“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18
Without a vision for marriage, the marriage and community of the people dissolves.
For an upcoming Seedbed project, I am asking 100 people what they think the point of marriage is. My hope is that it will get us, as a community, asking more questions, about how marriage matters to us. It seems that as a society and as a church, we’re becoming more and more confused and the current situation surrounding marriage is looking more and more like a crisis:
- Each year, more than one million children are affected by divorce (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009)
- Many young people are growing favorable to the concept of serial marriage, a different spouse for different seasons throughout life. (Barna Group 2009)
- 70% of people now view divorce as morally acceptable. (Gallup Poll 2008)
- three in five couples now live together before marriage but have less chance of success. (Kennedy and Bumpass, 2008 and CDC Statistics 2002)
- There is a growing trend to intentionally bypass marriage and instead begin single parenting. (Pew Research 2010)
And we all know marriages, or have experienced it in our own, where the institutions are still intact but the individuals are struggling for connection and affection. No wonder studies show that young adults are beginning to see marriage as obsolete (Pew Research 2010). These issues aren’t going away. What’s going away are healthy marriages.
But…dream for a minute and ponder what if the opposite were true? What might society look like if healthy marriages were flourishing? Would we have a better grasp on what it means to know and love each other well – in and outside of marriage? What would happen if, as spouses, we submit to the refining nature of the relationship of marriage and let it mature us? Could they become sanctuaries for one another: places safe enough to risk vulnerability and offer healing? Would children be able to expand their dreams from fantasy weddings and fairytale spouses to envisioning a journey of sacrifice and service together with a life partner? What if marriages really did offer the world a picture of fidelity and grace? Would we be drawn closer to God because we saw His spirit of love and intimacy through the connection between spouses? If our marriages were redemptive to one another, could that translate into the larger community? I find myself wondering, do we possess the courage to rise to the challenge of making some changes?
There would certainly be a cost to change. We’d have to be more concerned about our relationships being good rather than looking good. It would mean being honest and getting help in emotionally healthy and spiritually connective ways. We’d have to allow ourselves to be beloved and treasure the belovedness of others. It would mean authentic confession about what spouses are struggling with and creating places of safety to do so. We’d have to stop blaming homosexuality as the threat to marriage, and no longer use it as a scapegoat away from ourselves. Change might involve a willingness to dissolve the entitlement we feel to use our spouse as a means of providing for our happiness and self-fulfillment. Perhaps we would need to stop yielding verses to pressure people into cultural conformity under the guise of spirituality and instead allow God to reveal to us His heart about covenant and communion. We’d have to believe that marriage matters to more than just those who are married.
So, how do we begin? Perhaps we can start by owning our own experience. Each one of us has been affected by marriage; we’d do well to reflect on how it has personally influenced and shaped us. Then, we must get beyond ourselves and understand what’s happening in others. There are many ways to start making a difference; intentionally sharing with one another about how marriage has had an effect on us is a great beginning. We discover the larger context and become personally invested in one another, modeling the essence of covenant together. You are part of this community, whether you are married or not and you have something to say that is valued and needs to be heard. There is also someone who needs you to listen. My hope is that our curiosity would lead us to ask deeper questions and grow in wisdom to challenge us to develop a better vision for marriage. It couldn’t come soon enough.
Further Reading Suggestions: