Hopefully, this concluding post for the Hard Things To Hear series won’t be that hard to hear, as I’ve pretty much done my ranting ahead of time. To summarize:
In Hard Things #5, I told the husbands, “It’s Not About You, Dude!”
In Hard Things #6, I told the wives, “Lady, It’s Not About You!”
“Well, then,” someone might respond, “who is it about, then?” If I were a truly Spiritual Christian Blogger™, I would cast my eyes toward Heaven and piously intone, “It’s about God.”
Yeah, well, just mebbe I’m not that spiritual. This series has been a rant about husbands and wives growing up into marriage, and being lovers, as God intended. And just in case the penny hasn’t dropped, I’ve been coming down heavily on the “Lovers” part of the bargain. So the answer is
It’s not about him or her, it’s about y’all!
Maybe the problem is that we are so individualistic, that we are fixated on our rights and desires. Maybe our churches and Christian media have dropped the ball in conveying the message that in love, we are to prefer another over ourselves (Rom. 12:10). Whatever the root problem is, it seems that many have gotten the idea that each has his/her marriage, each has his/her sex life and that each has his/her relationship with God.
We have Netflix, and the other night, we watched an old movie that we hadn’t seen in decades, A Man Called Peter, the life of Peter Marshall. Made in a time when being a Christian was not a shame in Hollywood, several scenes that were of Marshall’s preaching. One of the sermons was on marriage, and this quote from the movie speaks to the failing of Christian teaching on marriage today
Marriage is not a union of two sovereign states…. It’s the fusion of two hearts, the coming together of two tributaries, which, after being joined in marriage, will flow in the same channel and in the same direction, carrying the same burdens of responsibility and obligation. ~ purportedly, a Peter Marshall sermon, A Man Called Peter.
No Longer Sovereign
A single man or woman is just this: sovereign. As a single adult, I was able to make decisions about my life on my own, with or without advice from others. It was my decision, and mine alone!! I’m free to choose whether to become a scholar, a salesman, a sailor, or a sot. How I choose to live my life is my decision, and as long as I hurt no one by breaking any laws, I can go about living my life as I choose without regard for others.
Marshall’s imagery of two rivers converging is apropos. At Pittsburgh, the Monongahela River, flowing from the south and the Allegheny River, from the north, meet. Where these two river join, the Ohio River is formed, and flows to the west. You can’t take water from the Ohio and try to parse it out, saying, “This bucket is from the Monongahela, this from the Allegheny.” The two rivers are joined, flowing in one direction. When a couple are married, they are joined, and should be flowing in the same direction, as well.
When a couple marry, each is promising to the other that his/her sovereignty is now going to be subsumed into the life of the marriage. The word that should jump out at you, from Marshall’s paragraph, is responsibility. As a single person, I am not responsible to anyone or for anyone; I am sovereign, without any boundaries on my life, other than legal ones. This is true of my spouse-to-be. “Free, single, and 21”, goes the amended, non-offensive version of that statement.
But when a man and woman marry, they are voluntarily assuming obligations that make “sovereignty” a thing of the past. Each is saying that s/he now assumes responsibility to care for the other and seek the other’s good. In a previous series, I said that when marrying, I believe that we are taking on the task of bringing joy and happiness to our spouse. We are also taking on the obligation of laying aside ourselves in order to care for our spouse.
And this is the point that Marshall is getting at. When we decide to marry, it isn’t to add accessories to our lifestyle. Instead, it is to change our lifestyle, to send it in new and different channels, with another at my side, to whom and for whom I am responsible for their care and happiness. This is true marriage.