Faith & Fandom
What Doctor Who Series 8 Taught Me About Marriage
So after finishing Doctor Who series 8, I kept dwelling on some of the relational elements in this particular season. While it may not have been the best season (or maybe it was to you), it had some of the most relationally powerful moments the show has had in a very long time. It focuses specifically in the realm of marriage, and even though there was no romantic interest between Clara and the Doctor, there’s still a lot to learn. And let’s face it - a 2,000 year old Time Lord who has been married four times and the people he places in his life are probably good people to learn from.
In “Death in Heaven,” as the Doctor rambles off a speech to Missy, he looks at Clara and Cyber Danny and makes this statement. “Love is not an emotion. Love is a promise.” This has been something I’ve believed in my heart for so many years, but it is easily forgotten. Sometimes our emotions become misdirected and we get caught up in the emotional uprising of someone new or more interesting. Or we let our affections be directed towards someone we don’t have to pay bills, discipline children, or scrub toilets with. Sometimes the weight and pressure of marriage causes the emotional aspect of our love to
seem so distant that we feel like we have “fallen out of love.”
Love isn’t something you fall into. What we “fall into” is often the initial emotional response or infatuation of a relationship. Chip Ingram has published studies showing that “infatuation” can last anywhere between six weeks - eighteen months. After that, the initial emotional responses don’t come as easily or effortlessly. From then on, the two equally have to invest in each other in order to have those feelings and emotions to rise. If we think every time our emotions change we no longer love someone then we will never have a stable relationship.
God commands us to love. God never commands us to feel an emotion, but God commands us to make choices, to live out actions, to do things that don’t take place as a natural chemical response. In Matthew 22, Jesus Commands us “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Verses 37-40) It doesn’t just stop at that broad statement on humanity. In Ephesians 5:25, 28, and 33 husbands are commanded to love their wives. In Titus 2:4 wives are commanded to love their husbands. God commands us to love Him, our neighbors, our husbands, and wives because it’s not just an emotional response. A good cup of coffee, a ton of chocolate, or a good episode of Doctor Who can generate an emotional response. Love is choosing to give your heart and life to someone, regardless of your emotions. Love isn’t just a choice though, as the Doctor stated. It’s a promise. That’s why we have “vows” at a wedding. We are promising to love someone for life, regardless of where we stand emotionally.
And not only is our love a promise to our spouse, it should solely belong to our spouses. In the Episode “Dark Water,” as Clara was giving a speech to Danny, she states “I love you, ...Not like it's automatic. Not like it's how you end the phone call, the sign off, the pat on the back. Danny, I'll never say those words again. Not to anybody else, ever. Those words, from me, are yours now... Danny, I love you. And you are the last person who's ever going to hear me say that." One of the most damaging things I’ve seen in mine and any other marriage is when we give parts of our time, hearts, attention, and affection to someone other than the one who we have promised to give them to.
In Proverbs 5, we are given this concept in the metaphor of water, but for a more broken down view, here’s the passage in the Good News Translation. “Be faithful to your own wife and give your love to her alone. Children that you have by other women will do you no good. Your children should grow up to help you, not strangers. So be happy with your wife and find your joy with the woman you married - pretty and graceful as a deer. Let her charms keep you happy; let her surround you with her love. Son, why should you give your love to another woman? Why should you prefer the charms of another man's wife? The Lord sees everything you do. Wherever you go, he is watching. The sins of the wicked are a trap. They get caught in the net of their own sin. They die because they have no self-control. Their utter stupidity will send them to their graves.” (Verses 15-23) How much stronger would our marriages be if we stopped giving parts of our heart to people they don’t belong to?
I’ve learned that faithfulness is more than just not “cheating.” Faithfulness is actually giving your spouse everything you promised or vowed to give them. From text to touch, or Facebook to face, or anytime we give some of our heart to someone else, we are taking it away from our spouse. It may be innocent at first, but it’s an easy slope to slide down. After Clara confesses her love in such a profound way, that when the dramatic scene follows, I was totally distracted examining my own heart and life. Does your spouse know confidently that your love belongs solely to them? Do they have a reason to be concerned otherwise? Let’s face it though, we are going to fail. However marriage is, hopefully, a life-long process where forgiveness and grace outweighs the failure. We have to be aware it’s not going to be perfect.
One of the things I’ve been so saddened by is watching couples that ignore the “better or WORSE” part of their vows. Everyone is down for the better, but when the worse comes along, they seem so quick to abandon everything. I’ve long told people that even though I was married when I was twenty two I don’t think I was worth marrying till I was at least twenty seven (my wife strongly disagrees), and that’s mainly because I had a long way to go in learning about faithfulness, forgiveness, and maturity. My wife had, and still has plenty of reasons to walk away, but she’s stuck by me. That’s a love I celebrate daily. The Doctor displays this so perfectly in “Dark Water.” After a betrayal from Clara, he proves that there is a heart somewhere under his “Attack Eyebrows.”
“The Doctor: You betrayed me. You betrayed our trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything that I've ever stood for. You let me down!
Clara: Then why are you helping me?
The Doctor: Why? Do you think that I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”
If we truly love our spouse, that means loving them even when they fail us and hopefully them loving us when we fail them. That’s what scripture tells us, “Be
kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32. We are also told to love our spouses through any failure, because even more than just forgiveness, love covers it. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8
A final thought, we change. True our changes may not be as dramatic as a time lord’s, but we still change. I’m not the man I was when I got married 11 years ago. Neither is my wife. Some of that is for the better, and some of that is for the less than better. It would be so easy to give up on a marriage because our spouse changes or because we change as individuals, but that isn’t what we signed up for. At the end of “Deep Breath,” the 12th Doctor is deeply wounded by Clara not supporting him after his regeneration. Rose may have taken a moment to warm up between 9-10, but Clara was being a bit of a jerk about it. With both his hearts breaking, The Doctor states, “You can’t see me, can you? You look at me and you can’t see. Do you have any idea what that’s like? I’m not on the phone, I’m right here. Standing in front of you. Please just... just see me.” Our spouses will change as the years go by, and just like you, they probably don’t have the answers as they go through the process, but we have to be there to support them, just like we want them to support us.
Like we see in 1 Corinthians 13:7, that love survives change because “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Our marriages won’t have to deal with time travel, cybermen, gender swapping time lords, or any of the obstacles we see in Series 8 (hopefully), but it will face challenges and struggles. Marriage is worth it. It’s worth fighting for, it’s worth investing in, and it very well could be the greatest thing in all of time and space. As Amy Pond once stated, “Changing the future. It’s called marriage.”