Thursday, August 1, 2013

To Be or Not to Be? Marriage is the Question?

What do I look for in a person I'm marrying? “You just know,” is probably the most unhelpful answer of all time and in my opinion a very bad way to base a decision such as marriage on. But a lot of people would say this how they knew they wanted to marry. I guess the majority of the population are very intuitive decision makers. But for me, although I don’t have all the answers, there are some factors I have pondered since I am recently engaged. This is not an exhaustive list, more like musings or ramblings if you will, and I think these points can apply to either gender.

In this world I think there is a myth floating around our individualistic and idealistic society. A myth that claims that marriage will only work when you find your “smoking-hot, filthy rich, love-at-first-sight, sexually charged, accept-me-as-I-am and don't ask me to change, The Notebook-Sweet Home Alabama-Titanic-esque, soul mate.”

Don’t believe me? Flip to your movie channel and look at the message Hollywood communicates; look at the evidence of the media pointing to shorter and fewer marriages; research studies suggest this is a primary factor that holds both men and women back from marital commitment – they just haven’t found their soul mate. They believe in their heart of hearts that their match-made-in-heaven is still out there, somewhere. Really? Really? Are we really that stupid hopeless?

Here's a possible solution I think you can live with. Here's what you do when you find yourself in a relationship with the wrong person. Again, these are ramblings from a crazy, soon to be wed, wine drinking optimist. Try it and see what happens:

  1. Every time your mate falls short, find another. On to the next one. Then when they fall short, and they will, do it again. And again. And then again. Forgiveness is futile. Reconciliation, pointless. If they were your soul mate they’d never make those kind of mistakes. Right? Right? If they really loved you, they would have thought before they acted. If they were your soul mate they wouldn't have made such a heinous error. Of course, there will be significant emotional baggage that'll carry over with each new partner. But sooner or later you’re bound to find Mr. or Mrs. Right, right? And they’ll be perfect, right? Of COURSE they will. 
  2. Avoid it all. Make it girls’ night out every weekend. Feed your appetite for sex when it’s hungry, and be sure not to let anyone too close. Marriage is old news anyways. Commitment is so over rated. No strings attached. Lock your heart up in an “iron-clad case” throw away the key where no one can reach it, and allow it to grow “motionless, unbreakable, and impenetrable.” Then no one will ever break it… or capture it.

OR, try this on for size!

Whether you buy the biblical view of marriage or not, realize that love takes hard work. And that, as long as you limit the field to human beings, you’ll never marry your “soul mate.” Because there are no 100% “right people, especially the person writing this advice.” Sin’s presence in the world guarantees it. There are only wrong people who pretend to be right and wrong people who are becoming right, through Jesus. That’s why I like the biblical view of marriage. The fairy-tale image of two soul mates finding love at last is just that, a fairy tale. But the biblical image of marriage provides something so much more beautifully realistic.

It paints a portrait of two sinners, committing to the task of one another, for the sake of one another, until death do them part. It’s two imperfect people, committing to the sanctifying work of expressing Jesus’ self-sacrificial love, to their lover, so that they might see him or her become the person God has always intended them to be, knowing full well that neither of them have yet to reach this goal. Also knowing full well that God put that person in their path to help one another become the person God wants them to be.

God’s view of marriage is one that commitment is the key. Not chemistry. In fact, commitment is chemistry. There is no greater proof of love than the willingness to commit your life to and for someone else. Just ask Jesus. 

But commitment is so out-of-style today in our “me, me, me-first” world. It’s old, boring news. Stifling. Oppressive. Obsolete. This is why marriages are happening less and lasting less. Might as well retire the institution to a museum. It’s a goner. The only solution to marriage is to avoid it. Many people avoid serious commitment all together because the prospect of pain is too great. They probably won’t say this because that means admitting they have issues up front. But that’s the truth hidden behind their mask. Let's face it, that's why I have avoided commitment in the past.

Commitment allows someone into your life in an up close and personal way. And we all I know we I have issues. So the prospect of someone seeing these issues, and then rejecting you me, is horrifying. “What if they don’t like me?” “What if they expect me to change and I can’t?” “What if they find out that I’m the wrong person?” “And what if that leads to divorce?” Ouch!

C.S. Lewis wrote something of this:

"Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."

Am I writing this about you or myself? In all writing there's a touch of the author within, your bruised toes are also mine.