Remember when people got married, had kids, and moved into the big house? Seems now people move into the big house, have kids, and then get married. I'm guessing the institution and legal contract of marriage doesn't seem to hold the power or attraction it once did.
I'm not judging. I've been married almost 24 years, and there were many years I nearly walked away. Truth be told, I did move out for a few months once. When I moved back in, we agreed to work our butts off to make this marriage work. I honestly don't think we would have made it if we weren't both incredibly committed to the grueling, painful work it took to move from a place of distrust, anger, and pain to a place of trust, communication, and healing.
I don't know if the institution of marriage is the thing that will work for everyone. But I do know God created us to be in relationship with each other. And the intimate relationship of partnership is one (but not the only) of God's greatest gifts and challenges. Whether people are in an unmarried relationship with their babies' other parent, in a committed same-sex relationship, or living together, the most important thing is the commitment people make to each other. (Not knocking marriage -- marriage is an incredibly powerful bond that has significant benefits.)
When two people make the decision to become vulnerable with each other, to share their inner demons and their wildest dreams, to become sexually intimate, to walk through fire and ice together -- now, that is a commitment God can smile upon. We were not created to be isolated. A romantic/intimate/married/committed relationship is one of the greatest ways we can make a commitment to ourselves not to live in isolation.
The hard part comes when trust, communication, vulnerability, or intimacy breaks down. When someone we have been vulnerable and trusting with betrays our trust or our vulnerability, we lose a part of ourselves. We shut down that beautiful, tender, raw self from others and from ourselves. And it's painful. For us, for the other, and for God. This is the betrayal God wanted to prevent us from ever experiencing. (Not just the betrayal of an affair, but also betrayals of building emotional walls, refraining from communicating, intentionally hurting or taking advantage of the other, and many others.) God never wants to see us in the kind of pain we experience when a beloved, trusted one betrays us. Or the pain when we have betrayed the one we love.
So it's worth the hard work of becoming vulnerable when the idea of vulnerability is terrifying. It's worth the hard work of learning to trust slowly after a betrayal of that trust. Waking up next to each other on days we can't stand to see each other's faces. Holding our tongues when we really want to shout, scream, and swear. Investing time and money in marriage/couples counseling to learn new skills. Actively loving when the feeling of love is hard to find. Listening when we want to do all the talking. Looking at and into the person we most want to overlook. It's worth it. We were created to work it.
Jeremy and Kimberly
Narrative Lectionary Text: Ephesians 5:30-33
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.