Marriage is a skill that we learn by doing. A good marriage is an achievement, not an entitlement. Getting married is not like falling into a kind of Disneyland or waltzing into a permanently glittering ballroom, like our culture relentlessly and erringly touts. We must learn to square ourselves with the fact that all too often our culture is obsessed with shallow trappings rather than real essences, and its pathways invariably end in disillusionment and depression.
It often takes ten years for a marriage to wake up from this delusion and settle into what a marriage really is: staying lovingly and profoundly connected with one person for an adult lifetime. God designed this relationship to be long and to require something big of us, in order for us to even begin to understand what godly love really is all about.
Faithfully staying in the game, doing the “daily round” of family duties and responsibilities, shapes and molds us far more than we can imagine. Duty is both our challenge and our learned victory. It builds within us the maturity of self-denial. And it progressively teaches us the skill of being able to marshal our wandering disparate selves into towers of intention and accomplishment.
Devotedly loving ONE, teaches us about love for ALL. And oddly, the path to such knowledge requires a continual and determined focus of forsaking all others—trading toying and flirting with what is not ours for engendering new love for the same person day after day. Fidelity becomes our hallowed path and joy. Why? because our Lord did it first towards us, showing us how to love unswervingly even unto death…’til death do us part. He perhaps designed marriage so that we, too, as mere mortals, should “have a go at it”—to see what such love “takes.”
Make no mistake, God wants every marriage that He authors to “make it”—and thus He adds a good amount of appropriate and helpful glue via sexual enjoyment, shared mutual achievements and aspirations, and joint offspring from the combined DNA.
God’s glue quietly and unconsciously grows the marriage into a nice sure familiarity, too—a familiarity that breeds comfort and security. C. S. Lewis said this phenomenon can even exist with something as ordinary as getting used to the neighbor’s cat always on your property; finally the cat works his way into your emotions, against your better judgment, and you find yourself anticipating the rub against your legs as you sip tea and read on the front porch…and eventually you might even get up and feed that cat!
Applying supernatural glue is God’s part—but our part is just as vital. You build a marriage. You don’t just inherit one. And much of what the marriage becomes depends upon you. What kind of marriage would you like? Build it.
Yes, making a good marriage is a skill, just like learning to play a musical instrument. It comes with a steep learning curve. At first, everything about it is new, sometimes hard to navigate, perplexing, awkward, even unthinkable, perhaps. Playing an instrument requires lots of practice initially and a determination to stick with it, until it eventually yields a lovely sound more easily. You can either casually fiddle with your marriage (furtively wishing you could change instruments—continually rolling the idea around like hard candy in your mind) or choose to master THIS one.
Here is another helpful picture. A good marriage can be viewed as a grand junction of two roaring rivers. The two very different lives at first make a huge clashing spray (first of infatuation and excitement, but not long afterwards, perhaps in irritation and incompatibility) at the junction where the two join, but downstream become calm and steady, gentle and beautiful. Surviving the clash becomes important.
A good marriage can also be pictured as a fine Swiss watch, well oiled, which ticks on and on with a steady dependability. Marriage is an adventure in adjustment, ever fine-tuning our lives in light of the other one. This unknowingly gets done so well (‘tis one of God’s ordinary miracles) that eventually, in our older marriages and in our older years, even a grain of sand in the works can be noticed (hey, it’s a Swiss watch)—something a clunky, less destined clock wouldn’t even alter its clang for.
By staying in the game, we begin to see how vast another human being actually is, and that love in the last analysis has no measure. It will have to grow deep and wide to encompass the complexity of any human being. Marriage dethrones the deep-seated love and satisfaction of self and powerfully and deftly enlarges one’s own soul.