First off, I'd like to ease your mind a bit. I won't be talking about that one subject that's all the rage right now. Won't broach it at all. I want to steer clear of it entirely right now because I have the feeling that with all the buzz and the drawing up of sides about that one certain aspect of marriage, this is an excellent opportunity to talk about other important aspects of marriage. Maybe help define it a little along the way. Perhaps.
Signing the Marriage Contract
"Contract". Now there's a fun word for you. Businesses contract out their construction work, you sign an employee contract when you begin to work at your new job, your wireless company has to provide you internet, and you have to pay them for it, after all, it's in the contract. It's also how our culture views our wedding vows. As a contract. After all, we say some promises to uphold, sign a sheet of paper, and then seal it all with a kiss, though it might as well be a firm handshake between parties. But here's the problem, what happens when one side doesn't hold up their end of the bargain? Have you seen our divorce rates lately? After all, we don't keep our service provider when they're unreliable, our carpenter gets no pay when he does the shelves completely wrong, and our employees get canned if they slack off all the time. So why keep the sheet of paper intact if your contract partner hasn't lived up to agreed upon expectations? The viewing of marriage as a contract between two people is the first mistake I want to draw attention to.
The ramifications of this go even deeper, though. Question and answer time! Q. Why do we have contracts with anyone? A. To get something from them, of course. Is that what marriage is then? Does it exist so we can proceed to extract as much sex, companionship, and emotional gratification from the other as we possibly can, both parasitically using one another until, of course, it gets too difficult, boring, the "feelings" or sex run out, someone more exciting comes along, or one side doesn't think the other is holding up their end of the "contract"? There is a trend in our country that young people staying single longer. Yes, it has much to do with men wanting sex without a bothersome lasting commitment, but it's also got to have something to do with this "contract" view of marriage. I don't want to owe anyone anything, especially not love, and I don't want to be owed love either! ("Oh, honey, these flowers are beautiful! Why did you get them for me?" "I'm your spouse. It's my duty." Feel the love!)
Another Level Up
Speaking of dating, did you know marriage is much, much older than it? And yet, our culture seems to view marriage as the next step, or a step somewhere in line with dating. First we meet, then we're friends, then we date, perhaps we move in together (though that's still in the dating phase), and then we marry. This is another reason why it's so easy for us to consider breaking marriage off. If our life before marriage consists of: living with our significant other, sex with our significant other, combined finances with our significant other, etc. and that can be ended easily. Why not marriage? It's just a more intense form of what we were already doing anyway. It's contracted dating, if you will. What I'm trying to get at here is that with this view in mind there is now nothing special about marriage at all other than the fact that our relationship now has the name "marriage" attached to it and that the government will no longer want us to fill out our tax forms in the same way as before.
What is Love?
Then there's that whole "love" issue. Everyone says you should base your marriage on love, but "Love", as I hear it most often defined, "is that fuzzy, warm, delightfully happy feeling you get inside you when that special someone is around." So, it's a feeling, is it? There's a lasting bond for you. My feelings can often be dictated by the amount of sleep I got last night, a song I just heard, or a random happy childhood memory that just popped into my head. No wonder so many exs can say, "I just fell out of love with them..." as an acceptable reason to divorce their spouses. Once again, we find that you are with the person for what they can give to you. The moment the feeling stops, "Sorry, contract annulled, gotta go find the new hotness to satisfy me". Selfish, no?
What if, however, marriage was created and permanently defined by God, and He defined it as an unbreakable covenant? Whoa, there's a difference. A covenant is something that lasts until one of the parties is dead, regardless of what the other side does. "That makes marriage too much of a risk!" you say. Yeah, be really, really careful who you decide to marry. It's not something to take as lightly as we take it.
What if, prepare yourself for some serious counterculture, the really special thing about marriage is sex, and we are just spoiling it for ourselves by "hooking up" with others before hand? Marriage being the relationship that God made where it is not only safe to have sex, but where sex can really shine out on its own as something special. Freely given and received by only one other. After all, He invented it, and perfected it. And He made you. Surely He knows who the best person for you to have it with?
What if marriage is meant to be built on the daily sacrifice of both to serve the others best interests over and above their own? This is the real definition of "love", by the way, not "a fuzzy feeling inside" but rather "a continued willingness to sacrifice yourself for the good of the other". Your time, your hobbies, your life, all for your partner who does the same for you.
What if marriage is an exclusive union of two lives becoming one life set up by God as an earthly representation for Christ's union with the Church His bride, and established by God for the lifelong emotional protection, well-being, and intimacy of both the people involved as well as for the children that they bring up and together care for, all safely under the guard of the unbreakable covenant they swore to uphold alongside one another before God, family, and friends on their wedding day? Our culture has such a shallow view of marriage by comparison, my friends.
It's not a contract, it's a covenant.
It's not another step up from dating, unless that step is a thousand feet up.
It's not for your personal satisfaction, it's for your personal growth, security, and joy.
It does not involve sacrificing the other person for yourself, it involves sacrificing yourself for the other person.