Before we got married, my wife and I had to take a mandatory church marriage class. The Baptist church would not marry anyone without it.
The idea was: after eight weeks of rigorous marriage training, couples would receive an official certificate, trimmed in gold, with their names on it.
And this certificate would prove to the world, without a doubt, that couples were spiritually prepared to stand at an altar and combine health insurance policies.
Keep in mind, this certificate wasn’t a “marriage license.” This was a “Baptist pre-marriage class certificate,” from the back of the “official Baptist marriage workbook,” purchased for $24.99.
Within the Baptist tradition, you see, you can’t do anything without first obtaining a certificate and unanimous committee approval. Even Sunday greeters are required to attend a four-week class that teaches them to properly say: “Here’s your bulletin, sir.”
Thus, my future-wife and I arrived at the fellowship hall each week to participate in courses that prepared us for cohabitation.
These courses featured many important games which the workbook termed “marital building exercises.” Many of which were developed by professional marriage book authors—some of whom had been married to the same person for as long as three to four years.
One such exercise was the “Egg Test.”
In this game, the future-bride (Jamie) balances an egg on a spoon clenched between her teeth. She wears a blindfold and walks across a room.
The future-husband (me) stands on the opposite side of the room (over by the piano). He uses ONLY his words to guide his future-wife through an obstacle course made up entirely of folding chairs which represent the confusing Maze of Life.
On the chairs are Post-It notes, labeled with various day-to-day marriage problems like: “car trouble,” “bills,” “career,” “children,” “chapter 11 bankruptcy,” “sharing the covers.”
In this exercise, the woman stumbles over chairs, spoon held in her mouth. She is thusly forced to either trust her mate, or remove her blindfold and dog cuss him before his peers.
I realize that non-Baptists might think this game sounds ridiculous. But this exercise equips young couples with wisdom needed for facing the increasingly common threat of folding chairs.
Another exercise was the “Question Jar.”
In this little gem, we were given empty mayonnaise jars and slips of paper. We wrote personal questions on paper and dropped them in the jar.
Couples were encouraged to read questions to their mates in front of the class.
For example, one man asked his sweetheart: “Which country do you want to visit that’s NOT in America?”
You had to love this guy.
His fiancé smiled. “The Grand Canyon,” she said. “I always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon.”
They were perfect for each other.
Then another woman read a question: “Honey, how do you prefer your steaks? Rare, medium, or well-done?”
He responded with: “Medium-rare, darling.”
And this couple was then granted permission to marry and have as many kids as they wanted.
When Jamie, however, read a question, she did not ask how I wanted my New York strip. She asked:
“Just how many girlfriends came before me?”
Jared White, who sat next to me in class, bowed his head and whispered, “Give him strength, Lord.”
I am getting off track here. As of now, my wife and I have been married sixteen years. We are happy. And we do not balance eggs anymore unless absolutely necessary.
Still, marriage class was valuable. Mainly, because we laughed about the whole Egg Test thing until we almost peed ourselves. We’ve laughed a lot over the years.
I’ve always enjoyed making that woman laugh.
It was about ten years into our marriage that doctors found something in my wife’s breast. It was a truly bad day. We did what all couples probably do. We tried not to talk about it. We tried to live normal lives. But it doesn’t work like that.
At night we would lie in bed and hold each other. I remained awake, smelling her hair. I know that sounds strange, but her hair smells better than average hair.
After the months of waiting, tests, and worrying, the UAB doctor gave us good news. I cried in the exam room—right in front of the doc. What a day.
Anyway, today I was in the storage shed. There was a dusty box beside my workbench labeled: “books.” I opened it. I found a sixteen-year-old workbook.
It made me laugh. It made me sniff. In the back pages was a certificate with two names on it, trimmed in gold. Two names that do not sound right unless they are said together.
We passed the class, Jamie.
No eggs were harmed in the making of this column.
Sandi in FL. - September 8, 2018 6:41 am
Here’s to the next sixteen years for you and Jamie, then sixteen more years after that, followed by yet another sixteen! When is your anniversary?
Beth Reed - September 8, 2018 6:58 am
A wonderful story Sean… You and Jamie sound like you are perfect for one another. God Bless…. Beth Reed
Kelly - September 8, 2018 9:36 am
Happy Sixteen Years and many, many, many more!
Marilyn - September 8, 2018 11:40 am
What a great way to start my day – with a cup of coffee and laughter!
Connie Havard Ryland - September 8, 2018 11:46 am
Real love is a marvelous thing. I didn’t find it, but I believe in it. I love hearing about it. You make me smile every time you talk about Jamie. Love and hugs.
Karen - September 8, 2018 12:08 pm
I didn’t see that coming. I am glad to know that it is in the past, and you can look back and laugh. And be grateful to have her still. I love that you love her so much.
Pam Bishop - September 8, 2018 12:24 pm
Two names that do not sound right unless they are said together……I cant quit saying that Sean!
Jack Darnell - September 8, 2018 12:34 pm
Janie's Jottings - September 8, 2018 12:37 pm
Edna B. - September 8, 2018 12:46 pm
Sixteen years is something to be proud of. I wish you both many more wonderful years together. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.
