Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Marriage

Marriage. I'm not an expert. I've been married a grand total of 2 years, 9 months, and 6 blessed days. But let's talk about it anyway. When it is done God's way, it's a beautiful thing. I thank God that Cody is my husband, and I pray that our marriage glorifies God all our days together. But do we as Christians exalt it maybe a little too high? Is it the ultimate prize, the heaven of life? Is that marital relationship even more important to us than our relationship with God Almighty? Sometimes I think we jump in too quickly. Consider this quote from Vanity Fair: 
"There were but nine days past since Amelia had left that little cottage and home--and yet how far off the time seemed since she had bidden it farewell.  What a gulf lay between her and that past life.  She could look back to it from her present standing-place, and contemplate, almost as another being, the young unmarried girl absorbed in her love, having no eyes but for one special object, receiving parental affection if not ungratefully, at least indifferently, and as if it were her due--her whole heart and thoughts bent on the accomplishment of one desire.  The review of those days, so lately gone yet so far away, touched her with shame; and the aspect of the kind parents filled her with tender remorse.  Was the prize gained--the heaven of life--and the winner still doubtful and unsatisfied? As his hero and heroine pass the matrimonial barrier, the novelist generally drops the curtain, as if the drama were over then: the doubts and struggles of life ended: as if, once landed in the marriage country, all were green and pleasant there: and wife and husband had nothing but to link each other's arms together, and wander gently downwards towards old age in happy and perfect fruition.  But our little Amelia was just on the bank of her new country, and was already looking anxiously back towards the sad friendly figures waving farewell to her across the stream, from the other distant shore."
 This paragraph comes out of chapter 26 ("Between London and Chatham") and, in my copy, is found on pages 250 and 251.

Thackeray gets it. We paint a pretty picture. We read books and watch movies and sigh contentedly over the perfect love stories and the happily ever afters. We're sucked in by the highs and lows before the marriage and cheer the couple on through the hard times, right down the church aisle and then, bam!, end scene. What about the highs and lows after the wedding? This makes me want to talk about two things.

1-Be very, very, VERY careful about who you marry. I can not possibly emphasize this enough. Do you really know the person you are so head-over-heels about? Have you gone to any trusted third party for counsel and a different perspective? A perspective that's not blurred by planning the perfect wedding and "OMG, our kids will be so cute"? And if you did, did you listen? Really listen? Did you spend any time building a relationship with this person before you started to date and let your hormones run wild? Were you friends? Have you observed any of his (or her) non-romantic relationships to see how he (or she) treats people? Do your homework, people. Don't jump into a marriage with a stranger. Take the time to get to know each other. And not in a physical context. In Vanity Fair, our sweet Amelia knew George her entire life, but always through the context that she would one day marry him. Her biggest problem was that she didn't know his character. He was perfect in her eyes, and she didn't make the effort to understand who he really was. This idea that they were made for each other and would one day undoubtedly marry was fostered by their parents from the time they were small. Which brings me to my second point:

2-This one is for the parents. Have you taught your children the truth about marriage? Have you raised them with the understanding that no matter how in love with someone they may be, they will face conflict? I'm talking about your little children. Not your engaged daughter who already thinks Mr. Right can do no wrong. Not your 24 year old son who just wants to get down that aisle and on to the honeymoon to enjoy all that guilt-free sex. They won't hear you at that point. They don't want to hear you at that point. This is a conversation that needs to start when your kids are young and continue during all their high school crushes and serious adult relationships. They need to know that all these wonderful marriages they see sitting in the pews at church are hard-fought and hard-won. That they didn't just "wander gently downwards towards old age in happy and perfect fruition." The other disadvantage Amelia faced was that her parents were not truthful with her about marriage, nor did they teach her what to expect from marriage. They only encouraged her in her blind devotion to George, and urged her toward the marriage rather than throw any caution in her way.

I'm so thankful that Cody and I got to know each other as people for 16 years....16 YEARS.....before we ever considered a romantic relationship. I'm even more thankful that I have two wonderful parents who laid an honest foundation for me and taught me realistic expectations for marriage. These past 2 years, 9 months and 6 days truly have been wonderful, and I wouldn't trade Cody or my marriage for anything. I don't look wistfully back across that gulf to days gone by. But this time has not been without its struggles, and I'm thankful for the parents who taught me how to face those struggles with the determination to find God's solution every time.

Let me conclude this post with some of the words from the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony which is typically read at the beginning of a wedding ceremony (emphasis is my own):
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If any man can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him speak now, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace."
Oh that we would enter into marriage in the fear of God.


6 comments:

  1. This is the best. I'm speechless. This post should be viral. Seriously, everyone needs to read this, and you are awesome.
    I absolutely love that quote. The wording is exquisite. Marriage is hard. I didn't have the perfect parental example BUT that is not an excuse. I still had the responsibility to learn. I am so thankful to your dad and the other pastors at our church who lead consistent, godly lives and whose marriages are ones to be emulated. I will admit my view of marriage was distorted by the joys of planning a wedding and the excitement of being engaged. Marriage is where the work begins. It's not exciting, but it's beautiful and worth it. I wouldn't change it for anything.

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    1. Thanks, Greg! I really appreciate that. =)

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  3. Kristi LavioletteMarch 2, 2015 at 2:51 PM

    I was Amelia. On our honeymoon, I cried a lot. Some was because I was really excited and happy, but some of it was because I was SO scared. Now, I love my husband dearly and there is no regret - but I didn't really feel prepared for marriage. Maybe you can't be. But you sure can try!

    One thing I will definitely do is teach my children that love is not a easy come easy go feeling. It is the hardest work I have ever had to do in my life - and not just in the context of marriage. In EVERY relationship.

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    1. That is really great insight, Kristi. I don't think anyone can truly be fully prepared for marriage, just as I don't believe anyone can truly be fully prepared to be a parent. Relationships that honor God will always be hard work for us because as long as we live, we will have to struggle against our sin nature.

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