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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Trial By Marriage

David Wayne over at JollyBlogger has a great post on how marriage can be a trial by fire. Here's a snippet of an incident with his wife while they were going through seminary:
One day we were sitting around, not sure if we had just had a fight and not sure what prompted this confession, but she let me know that if I were to die, she had already picked out the guy she wanted to marry next. He was a young, good looking single guy there at the seminary. Oh, I said. Well, it just so happened that I had been thinking along the same lines. So I told her that I too had my eye on a future mate if she should die. I had picked out this cute little blonde from Alabama who had a southern accent that wouldn't quit.

Of course you understand the position we were coming from. As Christians we knew we could never divorce, so we had to hope for the death of our spouse. You may have heard Ruth Bell Graham's famous words that she had never, ever considered divorcing Billy, but she had considered murder on a few occasions. That's the perspective we were operating under.

Strange as it may seem, that was a kind of healing moment for us. Rather than lash out at each other we cracked up. Here we were, the great man of God in training and his lovely and godly wife, secretly planning a life after the other's death. And as I said, it was strange, I think we actually grew closer through that because the blinders came off and we both realize that we were both sinners who were married to sinners - EGAD, oh the horror!

I think at that time we began learning the fine art of cutting each other some slack. We both realized that we could start demanding perfection from each other when we had reached perfection. I think one of the reasons we have such a good marriage is that slack is something we cut each other on a daily basis.

Click here to read the whole thing...
I appreciate David's realization that marriage is not be-all, end-all, cure-all that makes everything better - and yet that is often how we view it. People enter marriage thinking that is going to cure their problems, strengthen their failing relationship.

It does do that - or at least it can - but the way it does this is often unexpected, and what it requires of me is often painful. You see, above all else, marriage reveals us for who we are. It's like sandpaper, an irritant that grinds away. It's like a magnifying class, which takes little imperfections and enlarges them for everyone to see.

And what marriage reveals is what I'd least like to admit - I am indeed a sinful, selfish person. Do I love my wife because she cooks and cleans and is a great lover, because she performs according to my expectations? Or do I love her simply because she is my wife, because I promised to love her in spite of her beauty, her utility, her performance?

You see, marriage reveals that we are both deeply flawed. And apart from such recognition, repentance and forgiveness are both impossible. Grace is meaningless if we do not also understand our own shortcomings, failures, and inadequacies. But a couple who sees the magnitude of their sins can also appreciate the magnitude of forgiveness in spite of those sins.

This is why Jesus spoke of the woman who was a "sinner" - she loves much, because she has been forgiven much (Lk 7:47). And his point for all of us is that we are sinners too, just as bad if not far worse.

This brings us back to the heart of the gospel: we can't learn to love until we learn to forgive, and we'll never learn to forgive others until we see our own need for forgiveness. Marriage brings these realities to the fore. The way we learn to live together is by first learning to die to ourselves and to repent of our self-righteous pride. That's where real marriage begins...


At 6:10 PM, June 10, 2005, Anonymous amylav said...

Your first two lines didn't catch my eye--but as I was scrolling down to the next post--wondering if Real Sex was a book I should just purchase now or borrow first then decide whether to add to my library later--your last couple paragraphs caught my attention.

The sandpaper irritant caught my eye. That's the case whether it's about marriage or any other endeavor. Expectations and interpretations.

You've discerned the essence of the Christian life in your last paragraph.


At 10:05 AM, June 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This really hit home. Especially your last sentence, "learning to die to ourselves and to repent of our self-righteous pride".

While I am obviously a sinner too, how do I deal with a spouse who, despite the fact that they are married, still live live as if they were single? By this I mean that they are constantly putting leisure activities above our marriage and our household. If it ever comes up in a conversation, I am simply reminded that I'm not perfect either - completely changing the subject and makeing me feel small.

At 10:24 AM, June 22, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Ah, that's really the rub, isn't it? You have raised a GREAT question, and it deserves a thoughtful answer. I'm afraid there probably isn't an easy solution (or at least not one that is comfortable or guaranteed!), but Scripture doesn't leave us in the dark either.

So let's do this - let me give it some thought, and then I'll do a complete post on that question (and maybe I'll invite my wife to post something). In the meantime, you may want to consider the following resource: How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong. My wife has read this book (for a class, I swear!!!) and I think she found it very helpful.

At 12:49 PM, June 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Christian.


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