Long before I was married, I kissed a girl whose practical German heritage gave her a keen sense of observation. Once kissed, she brushed her long blonde hair over her ear and said, “You kiss funny!”
While some men might get frightfully defensive, I saw an opportunity.
“Really?” I asked.
She nodded as she repositioned her 1970’s style wire glasses higher on her nose.
“Maybe I need some tutoring,” I suggested with a parenthetical arch of my eyebrows.
She thought for a second and wordlessly commenced the lessons.
Expressing affection can be a difficult thing, but most of us can use a lesson once in a while. Late one evening in 1998, I met an Army sergeant in need of such a lesson.
I was stationed as an Air Force chaplain in Izmir, Turkey, a city of 3.5 million. I’d just begun my mile walk home after an evening choir rehearsal when I heard a woman begging someone to release her. Each time, the man answered her pleas with expletive-laced threats.
When I stepped close enough to initiate a point-blank introduction, the man identified himself as a sergeant. At first, he respectfully tried to dismiss me, but I had the better hand. He was a sergeant and I a captain — a straight beats a pair of deuces.
“Let her go, sergeant!” I ordered.
“That’s an order. A direct order!”
If your military knowledge is limited to “M*A*S*H,” you might think captains are always barking orders, but declarative statements are rare from chaplains. In my 26 years of service, this was the first time I’d ever given such strong order.
It worked. He let her go. Then, after escorting them to separate quarters, I strongly advised him to bring her to my office the following day.
“That’s the only way I can promise you confidentiality,” I told him. “If you’re a ‘no-show,’ I’ll take your show to the commander’s office.”
The next day they both walked into the confidential sanctuary I’d provided, but immediately launched into venomous threats over divorce and child-custody battles. Within 10 minutes, I had to reschedule them for separate counseling appointments.
The separation worked. During the next several weeks, the husband opened up about the anger issues passed on to him by his “old man” and exacerbated by the nonstop stress of a soldier’s life. Finally, he broke, admitting that he’d been sitting night after night in the open window of their fifth-floor apartment window ready to jump.
He asked me if there was hope.
I told him that hope might be found by renewing their marital commitment to the biblical admonition to “submit themselves one to another in fear of God.” I chose that verse because he seemed to think marital submission was a one-way street. It’s not. It’s a mutual submission and compromise.
Over the next several weeks, I was able to counsel them together.
Additionally, he took anger management classes and they rejoined their faith community. A year later, they were planning another child and his promotion party.
With all my military transfers since then, I’ve lost touch with the couple, so I’m unable to guarantee a happy-ever-after ending, but the couple seemed well on their way to forever together.
As for me, I can report that the principle I shared of mutual submission has worked out well.
My kissing teacher thought I showed promise. Four years later, in a sacred Sacramento ceremony, the preacher told me that I could kiss her, and I haven’t stopped since.
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of No Small Miracles. He also serves as an Air National Guard chaplain and is board-certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains. You can call him at 321-549-2500, email him at about:[email protected], visit website thechaplain.net or write him at P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759.