Michael Guilday - September 8, 2018 12:55 pm
My first wife and I received a letter blessing our marriage from the Pope! We lasted three years. I chose a Methodist girl the second time and we’ve made it 37 years.
Travis - September 8, 2018 1:14 pm
Great read this early morning in Alexandria Bay NY. Alabama boy on a road trip, made me laugh?
Sandy Smith - September 8, 2018 1:32 pm
Catholic Church uses the same workbook now, I think….with a different cover tho….one that emphasizes “The Catholic Marriage” !
If only it were as easy as workbook exercises !
As I look back over 45 yrs with my workbook partner ! ❤
Loretta in Alabama - September 8, 2018 2:47 pm
I have been in the Baptist church almost 70 years and did not know about this course. I think my husband & I would have failed it, although we have passed the true marriage test of staying married for almost 50 years. Congratulations to you and Jamie.
Phillip Saunders - September 8, 2018 3:01 pm
Hi-larious! I searched the scriptures and can’t find any reference to the egg test or the question jar, not even in the Song of Solomon or the book of Ruth – maybe because folding chairs and mayonnaise jars had not been invented. Anyway, may God bless you and Jamie and your marriage – oh. yeah, and whoever dreamed up those tests.
Kathy G. - September 8, 2018 3:24 pm
The perfect combination os funny and sweet. ❤️?
Kathy - September 8, 2018 3:26 pm
Oops — combination OF…
Pat - September 8, 2018 3:36 pm
This is the funniest thing…love your friend whispering a prayer for your answer to how many girl friends before Jamie! All of it is hilarious! A great chuckle to start my day! Thanks!!!
Jakki - September 8, 2018 3:41 pm
So how many girlfriends was it and what would have been the cut off number for Jamie?
Frieda Borntrager - September 8, 2018 3:56 pm
Happy Anniversary! And many more…
Shelton Armour - September 8, 2018 5:10 pm
Marriage counseling classes are universally designed to be laughed at afterwards and for years after that.
Shelton Armour - September 8, 2018 5:12 pm
Happy Anniversary!! May you have many, many more. May there be no more scary moments.
Minnie Bourque - September 8, 2018 6:53 pm
Well, Sean, thanks a lot! I DID pee on myself while reading this epistle! Oh, my gosh, did it take me back to the local Baptist Church in Ward, Alabama where my grandparents lived and to the Holy Roly Church in Union Springs where my brother and I would hide under the window and listen to all the hollering and singing(??)! Oh, my what memories! I, myself, went to the First Untied Methodist Church….no book nor class required! Oh, this made my day! What memories you have evoked! I no longer live in Alabama, but it remains deep in my bones.Colorado captured my heart many years ago. No humidity!! So happy Jamie conquered the Big C and you two are enjoying a wonderful life together. Hugs!
Gertha Leonard - September 8, 2018 8:32 pm
Most enjoyable read.
Camille - September 8, 2018 10:00 pm
What kind of shampoo and conditioner does Jamie?
Bob Hubbard - September 8, 2018 11:27 pm
Well, Sean, I was a Bapltist when Shelby and I got married, and I guess it must have been before the mandatory sessions of embarassment. Truthfully, I had been a Methodist for years before I met her,but her daddy was a Baptist deacon, so you can understand my treason. Over the years, we had some number of lessons – most of them given by her to me – as I did not posses even a thin veneer of civilization at the time. Shelby had the great patience to teach me how to be a husband, father and grand father. And,I’m really sorry that she never got to see the great grands.
For 56 years, 4 months and 9 days, Shelby was a blessing every day of her life with me. Guess we didn’t need the certificates,………
Jannie Bug - September 11, 2018 7:47 pm
Bob…your Shelby sounds like she was a treasure and a true gift from God. I have a feeling that she has seen those sweet great grands. And she continues to be a blessing to others as you share your warm memories of how her love helped transform your life and those of your loved ones.
Sandra - November 4, 2018 2:39 pm
What a beautiful life story. 56 years. ((((HUGS TO YOU AND THE CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN))))
Pamela McEachern - September 9, 2018 3:19 am
SEAN and JAMIE ???
Peace and Love from Birmingham
Pamela McEachern - September 9, 2018 3:21 am
Funny ~ Jamie had dark hair when I sent this. LOL
Laura - September 11, 2018 12:46 am
This one just made my heart so happy!! My husband and I have been married for ten years. We both grew up Baptist, but like all good Baptist you had to of been members for over a year…..so we became Presbyterians for our wedding day.
We had to go to pre marital counseling, and I just remember being so scared when they asked for our information and I lied about my address because we were “living in sin” 🙂
Looking back now, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Love Jesus, Love my husband, loved being Presbyterian for a day 🙂
Sandra Summers - November 4, 2018 2:31 pm
You sound like us. Our names said together, being called often instead, Barbie and Ken. Going on 51 years….gray hair, back porch rockers, occasional broken eggs. It’s all good.
Mignoc. Watson - November 4, 2018 8:14 pm