Christian Counselor Spokane
Often, when people begin talking about married life, depending on the crowd you may hear derisive laughter or an audible groan. Even among ardent supporters of the idea and institution of marriage, it’s common to hear them say, “Marriage is hard. It’s good, but it’s hard.” When many enter marriage, they enter afraid and trembling because they expect deep hardship to mar their experience.To be sure, marriages go through various journeys and seasons, and perhaps people don’t want to create a rosy image of marriage that will get shattered and generate disappointment and disillusionment in its wake. If people are unprepared for what might come, perhaps they may be blindsided and not know what hit them, and the last thing people desire for a married couple is for them to end things in divorce.
Divorce rates have lowered in the last few years, and there are many reasons for this, including people simply choosing to cohabitate and not get married, or people delaying getting married and sticking with it when they make the decision.
Despite marriage falling on hard times, it is worth celebrating and taking a moment to savor the marvel that it is. Why celebrate married life? We can forget that it is one among many blessings bestowed upon us by God, and in many ways, marriage fulfills, challenges, and grows us. Drawing from a few writers, this article will suggest a few reasons why we ought to continue celebrating and commending married life.
Perhaps it may help you and others around you to appreciate the relationship you’re already in, or it may be an encouragement to take the next step and make that lifelong commitment to your beloved. While pointing out all the wonderful things to celebrate about married life, that doesn’t mean the rough edges and difficulties of marriage should be masked or hidden. They are real, but the joy of marriage is just as real.
Marriage helps us become better people.
Marriage can be celebrated for what it is, and for what it does to us. We cannot but be changed when we commit ourselves to someone for a lifetime. C.S. Lewis, the famous author of books such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity was a long-time bachelor, only getting married in his later years.
He once wrote that “The most precious gift that marriage gave me was the constant impact of something very close and intimate, yet all the time unmistakably other, resistant – in a word, real.” When you are in a close relationship with someone, that reality challenges your inherent selfishness, and though it may be hard, overcoming that selfishness produces joy.
The intimacy of marriage provides you a front-row seat to witness not only the life of another person but also to see yourself anew. You might never know how difficult you are to live with until you actually live with someone. As Mike Mason wrote in an engaging book called The Mystery of Marriage:
“Marriage comes with a built-in abhorrence of self-centeredness. In the dream world of mankind’s complacent separateness, amidst all our pleasant little fantasies of omnipotence and blamelessness and self-sufficiency, marriage explodes like a bomb. It runs an aggravating interference pattern, an unrelenting guerrilla warfare against selfishness.
“It attacks people’s vanity and lonely pride in a way that few other things can, tirelessly exposing the necessity of giving and sharing, the absurdity of blame…[Marriage] is one of God’s most powerful secret weapons for the revolutionizing of the human heart. It is a heavy concentrated barrage upon the place of our greatest weakness, which is our relationship with others.
“We cannot possibly, it is true, in any practical way maintain a commitment to every other person in the world: That is God’s business, not ours. But marriage involves us synecdochically in this mystical activity of God’s by choosing for us just one person, one total stranger out of all the world’s billions, with whom to enter into the highest and deepest and farthest reaches of a sacrificial, loving relationship.”
No, marriage doesn’t complete you (a la Jerry Maguire), but in that one, unique relationship that is unmatched and incomparable with our other relationships, our self-centeredness is confronted, and we are taught to love profoundly. When they face the concrete reality of the other person, they can either retreat into themselves, or we can look beyond themselves and well and genuinely love this person. That changes you, for the better.
Married life can teach us what it means to love someone.
We get many mixed messages from our culture about what love is. Often, love is simply another way of saying that the other person makes me happy, meets my needs, and helps me to reach my goals. Of course, when you get into an argument when your needs change or the other person’s ability to meet those needs or help you achieve your goals fails, the relationship often ends, too. But love is something else entirely – something deeper and less circumstantial.
“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling.
“You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions, you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” (The Meaning of Marriage, Tim and Kathy Keller)
If love is something that lingers even in those dry spells, that is something truly valuable. Marriage is, as the Kellers remind us, a commitment, and in that commitment, our hearts can be taught to look beyond the dry spells.
True, the thrill of love at its first blush is heady and overwhelming. Our hormones and brain chemicals get in on the action too, and when we compare loving someone with being in love with them, most of us will choose to be in love every time. But we must be cautious about preferring being in love to loving someone and realize which is better.
Turning again to C.S. Lewis: “Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all.
“Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were.
“Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense – love as distinct from ‘being in love’ – is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God.
“They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
Marriage is the arena of a sacred dance.
When two people who are married to one another go about their daily lives, it often feels and looks mundane. The business of doing chores, bathing, and changing babies, making love, building a home, working through conflicts, taking care of children and more can seem so domestic. It doesn’t seem exciting. But if we peel back the curtain ever so slightly, we’ll see that there’s more than meets the eye going on in any marriage.
For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. – Ephesians 5:31-32
Married life may look like the simple joining of two people, but it is a mystery, and it somehow points to the relationships between Jesus and his people. Put another way, Mike Mason wrote that, “To know the Lord is to be brought into a personal relationship so dramatic and overwhelming that marriage is only a pale image of it. Still, marriage is the closest analogy in earthly experience, and that is why the Bible so often uses the picture of a wedding, and the bride and groom, to convey something of what it means for human beings to be united to God in love.”
But married life doesn’t simply act as a picture of something more profound than itself, it is also a relationship in which spouses can witness first-hand what God is doing in their individual lives.
Tim and Kathy Keller write: “Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”
Entering into marriage is entering a sacred dance in which we see glimpses of who God intends the other person to be, and we get a taste of how profound and meaningful God’s relationship with his people is.
My beloved is mine, and I am his. – Song of Solomon 2:16
Married life is a beautiful thing. Though a typical domestic scene seems humdrum, a lot is going on beneath the surface of any marriage. A couple’s commitment to one another for life echoes something richer, far deeper.
As Darlene Schacht once wrote, “A long-lasting marriage is built by two people who believe in – and live by – the solemn promise they made” and that seemingly simple act brings them into joy – in God, in one another, and in what God is doing in their lives. Marriages aren’t perfect, but there’s a lot in them to celebrate.
“Seasoned Couple”, Courtesy of StockSnap, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Newlyweds”, Courtesy of Pexels, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Walking the Dog”, Courtesy of Mabel Amber, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Engaged”, Courtesy of StockSnap, Pixabay.com, CC0 License
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