Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Marriage - Horrific Prison or Best Tool Ever?

Have you ever wondered who came up with the concept of marriage anyway? An institution that seems to be entirely contrary to the natural bend of the human heart could only have been introduced by God. No man sat around thinking "Wouldn't it be great to only have sex with one person for the rest of my life, and only when I haven't done anything too wrong that day to stave off a barrage of criticism and comparisons would I be given the opportunity?" And no woman one day decided, "I know, I'll take this guy who is currently wooing me and offer him a deal where he has me for life regardless of whether he continues to deserve me; he can completely quit and turn into a lazy selfish couch potato and I just have to be happy when he grunts in my direction!"

So why did God come up with marriage? Here are some theories. One is that he is just one big fun Nazi in the sky doing the best he can to ruin any sense of enjoyment we may ever get out of life. Another is that he just loves the sheer entertainment value of watching millions of simultaneous reality shows where men and women flounder around trying to make a relationship work. Our culture proposes that the goal of marriage is to make us happy - just find somebody who makes you happy, marry them and keep staying married until they stop making you happy - hence the current divorce rate. In the book, Sacred Marriage by Gary Chapman, an alternate theory is proposed - maybe God designed marriage to make us holy rather than happy?

It really makes more sense if you think about it - I mean if God wanted to create marriage to make us happy it probably would have been designed quite differently. Marriage is very tough work just to survive much less the effort it takes to accomplish a great marriage that you look forward to coming home to. Maybe marriage is an opportunity for two totally different people to be made better for having to kill their selfishness and pride so that they can become one unified entity that reflects the image of God better than anything else possible. In marriage growth and selfishness are inversely proportional - either your selfishness grows and your marriage dies or your marriage grows and your selfishness dies. So we can allow our marriage to shape us more and more into the image of Christ or we can skip off to someone else who will temporarily under the anesthesia of romantic love make us happy, or we can work tirelessly trying to fix our spouse into something that better suits our selfishness. So under this model it really isn't about finding the perfect person to marry but really just picking any old sinful, flawed human being. It isn't about assessing your mate to determine if you really are soul mates or if they are good enough for you. It isn't about trying desperately to please our spouse hoping they will be happy with us. It's about choosing to love our spouse not how they deserve to be loved, but in response to how God has loved us. God's job requirements will always be more stringent than your husband or wife's.

So when we look at marriage we can easily think it was designed by Satan to torment us but really it is a gift to address our greatest needs. the need to get past our own immature selfishness and learn to care about someone else more than ourselves. the need to be confident and secure enough to really be ourselves without fear that we will lose our spouse the second we stop being perfect. The need to constantly be given a challenge to greater and greater possibilities that can never be taken away - our spouse can reject us and leave, they can take us for granted, but the character and confidence that are developed when we die to ourselves and give our all toward a great calling is never wasted. But if there are two of us really doing this we have the ability to really create something amazing that stands out when others look at us, because rather than reflecting our culture we are actually reflecting the image of God.

But what if you have a really horrible spouse, does that give you a free pass? Short of extreme cases like abuse, adultery, addictions, and such then you are really being given a gift when you get a lazy shiftless husband or a nagging queen of the harpies wife. Because the greater the struggle it is to live with a person the more potential character that can be developed - the greater the challenge the greater the payoff. It's true in weightlifting, education, careers, and every other area of life, why wouldn't it be true in marriage. So if your spouse is a colossal pain in your butt then send out a quick prayer of Thanks to God for the opportunity He has given you to be better shaped into his image.

This viewpoint has the ability to totally shift your perspective on marriage so you stop berating a sinful flawed human being for being imperfect and start looking for how they can help you become more patient, loving, kind, forgiving, and accepting. Marriage is no longer a concentration camp where death is inevitable and you can only hope to jump the walls, it can become an incredibly effective tool to chisel away the parts of you that aren't holy so you can be revealed for the potential you have within. Given this tool should probably be investigated by the Geneva Convention as being cruel and unusual, but I am guessing the big lump of rock wasn't too thrilled about the vicious hammering and chiseling that transformed it into the statue work of art.

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