Wednesday, August 8, 2012

For better or for worse

Once, I was in a wedding party. It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony, and I stood there with the other groomsmen, sweating, feet blistering in the plastic rental shoes... and during the vows the bride laughed when the officiant said “for richer or for poorer.” I could understand her skepticism, since the flowers at her wedding cost a good deal more than my entire ceremony and reception, but still it made me wonder. Richer, poorer, better, worse, sickness, health... do we understand what those words mean when we say them?

Firm grasp of the possibilities, and having realistic expectations are crucial to the success of our marriages. Many people enter marriage with the misguided notion that it solves relationship problems, that once married we are somehow owed happiness. When poorer, sicker and worse are right there in the vows it should be clear that “happily ever after” is no guarantee. While this sounds bleak, the good news is that as part of a team, those things are easier to deal with then when we are alone. The secular world sees the team as two people, but as Christians, we know better. One of my favorite verses of scripture talks to this idea: Ecclesiastes 4:12 says:

A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Three strands; man and wife, and God. Assembled thusly, unions are best prepared to survive - and even thrive - when life’s troubles manifest. Of course marriage is deeper than “team.” The two become one flesh, one new entity where there used to be two people. As critical as realistic expectations are, so is commitment on the part of both people to keep the union paramount and sacred. Both spouses have to agree to always put the sanctity of the marriage above their own wants, needs and concerns. 1 Corinthians 13 speaks to this when it speaks about love:

It is patient and kind, not envious or arrogant, not rude or seeking its own way. It bears all, endures all and does not fail.

Husband and wife must be adamant that come what may, the team remains intact. Come what may, they will face it together and continue on. Practically though, how do we do that?

The wedding I mentioned above was a memorable party, but the marriage did not last. It ended within two years, and after one child. The couple had known each other for less than a year before the wedding so I’m guessing there was not much in the way of premarital counselling, honest discussion of expectations and goals, or efforts to get on the same page with one another on the big issues. The groom was an atheist and the bride was a casual Jew, after all. Couples tend to avoid the kind of discussions that will bring differences to light in an effort to not spoil the relationship, but this lack of communication doesn’t make the differences go away. It  delays the inevitable, and can lead to messy endings.

Before the wedding and after, both parties must grab that third strand, and put God at the heart of their union. He speaks to us in many ways: through his Word, through our faith communities, through prayer. It is up to us to engage God, always. If we do, when troubles occur - whether it be loss of a job, a disease, a difficult pregnancy - we have His strength and guidance to rely on. So, go to church together. Study the Bible together in a small group. Do daily devotionals together, and seek counsel from Godly friends and relatives when you are having issues. Most importantly, consider 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17:

Rejoice always, and pray without ceasing.

Pray for each other, and with each other. Pray in good times as well as bad, and thank God for all you have, including one another! Open your hearts in each other’s presence, and listen to God more than you speak or ask. What you say is not as important is keeping the dialogue open, so that God can speak into your life, and guide you to all your marriage can be.

No comments:

Post a Comment