Marriage Viewed Through the Lives of Two Olympians

Lindsay Vonn is famous. David Wise less so. Both have struck gold in the Olympic games. Both have recently made interesting comments about the institution of marriage.

Vonn is perhaps the greatest female skier in American history. Though an injury kept her out of this year’s winter Olympics, she’s earned gold (and bronze) in the 2010 games, been a World Champion twice, and earned four World Cup titles.

She’s also earned a wee bit of attention for being Tiger Wood’s current girlfriend.

With her divorce from fellow Olympian and skier Thomas Vonn finalized over a year ago, Vonn has been dating Woods publicly for several months. In an interview with Vogue, she was asked if she’d entertain marriage in the future. Her response: “No, thanks! I am definitely not getting married. To anyone.”

Even going so far as to say that she “would not recommend getting married,” Vonn did allow this:

Honestly, I wouldn’t take anything back. I wouldn’t change being married. It was good for me and I was happy for a period of time, and I learned a lot about myself.

As for dating the one of the most recognized people in the world:

“Tiger’s fame is obviously in the extreme, the amount of scrutiny that he’s constantly under,” Vonn says. “But that’s the thing: It all comes back to being happy. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks; do what you love to do and be happy and that’s it.”

Wise recently won gold for the United States at Sochi in freestyle skiing. But his life away from the halfpipe has garnered attention as well. A few days ago, an NBC article about Wise ran with this headline: “David Wise’s alternative lifestyle leads to Olympic gold.

What is this “alternative lifestyle”?:

At only twenty-three years old, he has a wife, Alexandra, who was waiting patiently in the crowd, and together they have a two-year-old daughter waiting for them to return to their home in Reno, Nevada.

At such a young age, Wise has the lifestyle of an adult. He wears a Baby Bjorn baby carrier around the house. He also attends church regularly and says he could see himself becoming a pastor a little later down the road.

The article goes on:

Wise is, well, wise. He knows where his head should be at all time, focused on being the best father and husband he can be. Then comes skiing.

“I think my lifestyle — the fact that I have a little girl to take care of and a wife — really takes the pressure off of my skiing, because first and foremost I have to be a good husband and father.”

Needless to say, Vonn and Wise form somewhat of a contrast…one that sparks a few additional thoughts:

1. At the risk of oversimplifying her views based on one interview, Vonn’s comments nevertheless seem to point to a view of marriage and relationships that remains primarily self-interested. That is, if a relationship can help me find out about myself, or in some way make me happy, then it might be worthwhile. If not, then perhaps it’s best to move on. Certainly, we all want to experience happiness in and through our various relationships, but it’s very much an open question as to whether this approach will lead there. Or could it be that a deeper, more enduring happiness stands on the other side of sacrifice and self-forgetfulness? (For more on this, I highly recommend Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage.)

2. We now apparently live in a culture where it is unusual to see a young man not only assume the roles of husband and father, but prize them as well. If this is indeed an “alternative lifestyle,” then Christians should recognize both a challenge and opportunity. While our culture may make it even more difficult live out a faithful biblical marriage, such relationships, even as imperfect as they will undoubtedly remain, will have an even greater chance to reflect the gracious work of Christ and the good news of his gospel (see, e.g., Ephesians 5:25-33; Matthew. 5:13-16).

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