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.

12 comments:

nance marie said...

i hate this chapter.
i have nothing that i can say that i did right.

Maureen said...

That not wanting to change or expecting to be able to change the other person may be the most important lesson, though, sadly, some never get far enough to learn it and some of us have to repeat the lesson and get lucky. What a world of difference it makes once you reach the point of full acceptance of the whole person, and not just some of the parts.

Joy said...

I've been re-reading Mere Christianity lately, so I was pleased to see your post, Glynn. I have struggled very much with this in the faith department v. the marriage department--I understand that God and I are in this for the rest of my life, but what do you do as the relationship changes, ebbs, flows? There is a calling to be faithful in belief, even in the dark night of the soul- just because I do not 'feel', just because I am not 'happy'- does not mean that God is not there. Lewis chose such an apt metaphor. Much to chew on here in your post.

Megan Willome said...

Preach it, Brother Glynn!

We got married at 21 & 22 as well. This month marks 19 years. Lots of hard times, but like you, I can't imagine being married to anyone else. I don't even want to.

wolfsrosebud said...

If only our young people could grasp your insight. We have several couples in our church that have been married 60 years. Something impossible without God...

Dusty Rayburn said...

"And our marriage is for life."

AMEN!

Too often I have heard people my age say something along the lines of: "I'm going to try my hand at this marriage thing." Left Unsaid is the second thought: "If it doesn't work the way I want it, I'll take the first exit I find."

That mindset alone ends in disaster and violates the whole concept of covenant marriage as taught by Scripture.

We need to diligently teach our young people that marriage is serious and Holy.

"Let no one separate, what God has joined together."

SarahBeeCreations said...

I very much appreciate the "less hard" statement. Marriage is not just a romantic fling; it's a full time job to be worked on. Like a garden will fade if neglected, so will a marriage fade. There will be weeds and bugs, drought and winds, but through it all, the garden remains. Our hands will get dirty, ankles bitten, and knees bruised, but eventually we learn how to work together and bear the fruits and flowers of His Grace and Love.
My parents will celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary this year. They were married at barely 20 and 21. There have been hard times and there will continue to be issues to be worked upon both large and small, but they have never ceased loving each other.

jasonS said...

Beautifully spoken, Glynn. There are too many who think "I'll marry this person and they'll change." They may change and they may not. If we can't live with what we see, we had better steer clear of marriage. That said, it's pretty incredible how you and your partner change in a loving partnership. Great post and praise God for 38 years. What a blessing.

S. Etole said...

This should probably be required reading in premarital counseling!

Brian Miller said...

spot on dude...marriage is not about happiness because that is bad bet...there will be plenty of the other...we hit our wall a year ago at 14 years and it was a long road for that last year...now we hit fifteen and it has gotten so much better...

Mama Zen said...

Yes!

Helen said...

Congratulations, Glynn! Thank you for sharing this and encouraging those of us who have been married less than half as long! Really, I think people today need to see long lasting marriages to know that "'til death do us part" is not an impossible standard.