“More Than a Feeling” – The Beautiful Crucible of Marriage

For most of my life, if you had asked me at the right time and on the right day, it’s very likely I would have said that “More Than a Feeling” by Boston was my favorite song of all time. Over time, other songs have surpassed it, but my love for this 1976 classic has always remained strong. “More Than a Feeling” is musical alchemy, something most bands only dream of achieving.  

What’s not to love? Brad Delp’s vocals are angelic. For my money, there has never been a purer rock vocalist. Delp could hit any note, then turn around and record the high harmony. His voice was smooth but with just enough bite. Tom Scholl’s guitar work on the song is rock and roll perfection and the rest of the band plays a song that both rocks but also has enough heart to sell the emotion. The song itself is wistful, romantic, and dreamy, all befitting the name. You hear it and you instantly go back to better days. The opening strum of acoustic guitar and we’re off.

In the pantheon of great guitar riffs, “More Than a Feeling” takes a back seat to no one. The song ebbs and flows, working around a simple melody, until finally, at around the 3:30 mark, it builds to a crescendo so beautiful it stops me in my tracks nearly every time I hear it. From that point on the band just rocks out. Cymbals crashing, guitar riffing, hands clapping, and Delp singing his heart out. The final harmony stretches out forever, fading into nothingness. 

“I desperately wanted the manipulation.”

Boston’s music has always captured my attention. For quite a few reasons, their sound works for me. There is no subtlety to what they do, very little subtext or nuance. They are a rock and roll band that plays emotionally resonant music. Some might argue that their music borders on treacly or manipulative. You could argue that, though, I don’t know why you would. If you don’t care for their music, move along. For those of us who love what they do, we don’t mind the manipulation. In fact, there have been seasons of my life where I desperately wanted the manipulation.

I first heard their 4th album, Walk On, when I was a junior in high school in 1994. (Yes, you read that correctly. They released four albums in around 20 years. They are nothing if not methodical.) I was in that stage where girls were very real to me, but I had no game and no real options from which to choose. I was living in Panama, and I knew deep down I wouldn’t start any sort of romantic relationship with someone who lived there as I would be moving to Nashville in a year or so, and there were no girls in my school that were my age.  

I pretty much had to be satisfied with my hopes and dreams of future romance. That’s not so hard as a teenager; most of us experienced that to some degree or another. (Or was that just me? Don’t answer.) 

What does this have to do with Walk On?  It’s simple. Most of the songs on this album are love songs – or at least Boston’s best idea of a love song – which was enough for my 16-year-old heart. Songs like What’s Your NameMagdaleneLiving for YouI Need Your Love, and even Surrender to Me (Honest girls, we didn’t mean that the way it sounds!) All of these songs spoke to me exactly where I was: a little lonely, a lot confused, and dreaming that one day I would find someone who made me feel as much in love as these songs did. 

These types of songs were my first love. Their view of love was all about emotion and how the girl of my dreams would make me feel. They were incredibly inwardly focused and immature – perfect for an inwardly focused and immature teenage boy.

Falling hard for Annie Reed.

I don’t know if it was 1993 or 1994 when I saw “Sleepless in Seattle” for the first time. It was near enough to my “Walk On” phase that I consider them to be two parts of the whole. While I don’t remember the exact year, I do remember falling hard for Meg Ryan in that movie.

Up to that point, I had noticed girls around me. I had even been mildly interested in a few, but I had never experienced the kind of profound and total swooning that I did for Ryan – and her character in the film. I was a 15- or 16-year-old boy who was obsessed with sports, Pro Wrestling, and action movies, and I got absolutely wrecked by a chick flick. And all because of Meg Ryan. 

Annie Reed (Meg Ryan’s character in “Sleepless in Seattle”) was an idealized notion of romance to me. My reaction to her was entirely about how she made me feel. To be clear, it was more than physical attraction. She was a representation of what I thought romantic love truly was. The feeling, emotion, and the desire to find a woman who made me feel this exact way. I wanted to find my own Annie Reed because I was sure that would make me happy. To borrow a phrase from another romantic movie, she would complete me. 

With that mindset, Annie would have never completed me. No woman would have been enough to satisfy my immature and self-centered conception of what romance should be. My entire focus was on me. What I wanted and needed. My desires. My happiness. Annie made me feel good and at that point in my life, that seemed like the most important thing for a romantic relationship.

Marriage and romance through the eyes of Andrew Peterson

I was 18 years old when I first met the woman of my dreams, my future wife. If you want to read that story, you can right here. I look back on who I was at that time, and I marvel at how God has used the beautiful crucible of marriage, and fatherhood, to shape and grow us. 

I’ve been married for nearly 24 years. God has been more than gracious to us throughout our time together. We have made more mistakes than we can count, but God has been good time and time again. Many things have helped shape our marriage throughout these 24 years. Family, friends, and our church. But one of the most beautiful influences for me has been Andrew Peterson’s music.

