Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Sam.
And today we’re asking what’s the craic about..
Marriage. Okay. So, big topic. We’re gonna think about what is marriage, elemental question. What should/got be included in the ceremony? What makes a good marriage? What problems there can be in marriage? And what advice or help we might take from other sources on marriage. So, but first of all, Gary’s here with me today. Welcome, Gary.
Please tell us more about you.
Okay. Well, I am a long-time Novosibirsk person now. I’m from the state of Ohio in the United States. And I was an English major in college, I say college, university. That was a long time ago. I worked in business for 10 years – my parents had a music business.
I then… I was on kind of a spiritual search for a long time and I became a Christian when I was 26 years old. And that kind of changed the course of my life. And because of that, that’s finally why a guy like me would be here in Novosibirsk. Which would be unusual place for…
So I want to ask you – why Novosibirsk?
Well, I came to Russia kinda long ago now, I came in mid 90s…
Yeah and before that I was a pastor of a church, a Baptist church in my home state of Ohio, in a small town, not a big city, probably a suburb of a big city. But I became a pastor of a small church in a small town midway between Cleveland, my home city, and Columbus, the capital of the state.
And I was a pastor because I believed that’s what God wanted me to do. And in the course of that time, at the beginning of the 90s of course – stories familiar right from local perspective.. At the beginning of the 90s the Soviet union had come to an end and with that a kind of atheistic monopoly of the government over people’s conscience.
What they could or could not believe. People were now free to believe in God or not. To read the Bible which really couldn’t do during the Soviet union freely. And that hadn’t been a case for a long time, so for Christians in the United States
and not just the United States but about everywhere it seemed like an opportunity to help bring the message of God, the gospel we call it, Евангелие in Russian, you know. So that people would have the opportunity here, that we had had all this time in the United States.
But that didn’t mean that I shouldn’t have a part in that, right? That was already… had my place and so forth, but I was willing to do that, or thought that I was willing anyway. And at a certain point in 1994, which is now 25 years this year.
I believed that God was indicating to me that he wanted me to be part of helping to bring that message, that’s in the Bible, to Russian people. So I surrendered, I surrendered to God. In Russian that would be maybe ‘отдать себя Богу’, to give yourself to God.
I trust that you spoke that correctly.
Well I hope I did. If not then listeners will know, but… We use the word surrender, but I wasn’t fighting God, I didn’t want to. But we use the word. And there’s more to say there, but…
There’s a lot to say there.
Yeah, there’s a lot to say there, but I can’t…
And there’s a lot I can ask you, but…
But I came to Russia in 1995 and I spent a year in Magadan, sunny Magadan. It’s a local joke here, Soviet joke. I taught English at pedagogical University there and in 1996 I moved to Novosibirsk. And I shared my faith with people and some people believed,
accepted what the Bible was saying and were pleased to want to meet together. And continued to learn, continued to grow in these things, and so I’ve been helping with that ever since. And so...
They’re still meeting and that’s what I came to do, to start a church. The church not building, right, there’s plenty of buildings, but the people, believers, yes. And that’s why. And so it would be that Russia by the will of God, and Novosibirsk trust, by the will of God, it could be somewhere else. But here, because I think that’s what God wants me to do.
Did you… Did you lose your hair before or after you came to Novosibirsk?
I was a gradual… Sam, that is a very flattering question. I know you’re trying to flatter me and all…
I see the issue there. Yeah. I was maybe about where you were, but I was covering the… I wasn’t revealing the evidence as you say.
I have a joke, if you could call it that. That my hair’s fine, I’m just taller than it, you know.
Yes. I look at it like this – I’m not losing my hair, I’m gaining my forehead.
That’s positive, the glass is half-full.
Anyway, it’s not a problem. I’ve been told that it’s… Although even if that doesn’t look good on me, I’ve been told that it’s… as a man, it’s not a problem.
I don’t think anybody cares.
Yeah, no one cares. My wife doesn’t care I mean.
That’s sort of important, yes. Right, I’m glad.
So that’s the most important. And my mom doesn’t care of course. So our topic today is marriage. Do you have an opinion on marriage? What is it?
Well, a lot of what I am… We’re gonna talk about some things and my viewpoint, my personal viewpoint is we would say informed by or shaped by the Bible, so I don’t even… Somebody thinks that I’m not even sure what I think myself, but...
exactly, because I’ve accepted what the Bible says about a lot of things, including about marriage. So what is marriage? The Bible talks about it, it’s in the early pages of the Bible when God created the first man and the first woman and he brought the woman to the man, and they became one flesh. So they were…
Yeah, can you break that down a little bit?
