You know, sometimes we’re so saturated by what the culture says about love, sex and romance that we cannot hear–or remember–what God teaches us about these things. That is to say, I sometimes catch myself thinking defensively, unconsciously defending my decision to marry at a young age rather than live a life of self-gratification and hedonistic pleasure. In such moments, my thinking is exactly backward.
The reality is that marriage is an incredible institution. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no pro at it. I’m a year and a half into my marriage to the lovely Bethany, and I am the first to tell you that I don’t have everything figured out. I just don’t. For example, I am a complete novice when it comes to determining when to give my wife her gifts. This morning, for example, I set out her Valentine’s Day gift beside some fresh flowers. From her reaction, I could tell that, while she was quite gratified to see that I, a clueless guy, had made a monetary purchase on her behalf, she also was slightly dismayed by (admittedly) strange timing in delivering my gift to her. It was the middle of the morning, she was bustling about, and it was not really the time for the delivery of said monetary purchase. I quickly retracted the gift without a word, a sign that though I am a clueless guy, I am not as clueless as I used to be. In the past, after all, I would have asked her why the timing was wrong, thus successfully spoiling the moment in its entirety.
This is a lighthearted example of my novice husband status, of course. I am a sinner, and Bethany sees that on a daily basis. We can both testify that I have clay feet as a man. And yet even with this stated, our marriage is so good, so happy, so transcendently meaningful. We are not simply Owen and Bethany Strachan, married couple. We are a united pair, a visible display of the reality of the biblical gospel in a broken world. This is a beautiful–and meaningful–thing. This is a holy thing. Marriage is no loser’s trophy in this world. It is the best thing going. This is not what our secular culture tells us. In the current day, marriage is demeaned, ridiculed, or perhaps worst of all, ignored. Secular singleness-characterized by a narcissistic, self-exalting, self-gratifying way of life–dominates in the current day. And yet we who are married laugh as we are laughed at. We know what it is to come home to someone day after day. We know what it is to be in a lifelong covenant with another person. Just think about it–compare such a state to even the best cohabiting relationship, where either person can check out at any moment. Go beyond the basic reality of commitment to the daily experience of marriage. In happy, God-centered marriages, the couple does not simply live together in the bond of covenant, but they regularly express love for one another. They do things that communicate care and affection for the other person. They don’t do this for a week or a month or a year–they do it for a lifetime. The sum total of all these expressions of love is gigantic. It is an incredible thing, this business of being loved tenaciously and devotedly by another person for all of life. I’ve only experienced it for a year and a half, and I can say that I have experienced far, far more goodness than even the most successful pickup artist, the most prolific hook-up king. I don’t say this with boasting or arrogance. My experience is, among happily married God-glorifying couples, quite normal. We live lives in which our spouse regularly showers us with love. To think that a one-night stand, a chain of one-night stands, or a lifetime of one-night stands compares to this is to commit intellectual blasphemy, and to tragically delude oneself.
This is a very simple reflection on marriage. One could say so much more about it. But then, there’s a sense in which one doesn’t need to. The couple that loves one another is blessed beyond their imagining. To bring this home, I think of my grandparents’ relationship. My grandfather, Daniel Dustin, loved his wife, Rachel Dustin, for over 60 years. There was some struggle in those years–there were some fights and a good deal of sins and things that one doesn’t desire to talk about much. But there was such good, such tremendous good, in those sixty plus years of life together. There were so many tangible expressions of kindness, so many words of affirmation and encouragement, so many difficulties negotiated through the power of a bonded love. In sum, my grandparents created a beautiful life together. I compare them with a man who had great success in attracting girls to sleep with him. Some Hollywood actors, for example, are reputed to have slept with thousands of women. But what do they sit and think about as they prepare for death in old age? What tangible expressions can they recall? What difficulties were overcome through the sheer force of love? What legacy of committed happiness can they point to? What offspring are around to remind them of a love that endured over many decades? The answer is that such a man has little, precious little, that is truly meaningful to remember. Marriage–God-glorifying, Christ-centered marriage–is not alluring or mysterious. It is not flashy or fancy. It is simple, it is humble, and it is, in a way that utterly opposes secular singleness, transcendent. Here’s one man’s attempt, then, to give thanks for that which is humble, simple, and quite wonderful.