Well "I do" are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end
But to lose your life for another, I've heard
Is a good place to begin
'Cause the only way to find your life
Is to lay your own life down
And I believe it's an easy price
For the life that we have found1

Andrew Peterson gets it. At least, based on his lyrical output over the last 25 years. In Peterson’s view, at its very core, marriage is about sacrifice. It’s an active, ongoing subjugation of our wills and wants for the good of our spouse. And if and when that union is blessed with children, the sacrificial living continues ten-fold. Any other way and the marriage will not flourish.

When Andrew Peterson writes about love and romance, he doesn’t focus on the superficial things – the feelings and wants and emotions. His take on romance is deeply grounded in what God says about it. Peterson’s romance novel is all about laying down your life for someone else. His marriage advice is to lose your life for another.

In a world filled with finding your happiness, self-love, and following your bliss, Peterson’s advice feels more than a little backwards. Part of me recoils at it. I want what I want. I want to do the things I enjoy, spend my time however I please, and put my desires and needs in the driver seat. But that way lies folly. True, sacrificial marriage, the way it is intended to work, demands a different mindset. A different way of living.

Do you remember how I used to say
Love is a fire and it's gonna burn us up
To make the space for grace to grow
Now it feels like love has called my bluff2 

If we let it, if we allow marriage to work in the way God designed it, it will absolutely transform us. It will “burn us up”. It is a holy crucible of refining heat that will melt away our self-centeredness. Marriage will chip away the rough edges of “ME” and “I” and leave us in that joyfully contended place of grace-filled unity. That place where two become one. Love and grace will absolutely grow in that fertile soil.

Marriage and love through the eyes of Scripture

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I Corinthians 13: 4-7

Perhaps it’s a bit cliche to quote I Corinthians 13 when discussing marriage and love. First, the passage is not really about marriage. It’s a passage about the preeminence of love in a longer examination of spiritual gifts. While these verses are not explicitly about marriage, they can apply just fine to that context. If we are called to love everyone in the manner described by Paul, how much more should those words apply to how we love our spouses.

In God’s view, there is no room for pride and selfishness in marriage. Instead, the crucible of marriage should strip all of that away and leave us with kindness and patience. No bragging or arrogance. No seeking our own happiness. Marriage in the eyes of God should live in a way that keeps no records of wrong. No grudges. No bitterness.

Scripture is clear that marriage is intended to be a union of mutual submission.3 Those old Boston songs, as good as they made me feel at the time, had no trace of that mindset. Their focus was entirely on what love could do for me. How it could make me happy and complete. They were dreamy promises of fulfillment but in the end, they were empty.

Same thing goes for Annie Reed. She made me feel good. But relationships built on feelings and selfish desires will never last. These sorts of marriages are “chasing after the wind.” Empty pursuits of emptier promises of happiness and joy. True marriage is a daily act of submission4, which brings about true love, joy, and happiness. It feels paradoxical but it’s true. The beauty of the Gospel and of Kingdom living is that as counter cultural and counter intuitive as it might seem, it is the only way to true human flourishing. There are few better examples of this than Godly marriages.

True romantic love and marriage are the pure refining fire to make us more like Christ. All of our selfishness and pride is burned away and replaced by kindness, love, patience, mercy, and grace. If your marriage is not producing these things, maybe it’s time to do some soul searching to find out why.

A marriage challenge

Perhaps you are clinging to an immature and selfish view of marriage. Marriage is not about you and your feelings. Allow the crucible of marriage to do its good work in your life. Submit, sacrifice, and put your spouse’s needs ahead of your own. If you do this, the beautiful mystery of marriage will provide you with more happiness and joy than you would have ever thought possible.

In the end, maybe Boston did get something right. Love is “more than a feeling.” It’s something deeper, purer, and better than our feelings. Romantic love and marriage are one of God’s tools to sanctify us and make us more like Him. Are we stubbornly clinging to our selfishness or are we submitting to God’s great design?

  1. Dancing in the Minefields by Andrew Peterson
  2. We Will Survive by Andrew Peterson
  3. I Peter 3: 1-7
  4. Ephesians 5: 22-33
Phill Lytle
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Phill Lytle

Phill Lytle loves Jesus, his wife, his kids, his family, his friends, his church, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, 80s rock, the Tennessee Titans, Brandon Sanderson books, Whiteheart, Band of Brothers, Thai food, the Nashville Predators, music, books, movies, TV, writing, pizza, vacation...

2 thoughts on ““More Than a Feeling” – The Beautiful Crucible of Marriage

  • April 10, 2024 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing your journey…and your insights and lessons learned. May it give guidance, direction, and encouragement to others.

  • April 10, 2024 at 5:52 pm

    I enjoyed this article. I am wondering about my version (or female version) of this idea. I don’t remember what I thought of romance from the past, but I do know that songs I used to like in HS about love seem ridiculous to me now. But I still have them on my “liked” playlist on Spotify for the nostalgia.


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