Visiting priest took the masses for this weekend at the Cathedral. Had a different style, but I loved the bit he did on marriage. I’m paraphrasing a bit, but he captured a lot of what goes on in our own minds/homes….
And marriage is hard too – it’s a lot of work. At some point we say, “Someone’s got to make the decisions. Someone needs to be in charge! Someone’s got to take initiative around here!” And then we do until we forget the other person. Christ is with each one of us all the time – and loves the something truly unique in us just as what is He loves the particular uniqueness of each other person in the world. Each one of us differently and in our differences. But *we* often forget to stop and see what it is Christ sees in them, just as he sees something beautiful in us. We get all wrapped up in what needs to be done, or what we want, and forget to take the time to discover and love that expression of Christ in our spouse. And then we forget to forgive them as Christ forgives and loves us. And we forget to offer forgiveness and support as we want that forgiveness and support from God. It’s all too easy.
This is how I’ve felt about marriage for a long time. I feel bad for folks that just wander into marriage – even more worried for those that don’t have a real Christian understanding of marriage (that includes a lot of Christians too by the way). Marriage is the monastery in which one joyfully/willingly enters to die to themselves. It’s the relationship in which you realize the Christian ideal that life isn’t about you any more. Hopefully, you see this before you decide to say “I do” and enter into that understanding/living willingly. Hopefully too, you find someone else to give that too that feels the same way! Sadly, even in the Christian community, most probably do not. To the Christian, marriage is the place and time and maturity where they are ready to stop living for/about themselves and can die to self in the ‘safe place’ of reciprocating love of another. This isn’t about being a floor-mat for another person – it’s about finding another that wishes the same thing for you. It requires two mature adults that have their stuff together. They need to be able to maturely call “schenanigans” on each others behavior when it’s selfish, they need to be able to challenge and support each other as equals. One can’t do this if they don’t have their own issues worked out. If both of you are looking out for the two of you, then the other, then themselves (in that order) you’ll find the real tranformative power of marriage.
That’s why having kids is so intimately linked to marriage for the Christian. If there was ever anything that teaches you life isn’t about what you want anymore, it’s having kids. Children are an extension and expansion of this self-giving. If one isn’t mature enough to be married, one is likely not mature enough to have kids – and vice versa. Yes, parenthood is often thrust on people due to poor choices, but the folks I know in those situations said they sure grew up a lot as soon as their kid was born. Often via a painful moment of ‘Come to Jesus’/realization about the way their lives are now going to go – very differently than they expected. So, hopefully, marriage is the place where children are welcomed into the world witnessing/seeing this kind of self-giving love between their parents.