How do we view the other person? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I’m downstairs with the family and I multitask. I usually do that as I can pay attention to two things at once. So we’re watching something and I have my Switch with me and I decide which game I want to play on it. Easy. Which one will bring me the most joy at the moment? If I get frustrated or bored with it, I can just switch to another one.
Suppose we’re watching a show and just lose interest. What do we do? Easy. We switch over and find another one. Easy. It works fine.
Suppose you’re at a restaurant. What do you get? What you can afford, what you want, and possibly what you think is good for you. Don’t like it when it comes? You can just trash it.
Suppose you get married to someone and you love them at first, but then you just lose that spark. You think there are better waters somewhere else. What do you do? Easy. Just leave them and go out and find love somewhere else so you can have happiness.
Yet somehow, I hope you paused at that last one and considered it differently.
There is no commitment to the game, the TV show, or the food at the restaurant. I didn’t make a marital vow to, say, Pokemon Arceus, and therefore I can’t switch over to TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge. I didn’t vow exclusivity to Smallville, therefore I can’t watch the Flash. I didn’t say I will only order Subway sandwiches, therefore I can’t order french fries at another restaurant. None of those things will care either if I switch.
Unfortunately, we treat marriage the same way. Marriage is not about something bigger than ourselves often. It is just about ourselves. It is about what makes us happy and normally, about our feelings at the moment.
The Human League years ago did a song called Fascination where they said to keep feeling fascination, passion burning, love so strong. It’s a nice dream, but any married couple will tell you it’s false. You cannot promise good feelings to each other forever. Feelings come and go for whatever reason.
And too often, our lives are built on trying to get those feelings. Dare I say it, but I suspect our spiritual lives are often the same way. Could we often want joy in the Lord more than the Lord Himself? You could actually be worshiping the Lord properly and not be exuberant with feelings of joy. (How many of our worship songs are really about us and our emotional states instead of about Jesus?)
Marriage has really become a consumer good. Pick someone that makes you happy and brings you joy and when that fades, then go somewhere else. Marriage is about what the other person can do for me.
Now in some sense, you do have to know what the other person can do for you. As one seeking to remarry, I do have to think about what I like in a spouse. What qualities am I looking for? However, I also have to think about who I am good for. This other person could help me greatly, but is it a two-way street? Do I help them as well? If it’s all about what they can do for me, then when it looks like I’m not getting what I want anymore, I can move on after all.
If you are expecting someone to always give you good feelings, they will fail you. If I think I can always give someone good feelings, I will fail them. No one can do that. I cannot possibly go to an altar and promise another woman that I will feel love for her forever.
However, I can promise that I will love and that I will do loving actions. I won’t do them perfectly, but that will be my goal. I have to realize that marriage is bigger than I am. What we are entering into is a microcosm of a demonstration of Christ and the Church.
Suppose you are someone who reads the Song of Songs allegorically. Even if you do that, it has to be accepted that a physical love relationship is the means that the love of God for His people is demonstrated by. I do think the Song can be read as an allegory, but I also stress we should read it first as a love poem celebrating love and marital intimacy. See it as a love song about marriage and then say “And that’s a minor demonstration of how God loves us.”
So what do we do? Get past our consumer good mentality of marriage. We can use consumerism for things of this world often, but people are not just things. We don’t treat people like that. We don’t treat our relationships with them like that. People are greater than that and marriage is greater than that.
If we enter into a marriage expecting it to be all about us, it will end. If we enter a marriage asking what we can do for the greater good, we are far more likely to succeed. Marriage is not our story really. It’s God’s story and He lets us play a part in it.
Let’s play it well.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)