NOVELTY NEVER SAVED A MARRIAGE
A marriage is built, not bought. It takes hard work day after day. It’s not the kind of work you hate doing, but more like the work that, though difficult, you enjoy because there’s purpose, meaning, and joy in it.
It’s also not work that you can delegate or hire out. It’s work you alone must do, and work you often are not equipped for, but learn by trial and error, along with the help of others more experienced than you.
It’s often easier, though, not to do it, putting off today what you think you can take care of tomorrow.
Learning to communicate, having a conversation, confessing what you’ve done, asking forgiveness, self-sacrifice, denying yourself, serving daily. These are all things that at the moment of needing to be done we find the most challenging and humbling to do. Instead we would rather go do something novel or exciting to either “make up” for what needs to be done or to convince ourselves that what’s happening is “not that big of a deal”.
However, novelty for its own sake never saved a marriage. Neither are novelty and excitement definitive signs of a good marriage. They could be. The problem is when we think that their lack is a sign of a bad marriage and, therefore, what we need in order to have a good marriage.
GIVING YOURSELF TO BE GIVEN
The constant pursuit of excitement is the pursuit of a sense or feeling of happiness. But a sense of happiness is not the same thing as happiness itself. Happiness may have the result of a sense of excitement or anticipation, but something to be excited about is not the same thing as the happiness that comes from being committed to one another, even when that sense of excitement is gone or missing. Because marriage is a commitment first of giving yourself to another, not of giving things or experiences (which are not bad in themselves).
Excitement and novelty over things and/or experiences, though, sometimes serve to cover up what is being left unaddressed and unattended. But the facade on a house is not the same thing as the structure of it. If the structure crumbles, so does the most exciting facade in the neighborhood. If we have to choose, we should choose a well-built home over one that looks good.
To pursue happiness in marriage, then, is to pursue stability, permanence, honesty, forgiveness, and sacrifice. These are fruits of substance, and most, if not all of them, are cultivated not in a day but day after day and season after season.
For Christians this daily commitment means to die to ourselves, to surrender ourselves, to consecrate ourselves, to give ourselves to be given by God to and for another. Why? Because God loved the world and gave us his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me” on a cross (Galatians 2:20). And this isn’t just something we say. This is how we live and give ourselves to be given: in and through the self-giving, self-denying, self-sacrificing love of Christ who lives in us; his grace transforming, teaching, energizing, and satisfying us daily by the Holy Spirit.
NOTHING WILL SEPARATE US
We can say what we want, spend what we want, and do what we want. But when we lay down at night only we know whether or not we’re pursuing something novel out of fear of what we’re ignoring or out of a desire to build our marriage. But we can’t build on a bad foundation. We need to first dig up and rebuild that foundation. Abandoning the hastiness or the craving of novelty will strip us of our facade, keep us from missing our way, and force us to look at ourselves, as embarrassing or painful or humbling as it surely will be. But why?
Because there is something exciting, fulfilling, and lasting about the hard work that is giving yourself in love to and for another, whatever the price and the cost.
Marriage is for the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong. Otherwise money could buy it and strength could save us. But sometimes you donâ€™t have half of what you want or need, and many times you fail to keep yourself from sinning against your husband or wife. The wealth and strength of a relationship are in the poverty and weakness of each person recognizing and confessing their own lack and faults, and of covering the lack and bearing the faults of the other. How? Again, yet as always, love.
Love sees no reason to withhold nor to hold against, ever. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love says, “I won’t hide what I’ve done and I won’t ignore what you’ve done. These things could separate us, but I’ll deal with them so that nothing will separate us.” Because of love you choose to sit, talk, cry, pray, go to sleep, get up, and go to work building your marriage another day.
Of course along the way you will enjoy days and seasons and laugh, dream, and hope. But in a well-built marriage these times aren’t restricted to being researched, scheduled, and planned. They are boundless, spontaneous, surprising, and unplanned. Such moments of joy are less the necessity of what you must produce and more the fruit of what you are already cultivating, attending to, and persevering in.