Yeah. Well they were created by God to serve God together basically. And of course there would be future generation and this would also be the first family.
And so the woman was given to the man, made from the man actually. And then given to the man. And they together would become one flesh. A union.
Unity. A union that would be between them. And I don’t know f you could say holy, but they call it holy, something that god…
Yeah and it’s something that God intended, there’s a plan, there’s a purpose.
And I guess I can add to that, it became a safe place for children.
So I recently got married to my wonderful wife. And I recently got married, only a few weeks ago. But, you know, in marriage, sometimes the key is no matter where you are, God is not part of it. God was not mentioned during the ceremony.
Often people now are… It’s quite popular now not to even get married in a church. Even in the UK it used to be, people would marry in a church or a chapel, and now… It’s still popular, but there are other alternatives for people to choose not to. Big heavy topic.
Sam, thank you for the big heavy topic here.
Should God be mentioned in a wedding ceremony? What do you think?
Well I think if… How to say.. I think if both parties, the husband and the wife, or the bride and the groom as we say, if they’re both Christians, then one can hope for or desire to honor God in… well, in everything, in their life together.
And this is the beginning of it, and so especially because it was God who ordained marriage meaning that he instituted that.
He set it up, yeah. He should be, maybe not just mentioned, but even… he’s designed for marriage, which is rather beautiful. Right? Because everything that God does is complete and beautiful. So that it would be suitable to honor him, but of course people are free in what they do and particularly if the people aren’t…
don’t share the same faith, of course, you have to find a compromise, agreeable to both. But ideally, in a Christian sense, yes, of course, God should be mentioned.
And, well, I’ll talk a bit more about that. So if you have two people, just two, who don’t believe in God at all, do you think… Is it okay if God isn’t mentioned during their marriage? Is it a problem? Should God be included?
Well I should think if they don’t believe in God, there.. I wouldn’t expect people who don’t believe in God to suddenly, just because it’s the ceremony to mention God. That would be kind of wrong, and I really wouldn’t want to.
Yeah that would be hypocritical.
So it’s better for them… So my wife and I actually are Christians and I felt a little bit unusual, strange, uncomfortable with the idea that God wasn’t mentioned, because for me, since I was born and I was taught about marriage and God and reading the Bible.
And I understood that it was a promise not just between us and the state, but also, more importantly, between us and God. And so when we had our registration and everything was normal, and that was great, no problems, I also, my wife and I also prayed together and said to God this is our promise.
One to another, and also it’s before you, it’s to you. Because how I feel about it is that our promises in front of God, before God, and it’s God that will help us to keep the marriage. So that’s how I felt about it.
We had the kind of two ceremonies in that sense, in that respect. Something a little bit lighter, but still on marriage. Can a couple get married too early in life?
I would say that, probably experience will show, that there is such a thing as getting married too early in life, yes.
It’s not my problem, right.
It’s not too many people’s problem anymore.
It’s almost the opposite problem, too late. They marry just later than would be ideal. But yeah, there is such a thing that people aren’t maybe mature enough for the responsibility to understand.
That’s why it took me this long to get married. It took me a long time.
Just recently changed, turned 36. So I’m a little… I guess it’s popular enough now, 30s, for people to get married. Or I know it’s popular enough for people to get married in their 30s, so.. But whether or not it’s too late, I don’t know.
I don’t know. Ideally I don’t think it’s…
I think it wasn’t too early for me.
I think people are nowadays, people just wait wait wait wait and wait wait wait, and I’m not sure what purpose that’s serving except that everybody becomes more and more individual and maybe more difficult to kinda grow together.
So when you’re younger you can kinda grow together more easily than if you’re waiting and waiting and waiting and there’s gotta be a career and everyone’s got their own ambitions and you have two leaders because they’ve been leading their own separate lives for too long.
That makes it more difficult, whereas, you know, maybe the generation before, maybe my parents, people got married at maybe 23 or something like that, not sure about yours.
Which means they grew up together. And their whole life they were married and over 60 years. And before my dad finally passed. There’s something healthier, more natural about that. You know, there’s nothing sinful about waiting, nothing wrong about waiting, but it does tend to make things I think more difficult in some ways.
