Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
Caitlin Flanagan wrote an article in TIME magazine entitled, “Why Marriage Matters.” She begins by saying, “Buffeted by affairs and ennui, the intact, two-parent family is under assault. What America needs to get over its commitment issues. (Hint: it isn’t love)” (7/13/09, p. 45). What was so fascinating about the article was that, whether sociologists, feminists, domestic policy-makers, or other experts, they all came to the groundbreaking conclusion that children are healthier, more successful, and more productive who come from intact, two-parent homes. Flanagan kept returning to that conclusion, even as high profile cases of infidelity were offered to show how the guilty were selfishly putting their own ideals and needs about what their families truly needed.
While I believe that it is possible for a marriage to grow more romantic, satisfying, and enjoyable each and every day of one’s married life, such is a tangible benefit of the hard work and effort invested in marriage. It is neither automatic nor an entitlement. It is not to be “persevered” or patronized only so long as I am having a good time, get my way, or reap the “rewards” of it as I, subjectively, decide I should. No doubt, God created marriage to provide companionship and suitable help (Gen. 2:18ff) and a legitimate sexual outlet (1 Cor. 7:1ff). It is enriching and even thrilling to look back over years of partnership and see in one’s spouse the depth of intimacy built by shared time and experience. God certainly depicts a loving, close relationship in marriage as the ideal toward which to be striven (Song of Solomon, Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7). However, first and last, marriage is a lifelong commitment, an ongoing fulfillment of a vow made to and before God Himself, and a relationship that can be severed with God’s approval only under extreme circumstances.
Flanagan had so much good to say about marital partners considering how vital their staying married means to raising well-adjusted, optimally-functioning children. She hits the nail on the head regarding the deep-seated, lasting negative effects of divorce upon families and, ultimately, society. Yet, while it may only be a matter of semantics, I disagree with her premise. Staying married is about love. It is about knowing how to love, God’s way, and intentionally, intensely, and indefinitely, nurturing and growing that love in the marriage. Love involves duty, but it is so much more than that. It is an act of the will more than a flutter of the heart. Yet, its payoff for marriage gives a man and a woman a lifelong glimmer of light that burns brighter even as the lights of our own lives gradually dim. Let us love our spouses with biblical love and watch the seismic effects for good upon the home, the church, and the culture!