think 85 is that old.

But it is.

It’s odd, but all I’ve been thinking when I think about him, or see the photos my dad sent along from the party is that his time here with us is probably pretty short. I know, it could be 10 or 15 years, which really is a good long time to enjoy, but it’s a pretty short time, too.

Life passes too quickly.

Today is the 11th anniversary of the day that Jen and I chose to marry. Eleven years. That’s a pretty long time. Today is also the 14th wedding anniversary of some friends of ours. That’s a long time. My dad is celebrating his 40th high school reunion this year. A friend celebrated his 50th not long ago. Jen’s parents celebrated 50 years of marriage a couple weeks ago.

Time passes. It just keeps moving on. And for some reason I am noticing that right now.

I am noticing that Grandpa may not be around much longer, and that makes me want to spend more time with him. I am noticing that Ian is not a little boy anymore. He’s going to turn 10 in a few months. He’s getting older, and experiencing life as Ian Campbell, not just our child. And that makes me want to spend more time with him.

What I am noticing – and have learned in my 33 years of life – is that spending time with people is the most important thing. I have learned also that all things in life must be balanced, but when all is finished, the most important thing is to just love and be loved. (As is evidenced by my just wanting to spend time with the people who are getting older faster than I want them to.)

The hope of those of us who live with Jesus is that the “end” that we are all rushing toward is not really an end at all, but a beginning. That life only changes – and for the better – when we reach the threshold between this life and the next. Grandpa has been a rough character at many times in my life, but he’s my grandpa, and I love him, and sometimes I imagine what it will be like when we both – in our new bodies and complete selves – can, along with the other Redeemed, enjoy the eternal “now” of full life with Jesus. (Now we see darkly…)

I can’t know what happens after we die. The Bible is full of hopeful language of resurrection and paradise and life with no more badness. And life with people we love here. No more curse, no more sin, no more death. Seems a good place to be.

We’re not there yet, but the older I get, the faster it seems we’re headed there.

Who knows, maybe we’ll be there sooner than I think? 🙂

Enjoy the time you have with those who are around you. Call up your grandpa and tell him you love him. Spend time with your son, or dad, or mom, or daughter, or spouse…

Today’s as good a time to do that.


We got back late tonight from quite a party. It was a gathering of many old friends – and some new – to celebrate a milestone. Unfortunately, it’s rather rare these days, and not just due to “natural” causes.

Jen’s parents will be celebrating fifty years of marriage on June 25th of this year. Fifty. Not being alive fifty years, which is strange enough. Fifty years of being married.

In a recent conversation, it was brought up that Jen’s mom has been driving a school bus for thirty years now. That’s a real long time to do that. But, when I put to use my excellent math skills, I deduced that my mother-in-law had been NOT driving a school bus for TWENTY years prior to that 30-year feat.

My mortgage will take me 30 years to pay off. I am just slightly past 30 years on the planet. 30 years is a long time.

And then there’s 50.

Congrats to my second mother and father. Fifty years of living life together, and loving people together. They are quite good at it. The room was filled with people who have been loved by Jim & Carolyn, and the air was filled with many stories from those previous 50 years. And from all appearances, there will be many more to come.

Jen & I have only eclipsed ten years of life as one. It feels like longer – in a very good way. I can’t remember not being married to Jen. But we’re only a fifth of the way to where her mom & dad are this month. Incredible.

Life passes quickly – Tim Russert was gone this week in a heartbeat – but sometimes we get to enjoy it for a good long time. It’s good to stop and look back at all that has been and celebrate the good gifts God has given us.

Driving home tonight, I just felt like telling my family that I love them. I love who we the Campbells are, and I love being the dad of this family.

Fifty years seems far off now, but I bet these days now will seem like “just yesterday” when we get there.

On we go.