Friday, October 18, 2013

Committing Marriage-Part 2 of 2

I shared last time, in nearly its entirety, ways in which I've been able to show and share my commitment to Claire through unity in our daily activities. It isn't anything that's going to win me any awards in the public view, but I certainly feel better about myself and about our marriage on those days when we are able to give a hard pull and pull together. I'm reminded of the analogy given by Elder Boyd K. Packer, a superb educator and an Apostle of The Lord Jesus Christ, of a team of oxen. They're not the most glamorous animal to be compared to, it is true. Yet, the principle that they teach is one so simple, and yet so vital and appropriate that I can't help but draw upon it.  There are competitions in more rural parts of this country, where teams of oxen are pitted in contests of strength, given the challenge to successfully move increasingly weighted sleds a predetermined distance.  Elder Packer, describing this event, tells of the impressive strength and sheer enormity of some of these teams. Being somewhere along the scale between a cow and a bison, it seems easy to understand his wonder. He makes clear, however, that the most successful teams are not always the biggest and most obviously strongest specimens. Instead, the deciding factor between victory and defeat has to do with the unity of the animals as a team, often referred to simply as a yoke of oxen. The yoke is the large wooden harness, often carved from a single beam and custom-fitted to each individual animal. Unity is exhibited in the ability of the oxen to pull together simultaneously, as well as equal in strength. There is no room for either superstars or freeloaders in this arrangement. Because the yoke is a single piece for both, if both animals fail to push in balance of timing and strength, the late or shirking animal is thrown to its knees, bringing the other with it. 

I'm reminded of a random chick-flick where the protagonist makes the mistake of comparing his beloved to his horse's flanks or something similar, giving deep hurt and offense to his intended, in spite of his good intent and adoration. I hope that Claire will forgive me, for comparing the both of us to oxen. I must say, at this point, that Claire is my perfect match, perfectly completing my yoke. She matches me, pull for pull, in everything I do. In the past several months, I've been trying much harder to step into my role as the Priesthood holder in our home, trying to initiate family prayers, scripture study, home evenings, and all the rest of the things that we, as members of the Chirch of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, have been counseled to do in order to strengthen our family.  She supports me and sustains me through each initiation and decision. Our family has been so richly blessed because she is supportive of what I am trying to do.  

To a much more visible degree, Claire supports and lends her strength and labor to my goals as a provider and a professional.  I've decided, in the past two-and-a-half years, that I want to become a pediatrician. More than that, I want to become a triple-boarded pediatrician, meaning that I'll be board certified in Pediatrics, General Psychiatry, and Adolescent and Child Psychiatry.  It gets worse. I've also recently decided that I'm very interested in a combined MD/PhD program. Are you impressed with Claire's patience and dedication yet?  If not, let me break down what that means for us, in terms of time investment. 

I have another year yet until I complete my Masters degree here at Erikson. In that time, I need to also take a course each in College Algebra and General Biology. These prerequisites will enable me to get into the certificate program, ideally a year-long program, that will give me the necessary background in the hard sciences to perform well on the MCAT and apply to medical school.  Medical school is typically a four-year experience, but an MD/PhD program doubles that, adding four years of doctoral study in Neuroscience between Medical years 2 & 3. Eight years of medical study later, I'll be ready to move on to my residency. For General Pediatrics, this represents a three-year commitment to hands-on practice and learning; with the Triple-Board program I've got my eye on, it represents five.  15 years from now, I'll ideally be ready to practice. The only upside to all this is that, in the MD/PhD program, all tuition is waived and they provide a small living stipend, which means minimal student loan debt. A very thin silver lining to this immense and totally elective thunderhead brewing over our family's collective head. 

My point in detailing these plans is this: if Claire had any slightly different attitude about our marriage, our role as a team, and what that means for us in living our daily lives, this would not even be something I would have remotely ever considered.  There have been numerous conversations where I've wanted to look figuratively behind me at the load I've elected to move and say, "It's too big, I can't move it, and were both going to die trying for my foolishness."  It's been these same times that Claire takes opportunity to calmly and serenely whisper encouragement and reassurance to my troubled dumb-ox mind.  It's been due to her attitude of, "We CAN do this. It will take both of us, and it will certainly be no walk in the park, but together, we can move this load, and we can be the better for it."  My only consolation in undertaking this load is to know that there will come a day that we successfully reach the end-goal, and we will most definitely be the stronger for it. At that point, our sled will be empty again, and Claire can load it with whatever it is that she wishes at that point, and the process can begin again. 

My last words of this post will be this:  marriage is about commitment and unity. In purpose, in desire, in faith and in tenacity, we must be united. I thank The Lord that I have been blessed with such an incredible woman who is so committed to me, to our family, and to her testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been already and will continue to be richly blessed, because we share such unified opinion and intent in our marriage. We will give a long pull, a strong pull, and we will pull together. This is our marriage. 


  1. What a wonderful post. I am very happy for the both of you!!! Yay Claire for your wisdom and strength. Yay Justin for your endurance and Priesthood Godly Intent.

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