Love and Marriage

With 20+ attendees in the first session, our "Sacred Marriage" Sunday School class is off to a rip-roaring start.  Better than the raw numbers was the passionate discussion we had on the institution, expectations, and role of marriage in the life of the believer, especially since the insights came from a wide range of people, from singles to newlyweds to longlyweds (I'm making that word up, I assume you know what I mean by it). 

As a wise person once told me, marriage is about two people saying to each other (in front of God and many other witnesses), "Whoever you become, I'm going to love and commit to; and whoever I become, you're going to love and commit to."  Meaning that we marry with imperfect information.  All we know is the past and present, but it is the future in which we will be married.  And in that future, it is almost certain that we will change. 

The great challenge and delight of marriage is that we are to stay loving and committing, even when the person we loved and committed to is different, and even when we are different.  Even harder and even better, it is usually the case that our spouse is the very person who is most influential in our changing over time.  How frightening and comforting, at the same time, that reality is.

I am reminded of a parallel commitment, which is that to our sports teams.  We who are loyal to a team face what seems like constant defeat, disappointment, heartbreak, and rejection.  The composition of our team changes over time; at times, it seems all we are rooting for, as Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out, is laundry, meaning that the players change so only the uniform is constant.  Some of us have had the experience of even the laundry changing; I am referring not to the modernization of logos and colors but the wholesale moving of a team from one city to another city (and in some cases, from one coast to another coast). 

We put in time, we invest money, and more importantly we burn precious sanity in this "relationship."  Others may wonder aloud why we are doing this to ourselves, and we may ask ourselves the same question sometimes.  Indeed, many hyper-rational people swear off sports allegiances because they have done the cold, calculating cost-benefit analysis and have realized cheering a team makes no sense.

I am not suggesting that marriage is irrational or rational.  It is, however, like following Jesus an affair of both heart and mind.  The true believer lays down his own agenda in pursuit of something far greater.  In doing so, he is not selfless; far from it, for he chooses the best possible way for himself.  But it is, of necessity, a dying to self in order to live for something better.  We do not maintain our god-ness when we truly decide to become Christians - as if it is something to add to our resume, to make ourselves feel better, or to inject some morals/tradition/community into our lives - but make room for God to be our God and His glory to be our utmost aim. 

And so it is with Christian marriage.  If we enter into it as consumers - what's in it for me? - we are sure to be disappointed.  If we enter into it as martyrs - how can I be this other person's all in all? - we are sure to burn out.  But if we enter into it as we enter into any big life decision once we have decided to follow Jesus - how can God be most glorified? - then we might just experience the true purpose and pleasure of marriage. 

I look forward to exploring this marriage with some of my fellow congregants over the next several weeks.  If you care to join us, we meet at 9:30a in Fellowship House at Woodland Presbyterian Church.

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