What is Marriage, Anyway?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Fox News published an article today called 'Til Death Do Us Part' Is Dying Out. I'm fried, but I'll try to give the article a fair treatment. It's technically, even admirably unbiased. It's just relating the facts. I think what it says about the state of our culture is beyond saddening. This post will probably be one-part vent, one-part op/ed, one-part testimonial, and one-part textbook.

Marriage is a current subject with me because I'm getting married in a little over two months. When I was growing up, I believed that physical purity before marriage was the only way (I still do), and that divorce is not a word in a married couple's vocabulary. My parents have considered murder (and who wouldn't with eight kids??? *grin*), but never divorce. I'm also marrying a guy whose burden is for marriage.

I’m surrounded by a culture infatuated with Eros. Our modern culture has erected an altar to this ancient Roman god created out of the lust of the eyes, flesh, and pride of life. Our movies pay homage to it, while men and women bow down to its power. We flaunt seduction and immodesty and spend our time seeking ultimate fulfillment in something that will never bring satisfaction. Now, we’re reworking our wedding vows so we can have weddings without true love or commitment. We just assume that our satisfaction will not be found in our spouses.

The above article describes a trend in which many couples are no longer making their vows "until death do us part." Why?

"People understand that anything can happen in life, and you don't make a promise you can't keep." says wedding expert Sharon Naylor, who also goes on to explain that people are in therapy because they feel like failures for keeping their promise "until death do us part." Instead, they are now making conditional vows--"for as long as our time together shall last," or "for as long as our love shall last."

Pete and I were just talking about this last night—he's studying family law right now. He sent me this article with a sick feeling in his stomach. Some of the studies that he found show that divorced women are left with a sense of complete rejection, while divorced men are left with a sense of utter failure.

I guess Naylor’s "expertise" tells us why.

To offer perfectly blunt answer to Naylor’s reasoning, I think those feelings of rejection and failure are a good thing. People need to realize that there is something wrong with divorce. Those basic emotions come from humans created in the image of God as their spirit revolts against what doesn't please Him. When couples get married, the article notes, they do still dream of forever. That longing for forever? Another evidence of the Imago Dei. There is a longing for intimacy in everyone, but who do you think put that there?

The God who can fill it. The God who promises forever. The God who longs for unity and created woman to help man because it was not good for him to be alone. God’s approach to the dilemma of their pain is to turn them to Himself for their fulfillment. Naylor’s approach is to salvage what marriages we can by placing conditions on them, defining them as we see most relevant for our situation.

Last time I heard about that approach? Ancient Rome. They had several
different types of marriages. I find a strange sense of irony that modern-day America is so similar to pre-fall Rome.

While I understand that anything can happen in life, and that there seem to be exceptions to every rule, I have had to face the fact that I am not God to make my own rules, relevant only to my particular situation. As I go into marriage, I am aware that I am not always going to find the fulfillment of intimacy with Pete that I desire. I am aware that we’re not always going to have these fuzzy romantic feelings for each other.

But after surviving one broken relationship in which I watched love die, I believe that there is a different kind of love.

There is a stronger love than the first awakening feelings of, “I am happy because of this person.” It’s a deeper love than “Oh, he’s so cute, I’m so attracted to him.” It’s a more gentle love than the love that “can’t wait to get it,” and a kinder love than “you must meet my needs or I won’t love you.” It’s not a love that doesn’t forgive. It’s not a love that is jealous or intensely possessive.

This love makes a choice to stand by someone no matter how bad things get. There is no going back. It’s a love that stands at a candlelit altar, and promises “until death do us part” knowing that it may be rejected sometimes. This love is not blind to the fact that the other person is going to blow it and that it is going to blow it too, but it still promises with solemn, gritty determination that it will seek to give to the other person all the good it can as long as it can. It is a love that would cause one person to lay down their life for another that is not dependent upon a return love.

That is the kind of love that I want to promise to give to Pete all the days of my life. Sure, I have lots of fuzzy romantic feelings now… but maybe someday I won’t. Perhaps it’s unrealistic to make a promise I can’t keep—after all, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think that if I love in the strength of God’s love, this kind of love won’t necessitate a change to my wedding vows. It is, after all, kinda not my own.

I guess I’m an old fuddy-duddy—a “prude,” somebody called me once. I know that marriage doesn’t always work for everyone, even Christians. But I still think it’s worth fighting for. Sheesh. How… un-American to throw in the towel before we’ve even begun to fight!


Anonymous said...


Remember me...Jessica...first soprano, Free Indeed? All those months ago? ;) I just wanted to say hello...and let you know I'll be praying for you as your wedding approaches! :) I'm so happy for you and Pete, and look forward to seeing you when I'm back at PHC this fall. Take care!

with joy in Christ~

Kelly Sauer said...


Thanks so much for your prayers, and for dropping a hi! I look forward to seeing you too!


Anonymous said...

Wow, Kelly, those are some incredibly good thoughts. Thanks for them!

God bless,


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