Can Marriage Work? No. 3
The Serious Promise of Marriage
by Ernest O'Neill
Yesterday we talked about the basis of marriage was God's will. Many of you may protest I don't believe in God and I had no idea he had anything to do with my life. When I married I married for all other kinds of reasons. Though I think that is true, I think many of us who fell in love used the old-fashioned words to describe what we had experienced. We would tend to say in our own minds if not verbally this thing is bigger than both of us. There has been with many of us the sense that what is happening to us is something more than a human attraction to one another. Those of us who really fell in love felt the thing was bigger than both of us were.
It was some influence or some amazing transcending experience that was coming to us from outside. Even though we had no belief in God and you still have no belief in God, yet you probably agree that the day you fell in love with your girl or your guy and decided to get married you probably experienced that transcendence, head over heels, being knocked off your perch kind of experience that so many of us have felt. Indeed you know the way we joke about the person who is suddenly writing poetry that very down to earth, practical guy or practical girl suddenly becomes involved in doing things that only mystics seemed to do. We say the reason is he's in love or she's in love. We say that because they have come into some kind of experience that has raised them, at least momentarily, above preoccupation with themselves.
Marriage is Something from Beyond Ourselves
So I would suggest even those of us who are not terribly religious have some suspicion that what happened when we fell in love was something from beyond coming into us imparting to us something that took us beyond ourselves. Now in fact that is what we have been saying. When two people come together in that kind of relationship it is not simply because of the genes or chemistry between them. It is because the Maker of the world, the Creator who made you and me, has a great interest in how we spend our lives and does take care of this important part of our lives which involves giving the next forty or fifty years of ourselves to another person.
In fact, real marriage, Christian marriage, marriage that lasts and is real and works is the marriage based on God's choosing the right person for you. Often God through his great generosity does that for even those of us who don't acknowledge or recognize him. There is something called common grace that is expressed to all of us by the one who made us. In some way he allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. He extends his general grace in the common gifts of spring and summer; common gifts of life and breath; common gifts of inspirational beauty, thrill and excitement and certainly this gift of falling in love with another person and someone you would like to marry. He gives this to all people.
Why the Wedding Vows are Solemn
That's why the wedding vows are so solemn. Remember when you married, the minister, priest or magistrate said, "Wilt thou have this woman to the wedded wife to live together according to the law of God in the holy state of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor and keep her and forsaking all others keep thee only unto her so long as you both shall live?" You said, "I will." Many of us then said, "I call upon these persons here present that witness that I take you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward; for better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish ‘til death do us part according to God's Holy Law. There too I give thee my promise." That's why the priest or minister said those who God has joined together, let no man put asunder. Generally the service in all churches is a recognition that these two people have come together because something has been determined in God's heart in heaven about their lives.
That's why we say the basis of real marriage is God's will. Actually the hope for a marriage continuing, developing and being maintained is directly related to the ability to the two people to realize this is not something they have cooked up between them. They are in fact doing something that the Maker of the world dreamed for both of them.
It's very different from saying he can overwhelm our wills. He can't. We can frustrate his will as many of us prove by divorcing and separating from our mates. The fact is he is always working from his side to bring all things back into accordance with the counsel of his will. So even those who say when I married I was half drunk, I didn't know what I was doing. Remember God doesn't let anything happen to us that he cannot redeem. God is always working to bring your relationship into the center of the dream he had for you when he first brought you together.
So it is quite important to consider the possibility that even your marriage was made in heaven; even your marriage is due to the fact that the Creator of the universe in centuries long ago dreamed that you two would be good together and that a marriage between you two would be a great benefit to the world and each of you.
Perhaps you would reflect upon the time when you yourself fell in love and found yourself head over heels in love with another person. Would you think back to that time and how good it was to reflect was it something real? We will talk more about it next time.
TO BE CONTINUED