By the Rev. Janice Ford, Rector
The Church of the Reconciliation (Episcopal)
Make no mistake about it—'tis the season for weddings!
I recently heard a TV news pundit remark that marriage is a thing of the past. He went on to elaborate that marriage had evolved out of necessity. In the earliest days of civilization, the men (hunter/gatherers) provided food and protection for the women (the nesters/nurturers) and the children. This was very much a practical arrangement, and there was certainly little romance involved.
Later, marriages were often arranged by families in order to protect the inheritance of land and wealth. The Church also got involved sometime in the latter half of the first century. That involvement came as a result of the intertwining of the Catholic Church with the Roman Empire. The priest married the two people on behalf of the government, and eventually it was seen as a sacrament of the church.
According to this TV reporter, only in the last two or three hundred years have men and women chosen to come together and share their lives primarily out of love, rather than necessity or obligation. His conclusion was that, though love and romance may be the initial point that brings these people together, many marriages fail today because one or other of the spouses discovers they do not NEED to be together long term.
Since the need for protection and provision is now thought to be the duty of both the marriage partners, many men and women are no longer willing to try and preserve their marriages if the going gets rough—mostly because they don’t feel they have to.
The real truth of the matter is that a good marriage has little to do with either romance or providing for mutual need. The reality is that people can have both of those things without the benefit of marriage. Marriages that last, may, and hopefully do, include physical love, mutual protection, and the structure for growing a family. However, the reason any of us should marry, or choose to stay married has to do primarily with our personal relationship with God. This, by the way, was the one concept concerning marriage that was NOT identified in the TV report. Surprising? Of course, not.
Yes, God has everything to do with a good marriage. The primary purpose of marriage is to provide the context or structure in which both partners can help the other to enhance his or her personal relationship with God. Any couple who enters into marriage without this as their primary objective will be sorely disappointed with the outcome before too long.
We humans are very fragile creatures. We succumb easily to those things that can interfere with our day-to-day living as married people. Before we know it, the things of this world have stressed to the point of breaking those things that we thought were important in a marriage: sex, children, financial security, personal success, etc. It can all go awry quickly and easily.
With the couple’s primary focus on enhancing each other’s relationship with God, however, all those predictable stressors can be handled more easily, and the marriage itself is much more likely to survive.
Before it became politically incorrect to do so, folks once said, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Inherent in this little jewel of Americana is the essence of what I am saying about marriage. As believing Christians, we embrace the notion that nothing good comes without God’s blessing. What Christ taught us about living in the world should also be the template for a marriage that can survive even the worst calamity. Many couples continue to turn to their churches to officiate at their weddings, but once the service is over, God may never be invited into their marriages again.
When I counsel couples and then officiate at their weddings, I implore those couples not to forget to keep God in their marriages. We all know they will find the need for unconditional love, forgiveness, patience, compassion and perseverance at every turn in the years to come. These needs come with the seemingly ridiculous notion that two people can live one life together in harmony and happiness. How silly are we to think it can work?
But the good news is that it CAN work. God can be the guide through all of it. Couples need to trust that God will not abandon them. They should never hold back on asking God for what they need, and, most importantly, be willing to surrender their life to God’s will in all things.
The purpose and culture of marriage may have changed since its inception, but the importance of God in marriage has never changed. And that’s because the importance of God in our lives has never changed.
Couples need to go into their marriages with new resolve to keep Christ as their cornerstone. They need to keep their eyes wide open, their hearts full of love, and a firm grip on God’s hand as well as one another’s.
- Tuesday, 01 May 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Religion