Wednesday, July 6, 2011
It's for Life
Years ago, at another church we belonged to, the wife in a fairly prominent couple stopped coming to church. She moved out the family’s home. She told pastors and friends that she had fallen in love with someone else, and God wanted her to be happy. The marriage ended in divorce.
At the risk of sounding anti-American, I have to say she missed the point. Marriage isn’t about happiness. It’s never about happiness. That’s a non-existent magic elixir that doesn’t exist, sold by the boatload by movies and television programs, and not a few books, not to mention the Declaration of Independence calling the pursuit of it an “inalienable right.”
The Christian view of marriage, says C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, is also not about a feeling of love for someone. Feelings are transient; they can change, ebb, flow and disappear. If marriage was based on feeling, even a feeling of love, then every marriage would be doomed from the beginning.
Some marriages, some good marriages and some good Christian marriages, break. The church I was raised in – the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod – accepted only two reasons for divorce – the same two Jesus recognized: adultery and desertion. Some churches accept no grounds for divorce; others fling open the doors to any and all reasons. But I believe a stricter definition is better.
Marriage is about a commitment, a serious commitment. Marriage is about being faithful to a commitment, a commitment to your spouse and a commitment to God. As Lewis points out, you may make that commitment in the flush of young love, but it is still a commitment.
Next month, my wife and I will celebrate 38 years of marriage. When we married, she had just turned 21 and I was two weeks shy of 22. While we were both ignorant of what that commitment meant, I was more ignorant than she was.
We learned something early on: marriage is hard. Romantic expectations will likely be disappointed, and early on. We’ve had our share of arguments, misunderstandings and disappointments, although I usually cornered the market on doing stupid stuff.
At some point over the years, it got less hard (I didn’t say easy: I said less hard). We became more understanding, more tolerant of each other’s weaknesses and failings. We began to understand that marriage wasn’t about changing the other person but about loving the other person, even when they were at their most unlovable. Marriage isn’t about my needs being met, but working together, being “one flesh,” to do the things God sets before us.
We still screw up (particularly me; it’s a best practice). But she loves me anyway. And I can’t imagine not being married to her. I just can’t. We become too much a part of each other. I’m more in love with her now than when we first met. I always will be.
And our marriage is for life.
Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter have been hosting our discussion of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. This week’s chapter is “Christian Marriage.” To see more posts, please visit Jason’s blog, Connecting to Impact.