My life seems to be in a season of weddings, causing me to ponder the nature and call of marriage. In that vain, I offer these reflections. The core thoughts were written when I was starting seminary and just weeks away from my own wedding; I’ve modified it with my thoughts now that I’m post-graduate and a few short years into my own marriage.
In a class the question was posed: What difference does being Christian make in one’s marriage? The student concluded: it doesn’t. A relationship or marriage doesn’t necessarily need to be Christian in order to be ‘successful’ or ‘healthy’.
Which first raises lots of questions about what it means to have a successful marriage — love? happiness? growth? tolerating one another until death? By whatever yardstick we measure, I can’t disagree with the statement more strongly. As indifference was proclaimed, my heart throbbed and I blood pulsed in my ears.
A marriage cannot thrive, and can rarely even survive, without the practice of death and resurrection.
Regularly, two people in any relationship will hurt one another. They will fail each other not only in the “I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning” ways, but in big ways, too. In ways that replicate their previous abuses. In ways that lead to outbursts or to silent withdrawals. In any living relationship, if there’s not outright neglect, there will be broken promises and disappointments, raised voices and raised defenses, differing expectations, rejection and hurt, opposing desires.
The couples that make it are the ones that can die to their own point of view just long enough see the other’s perspective. The couples who thrive die to their own demands and seek to understand the desire of their mate. The couples who succeed die to their vow of vengeance or silence, in order to resurrect their vow to love their partner.
You cannot love well without some form of death and resurrection.
This is not to say that only Christian couples survive; divorce rate is about equal between those of faith and proclaimed atheists. The student who asserted that it makes no difference whether or not you’re a Christian is correct, statistically.
And yet, I wouldn’t say that couples whose marriage follow a death-and-resurrection pattern are living without Christ, even if they identify themselves as atheist. Likewise, couples who identify as Christian may not necessarily practice loving as Christ did.