Alright. Sure, sure. So, I guess, what I can take away from what you’re saying is actually maybe later is worse. It could create more problems. Not worse, but it could create more problems.
So, a little bit more. What problems can arise in marriages? Because unfortunately nowadays a lot of marriages end in divorce. What problems can arise in marriages? That may or may not lead to divorce? Problems anyway.
Well all different kinds of problems. The common problem is money problems, right. Quite difficult to put the overall pressure on relationships.
Absolutely. And I guess if you’re a little bit older and you’re used to spending your own money, it can also…
Just the whole compromise and give and take in a relationship, that’s also another problem. Because again, there are two people, there are two individuals and just the whole process getting adjusted to each other to the commitment that’s involved into a relationship. They’re not just living together anymore like people do now I’m afraid.
Takes a bit of practice I think.
Now, we’re sorta following this theme of problems. How can children be affected by divorce?
Well you know, I don’t think anybody goes into marriage intending to get divorced, right? If you think you would get divorced, you wouldn’t get married.
And so divorce in any case is really not what anybody wants. And it’s of course, it arises out of tensions between two people, their difficulty of living together, whatever, financial problems, you know. Disagreements of different sorts.
And so for children to be in an environment with divorce, it obviously makes the home more problematic for the children in any case.
To get back to what we were saying, the marriage was set up by God, so it’s kinda have a safe place for children. And if that breaks apart, the child is affected.
And actually I’m asking this question, but I have a good friend who was seriously affected by divorce, and it caused him and it’s still causing him problems as an adult. Emotional problems.
Yeah, he grew up in a home with divorce.
And I think he has a great relationship with his mom, but his relationship with his dad has been bad and I don’t know the details, but it has seriously affected…
It is a real problem for him and I’m sure for many other kids and maybe… Based on what I’ve seen in the media, what I’ve heard on the topic, children can sometimes blame themselves, it’s my fault.
It is strange, but I suppose in their shoes I’d do the same.
I know it’s difficult for children. But it doesn’t mean if divorce happens, there’s a way forward with them.
Which leads me to my next question. In your opinion, is divorce always a bad thing?
Well, you know, no one would say that divorce is a good thing particularly.
What is the alternative? And in certain cases, abusive, there’s abuse, you know, if the man is beating his wife or whatever, there is really not a reason for the woman to put up with that.
You know, for her own sake, for the children’s sake. So there would be, you know, biblically, adultery is…
Can you explain that word?
Yeah, adultery is in Russian it’s прелюбодеяние, it’s when a married person has physical relations with someone other than their husband or their wife.
So they’re breaking the promise.
Yes, breaking the promise, yeah. And that’s a damaging thing, and there isn’t allowance in the Bible for divorce. So there are certain situations where divorce is practically maybe better than remaining in a really destructive kind of..
When things get really bad, there’s a basis that, you know what we’re talking… But the ideal is the kind of a union that really God designed marriage for. Right? And if that is, you know, violated by violence or by sexual wrongdoing, then, depending on circumstances, there can be circumstances in which divorce would be, you know, would be possible.
We’re getting heavy on the topic. When, if ever, should a person remarry? And so, if a person has got divorced, when is the right time, or is there a right time, or is it okay, in your opinion, for that person to remarry? What do you think?
Well, again, this is following Bible here. As I understand it, today, again, the perfect plan of God is for the man and the woman to remain together till death.
Yeah. That’s right. Which is a vey beautiful set of promises, right? And so, if the divorce occurs and there is an allowance I believe in the new testament for a person to remarry, and again, not to go into too much detail, for a Christian to remarry.
And talking about what not Christians do, then they’re sort of following their own rules, right? They haven’t decided in their life to commit themselves, to follow God’s way, they’re following their own way, as they judge it, right?
And that’s gonna include whatever they do, but if the couple are Christian, or one of the people are Christian, there are certain conditions when a person can remarry, so it’s not impossible to remarry. It’s difficult, Christians disagree about it.
Yeah, I’ve heard about that. Different abuse and…
All about interpretation.
And it’s the practices. God is pretty practical. And his final word is if he realizes that a person really needs to be married, just kind of almost in a physical sense, right, then they should remarry because if they don’t, then they will then find someone who they get physically involved with, and do wrong.
Which in Russian is called блуд, which is another.. Which is fornication in English, it’s a very old-fashioned word, but it’s… And so rather than have that happen, which then there’s an allowance for people to remarry, turn into another question.
