What I’m about to say is desperately out of fashion. I hold to something, believe passionately in something, which I take to be Beautiful. A thing which many of my peers only vaguely appreciate, or I think comprehend. Many will read the following and think little more than, “How quaint.” Others will read and think, “How ignorant.” Therefore, I might as well say it plainly.
I believe in Marriage.
To say such a thing is to say I believe in something that my generation does not. But they do not believe in it because they do not understand it. How could a thinking person not believe in something so truly Beautiful? One who does not believe in it must not see it for what it is. I will also say plainly that what I am about to write is in no way meant as self-righteous or harsh towards those many of my peers who choose to not live in accordance with Marriage (although, it should be said, that some folks certainly don’t feel sheepish about harshly judging my belief in Marriage). I certainly do not lack empathy with those whose marriages have failed. In fact, such a circumstance is utterly heartbreaking in my view. But there are circumstances in which Marriages cannot last. A divorce is one of the greatest forms of rejection an adult can face.
To the point. The view many people have today of Marriage is nothing short of tragic. It is a reduced view. Many see Marriage as an option for committed relationships, but not a necessity. Many see Marriage as a hindrance to the good life. Some see Marriage as a standard so high and so rigid that one has no hope of living up to it. Many see Marriage as an arbitrary institution; a stale leftover from a forgotten era. And more and more folks see Marriage as a bigoted institution, which fuels male domestic and social dominion over women, serves to promote arbitrary hetero-normative social standards, and stands in moral judgment over “non-conforming” individuals. Consequently, many people see Marriage as something to tweak. Or to ignore. Or to dismiss. This is a tragedy.
What is Marriage? It is the highest form of committed relationship between a Man and a Woman. There is nothing arbitrary about the Institution of Marriage. What we believe about Marriage depends upon what we believe about what it means to be Human. It is an institution built on a fundamental belief in the value of human life and dignity. We are rational, moral, social, and sexual beings with wills, desires, and changing needs. No human relationship can satisfy our every whim or longing (and it would be childish to expect our spouse to try), but Marriage provides a way for two people to live out what they are, and to do it in the fullest sense. This sounds rather dry and unromantic. So, allow me to explain by telling you what my own marriage has meant for me.
I am imperfect. I am insecure. I am doubtful. I am selfish. I am afraid. I am broken.
And I brought me into our marriage. My Wife brought her into our marriage. Together, we are two imperfect people, with ambition, desire, insecurities, and failures. When living in the world, we cover these things up. But in a life-long intimate relationship, there is no plastic wall that will hide what we are. Marriage overcomes what we are. It conquers us if we surrender to it. It is a mutual vow before God and our Beloved, that we are in it for the long haul. I am not quitting on Her. And she is not quitting on me. No matter what.
I am imperfect. I am insecure. I am doubtful. I am selfish. I am afraid. I am broken. And she believes in me. I find comfort in her arms. She’s not quitting on me. Until death forces my last breath, I am hers. I find courage to stand up for her. I find the will to overcome myself for her. When she is afraid, or insecure, or suffers loss, or fails, I am not quitting on her.
Marriage is the denial of disposable people. We are sexual beings. But lusts that pull us from one person to another are not healthy. It’s not dignified. To treat someone’s body as a disposable object in order to get a cheap sexual thrill is to treat someone as less than human; to treat a human as a means to the end of my pleasure. But human beings are ends in themselves. Therefore, to treat people merely as the means to fulfill my lust is immoral. This is is to treat someone as if they were not made in God’s image, and this is evil. But sex is beautiful. It is more than a cheap biological function. It is sacred. Marriage allows us to avoid wasting ourselves in a temporary experience, only to be hungry again. It allows us to give ourselves fully to someone who is not using us. But loves us. Who is not judging us. But accepts us. It allows us to build and grow and look forward to a life of this. I’ll say this plainly: staring at photons emanating from a computer screen cannot remotely compare to gazing deep into the eyes of the woman who loves you, and KNOWING that she is yours and you are hers. It simply could not be compared. One is fake and cheap. One is real and valuable.
One day my Wife and I will be old, if we live long enough. Our children will leave. Our health will fail. The world will forget us. And yet, She will be there. So long as we live, I’m not quitting on her. And she’s not quitting on me. If God gives us life, 30 years from now, Hers is the voice I will hear when I am in my bed, and when I call home. Her face will be the face I will see laughing with me and crying with me. I am not disposable or temporary. She is not disposable or temporary. Marriage is a commitment that transcends the moment, and provides stability in our unfolding adventure. I haven’t mentioned what a stable marriage means for children or for society. All I have mentioned is what it means for a husband. Marriage is human. It is stabilizing. It is pleasurable. It is challenging. It is a beautiful mystery.
To my peers, and to people a little younger than me: Yes, Marriage is real. No, Marriage is not easy. But nothing worth having is.