Yesterday, we recognized Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Today is my shot at Sanctity of Human Marriage day. I say “human” because I’m not sure some of the people that write, talk, and act about marriage are all that “human” in their approach. You have your academics, prognosticators, and this near animal-rights-type of approach to the institution of marriage.
Albert Mohler has posted an article today on Elizabeth Gilbert’s work (popular writer…Oprah book club kind of stuff).
The article got me thinking about something. Now, I’ve not read anything Gilbert’s written, but one of Mohler’s quotes of Gilbert seems pretty telling to me. In dealing with her own divorce she states, “”my efforts to make peace with the complicated institution of marriage,” (from Committed). I know it’s a simple line, but it brings up a perspective I have from my own viewpoint of truth and how we deal with it.
The institution of marriage is not complicated. It’s really, really hard work designed to image the relationship of Christ with His people. From a common grace standpoint, it’s the bedrock of society for order and safety, particularly for children. What’s complicated about marriage is our explanations and reasons on why it doesn’t work in defense of ourselves. See, we are self-righteous to no end. Jeremiah says the heart is utterly deceptive. Simple truths become complicated because we must find a way to explain our failures without taking personal responsibility. If we can sound academic enough, “honest” enough, then the world will give us a pass. Put us on Oprah and we will have audiences of middle-aged women applauding our efforts to make ourselves happy because, somehow, we have become victim to this complicated institution.
Sanctity means “the state or quality of being holy, sacred, or saintly,” (New Oxford Dictionary). If we are to view marriage this way, then we are going to have to approach it with the understanding that (while imperfect) marriage is to be holy. Being holy means more about being blameless (staying ‘fessed up) and set apart for a particular purpose. These purposes are God’s purposes. Marriage is a pretty terrible place to try and make yourself happy unless God is the supreme object of your happiness. It is in the simple selflessness of marriage that we derive the greatest joy because we know that according to Eph.5:22-33 redemption is put on display, and this pleases God.
So, practically speaking, OWN UP! If your marriage stinks, take responsibility first for your sin and the the sin in your household (particularly to the men here). If you feel like you just don’t feel like your needs are getting met, check your walk with Christ. Have your replaced Christ with your husband? Not a good idea. While wives are to submit “as unto the Lord” it’s not “as if he IS the Lord!” Even if you have a great husband, he is a cheap substitute for Christ Himself. Ideally, go hard after God TOGETHER!
Look, I know this is all overly-simplistic, but that’s my point. It feels complicated because we don’t want to face basic truths, take responsibility and then move forward. It’s in the moving forward, for me, that’s key. I think I see the simplicity of my marriage with Jan pretty clearly, but I often allow my flesh / Satan to so steal my joy (while feeling like dirt in my simplistic view) that I almost feel like I can’t move forward.
Here is what I know. Marriage is like my walk with Christ because it is like my walk with Christ (not a typo — that’s what Eph.5:22-33 says). So, I must have a view of marriage that says I’m going after God (with Jan), not just trying to hang on until He returns. Just “hanging on” or “enduring” a hardship is one thing, but to translate that to marriage (and your walk with God) is awful. This is the kind of thinking that leads to 25 year marriages ending in divorce once all the kids are gone (in our case, it would be at least 35 years;-). God has designed the marriage to grow and bear fruit. I believe this would apply if you’re the only Christian in the marriage — the fruit bore is your own as you live honorably with an unbeliever.
So, shore up your marriage by clearing out the overly complicated, garbage kind of thinking portrayed in books like Gilbert’s (apparently, again I’ve not read it) and is so consistent with our own fleshly, self-righteous way of thinking. Be simple. Take responsibility for your actions and attitudes. Confess your sin(s) to God and one another. Forgive one another as commanded by God. Pursue Him together (where this is possible). I encourage you to read through Colossians 3. This is the core chapter for those I counsel in marriage / pre-marriage and there’s good reason for that… I find myself throughout that chapter.
NOTE: I must make clear that I don’t write this as someone who has a “successful” marriage. We argue at times, and I have to help Jan understand how often I’m right (laugh track starts here)! However, one thing that I do have in my marriage with Jan is something of a simplicity. We both realize we are sinners who regularly try to defend our own rights. When we seek to make things right we try hard to start with ourselves. That doesn’t mean we are the “poster couple” for a sweet, happy marriage. It does mean, however, that it’s not complicated. Our biggest battle is probably going hard after God together. We do family devotion more than we have in the past, but there’s still a super-passion for Christ that we strive for that will overwhelm earthly pursuits, responsibilities, and joys. Doing this TOGETHER is a great joy, and all-too-often elusive.