Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Greatest Love

I may be naive, but I am asking a pretty pointed question lately as I have seen this happen over and over (mostly through facebook, naturally--that's a different topic to discuss) to people I know well and other I don't know that well at all.

My question is :

What is the point?

Now, I understand marriage is hard. Hasn't anyone heard especially that the first year or two of marriage is THE HARDEST? Why give up so easily? Why rush into getting married if you are just going to rush right back out of it? What are we missing in society that is not helping people understand the power of perseverence? The Disciple James (1:2-8) tells us some really good things that I cling to desperately so often:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

I understand that I can't really understand how hard marriage is until I am in it, but apparently working through that unexpected difficulty is what it's all about.

I really just don't know what the answer to this questions is when I ask it:
Do people really come into a marriage thinking that's it's going to be all sunshine and rainbows?

I hope we can stand in this ocean of our love and keep each other from drowning forever! (Gag me.)

Because it ain't. I mean, I have my fantastic views of my future life with Joe, but even in my inexperienced lifeI know that those views are faulty, and I am working to uproot them from my perspective on marriage. If you don't realize that your ideals are false and unrealistic, you probably should think a lot about it before you commit yourself to someone FOREVER. And I don't care what divorce makes us think, we are forever bound to the one we marry whether we spend daily life with them or not. Marriage is a BIG DEAL. Divorce is a BIG DEAL.

Marriage is probably the most significant sacrament that was created by God for people to practice to make God concrete to us. Marriage is all about disappointment because we disappoint God all the time. Marriage is a portrayal of Christ and the Church (the Bride)-- the Bible talks about it innumerable times. The Church betrays Christ through sin and Christ must stay with the Church and forgive. That is exactly the role that married men and women are to portray. One person might be Christ more than the other-- no one says the balance is going to be perfect-- but both people must sacrifice and not give up on one another.

Maybe that's the part we are missing. I think I can definitely draw the conclusion that so many people in this society are breaking their commitment to marriage because they have broken their commitment to loving God.

This is all very relevant to me as I have been dating my very wonderful boyfriend for almost a year and a half now. We have been talking about marriage even before we were dating, not because we are over-committed, jump-right-in crazies, but because we are dating with the future intention of settling down with whomever we date. If we don't agree (or don't know about each others' perspectives) on certain things that would be present in the context of marriage we are not being honest to one another in a very big way. I don't want to date someone (with the intention of marriage in the future) and disagree with them about the way I want to live my life.

I've thought a lot about what happens if Joe and I get married and it just isn't great. Can we fall out of love? Will we fall apart in arguments or in disagreements or in times of stress? What about our physical needs? Will I be able to live with Joe even when we have no money? Will those times be joyful despite trials and troubles?

I think these questions are very, very legitimate, and anyone who is considering marriage should think about these things! Anyone who is thinking about getting married should think about and wrestle with these things BEFORE THEY COMMIT TO BEING MARRIED. People need to talk to a lot of older married couples before going into marriage in order to have correct, realistic expectations about marriage. A lot of times inexperienced people have unrealistic expectations in most things in life, but when we consult our older and wiser resources (they are so much more than that! friends, mentors, mothers, sisters, brothers...) we can glean so much wisdom and have real expectations.

I talked to one of my mentors (he prefers that I refer to he and his wife as friends rather than the formal title of mentors) recently because I was really upset and worried about the amount of bickering and frustration that was taking place in my relationship with Joe (being in a long distance relationship is crappy and beyond tough, but you learn so much). I was questioning our relationship-- should we even be considering marriage seriously? Is this relationship built to last? My mentor/friend/professor assured me that ever since he and his wife started dating (they have been married for 20 years!) they were fighting. I sighed with relief when he told me this. We began to talk more about my personality clashing with Joe, and he went on to talk about how he and his wife clash in their personalities, too. These things were only the tip of the ice berg for our conversation, but even those small things were extremely comforting!!!!!!!

People, understand that marriage is not the end. Things are not going to be "better" when you marry the man (woman) "of your dreams." Guess what? Relationships mostly are hard because all people are sinners. If there is anything that makes sense about Christianity for me it is that fact that all people are sinners. I have experienced a lot of terrible things in my relationships with people (family, friends, boyfriends, acquaintances, etc). I like to call it brokenness.

It's behavior that can only be explained by the fact that people are sinners, and it gives me comfort to know and believe that it is always going to be like that until Christ returns and makes us all new holy and perfect beings. (Can you imagine how great that's going to be?!) It is comforting not because I am a sadist and I am excited for evil to reign and torture our lives until judgment day. No, I am comforted for quite the contrary reason. God reigns over evil and sin, and I don't have to be worried about the brokenness that exists in my life already. It's ALWAYS going to be there no matter who I commit myself to, but God is always making us better people through the hard times in life. He is mending our brokenness constantly (even though most of the time it is really hard to see how he is doing that).

Marriage, instead, is a means to an end. It is a situation that is meant to help us understand how much love God has for his people on earth and to help us understand how to practice God-like love toward other people. That is the essence of Christianity after all. Love. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. The two greatest commandments as quoted by Jesus himself. If marriages are failing, we are losing the single most important model of Christ's love and it will be really hard for people to have hope without Christ. What a sad world we are coming to.

I just wish it wasn't awkward and sort of off-limits to talk to people going through rough marriage things about their situations. I always wonder, though, if I did bring it up, could I help them salvage their marriage? Maybe not me, but God could use me. I'm really being a bad Christian by not stepping into their situations. People always want other people to stay out of their business, but so much of Christ is about reaching down to the dirty and off-limits things and people in life and restoring life. I believe in promoting true community with those that I love and care for (which, really is everyone in the world). Being in a true community is about going to places that are uncomfortable in relationships because you truly care about the people involved in those uncomfortable situations. I want to know how to be bold, but I also struggle with caring a lot about what people think of me.

We think of Jesus reaching out to those in physical need, like Ethiopians who have no running water, or sick and dying people who have no family members, or children orphaned because of AIDS. We forget though, that all people are suffering from the consequences of sin and evil. We should be seeking to minister to American young adults with the same compassion and diligence and commitment as we do with children in Africa.

I am such a coward. I am deathly afraid of what marriage brings. I am deathly afraid of confronting people who are having marital problems so soon in life. I know that Christ tells his believers that he has given them power and boldness (not fear), and it is so bad that I reject that power that Christ gives to me. I know he can work through me in any situation and give me the words to speak to anyone. He has done that many times before. Please pray (if you do) that God will use me as an instrument and a tool and that my pride and hummanness would not hinder that. I know he is the most good anything or anyone can ever be. I am nothing. He is everything. I must let him use me for his good because otherwise I just cause damage, even with my apathy and inactivity in hard situations. Lord have mercy on me and all people, all sinners.

For more reading about a view of godly marriage read this article from Relevant Magazine:

"The ultimate goal of marriage, then, is not happiness but holiness, as husband and wife spur one another along in mutual joy toward Christ-likeness."

1 comment:

  1. I agree, Lovey! Marriage is hard business. Thanks for shedding the light on scripture relevant to flaws & perseverance. That's good stuff...and very true...23 years of experience here & the road is never perfectly smooth. Dad & I had this discussion before we decided to take the are not always going to be next to the perfect person/partner...we are flawed...all of us...God is the only perfection...thanks for the reminder! I love you & you are an example of why marriages work...our children are the dividends we receive from the partnership called marriage. Thank God for careers with benefits!