So we’ve learned a little bit from that. Going out from the darkness into lighter…
Inspirational marriages – do you know any? That inspire you or have inspired you? I didn’t ask whether or not you’re married.
Yeah, I’ve never been married, so there’s no reason in my faith that I couldn’t be.
It’s not that you felt that was wrong, you just didn’t get married.
I just didn’t get married. Inspirational marriages… I’ve seen good marriages, I’ve seen very good marriages, and I think maybe because I’m not married myself, then I wouldn’t say anyone’s particularly inspirational.
They didn’t inspire me to get married in the first thing. Right?
They needed to work harder.
That’s right. They weren’t quite inspirational enough. They were good, but not inspirational. How about you? Have you seen inspirational marriages?
I can talk about my mom and dad.
That’s a good ne to have as inspirational marriage.
Now I have to get my calculator to calculate how long they’ve been together. I mean my older brother, if I can remember how old he is. Oh, thirty… poor Jason, if you’re listening, 39 this year I believe. He will crack me if I’m wrong.
But.. So my parents have been married for 38 years. Time flies. It’s unbelievable. I’m still feeling like I’m a little boy, you know. Which I guess you’d understand.
Well, I can remember. I don’t get a feeling like I’m a little boy anymore.
I mean I’m 36 and it feels like I was a little boy yesterday. I don’t call myself old, but I do feel like I’m going that direction.
You are. I don’t wanna shelter you from this, but you are, you are.
Before I know it, I’ll be… They’re together for about 38 years. They’ve been together tough times, you know, tough times with the three boys. And I was difficult because I ran away from home once.
And the police thought that it was a problem at home and, you know, it was very tough for my parents to imagine that kind of scrutiny. I mean, it was totally innocent why I ran away from home. Didn’t do my homework and stuff, at school, and now I teach at a school.
But they stuck together through thick and thin. My dad gave me advice before I got married, he said ‘just remember one phrase – yes, dear’. And that’s pretty much. I think it’s good advice.
I heard that. This doesn’t fall into inspirational category, but I heard an interview with… There’s a guy called Seinfeld, he’s a comedian in the United States. He shouldn’t be on the same half an hour audio that we’ve been talking about.
His thing is – he’s joking obviously, but it’s also practical. He’s just said, you know, I don’t have to be right. He just lets his wife to be right all the time. And it works! And there’s a tendency, you know, especially right people love to be right, and depending on your certain attitudes, sometimes the man feels like he’s gotta show that he’s right and so forth.
There’s something more at stake here than just the immediate. And if you decide you don’t have to be right, then of course now let’s just shifts gears and go a little heavier here. But if you feel like, if you want things to go well, then if you just decided to serve the other person, which isn’t typical, служить, to serve the other person, that means that you put their needs above your own. Right?
You’re all eager just to be the center of our own universe, and we’ve lived, you know, 36 years in your case, completely being the center of everything. And now actually you got this wife who’s right there at the center with you, and maybe she’s before you if your attitude towards her is right.
She has to be the priority.
And you of course should be for her also. And if both can maintain that same attitude then, rather than who’s going to be the boss here, than who’s going to be right, then if you serve one another, that’s what really the love is in practice. Right?
Because the feelings that cause you to get married, they may fade, right? But the idea of serving the other person, and loving the other person in what you do, regardless of how you feel, any given day or any given year. That doesn’t change, right? And that’s the basis for things being successful long-term.
Great. It’s good advice. I judge not having the experience yet. And every day I try to…
It’s true in long-term relationships.
I try to serve. It’s love as well, it’s not simply duty. I do love Nastya. I love you! If she’s listening. She probably will. And my mom listens too actually to the podcast. My mom says they’re great, those podcasts.
And I should say that my mom also gave me advice a long time ago about marriage. She said that it’s friendship. If you’re looking for a wife, you should first have a friend who becomes a wife. She advised that it first starts as a friendship and then goes into something deeper and more meaningful than a friendship.
Which, for my wife and I, happened. We started, of course, we started as friends and then very quickly became into deeper relationship. So, that was the craic about marriage. We talked about some deep stuff. What is marriage? Where did it come from? Should God be included in it or not?
What kind of problems people can have, unfortunately, in their marriages? What kind of problems they can create for the children involved? But then we ended up on a lighter note, a bit on advice, a bit of inspiration for those of us who are married. Thank you very much. That was the craic about marriage.