Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Foundation of Marriage

In the excitement of last month, as my friend Ashley prepared to marry, I had several reminders that this beautiful and holy institution which God has created is so abused and broken in our fallen world. One woman I met recently had been married for 34 years before her marriage ended in divorce a few years ago. I also found out last month that one of my kindergarten Sunday School pupils from a few years ago will soon no longer have married parents, as they are going through a divorce. All I can do is pray that even now, God will heal that broken relationship, and I ache when I think of this girl and her two younger brothers growing up in a broken home. Such stories are not isolated, and they deeply sadden me.

By the grace of God both of my sets of grandparents have been married for over 50 years, and my parents for over 25. Most people don't have that blessing in our society, though, where marriage is entered (and exited) so lightly. In an age where marriage often follows several years of "testing each other out" by living together, it is no wonder that marriage is not seen as a binding commitment. When two people have cohabitated for years before "tying the knot," on the eve of their wedding I cannot help but mentally ask the first question Jewish children ask their parents during Passover: What makes this night different from all others? It also makes me all the more thankful to be able to witness a ceremony like Paul & Ashley's, where marriage is approached with real weightiness and commitment. Just before the ceremony began, the pastor asked that there be no photography during the ceremony. Not an unusual request, but his reason stuck with me: because of the sacredness of the ceremony.

Marriage is so easily broken in our society because most people do not really stop and think that they are making their vows to God, not just another human being. There are two sets of vows in the typical wedding ceremony: one set of vows is exchanged between the man and woman, but the other set of vows is made to God, who binds a marriage together. Unless a marriage is built on the foundation of Christ, it is built on sand.

In Stepping Heavenward, Katy's sister-in-law Helen asks Katy the "secret" to her long, steadfast marriage with Ernest. Here is a portion of Katy's reply:

. . . I was struck with Ernest's asking in the very first prayer he offered in my presence, after our marriage, that God would help us love each other; I felt that love was the very foundation on which it was built and that there was no danger that I should ever fall short in giving to my husband all he wanted in full measure. But as he went on day after day repeating this prayer, and I naturally made it with him, I came to see that this most precious of earthly blessings had been and must be God's gift and that while we both looked at it in that light and felt our dependence on Him for it, we might safely encounter together all the assaults made up on us by the world, the flesh, and the devil. I believe we owe it to this constant prayer that we have loved each other so uniformly and with such growing comfort in each other; so that our little discords always have ended in fresh accord, and our love has felt conscious of resting on a rock - and that rock was the will of God.


Christy said...

Susan! How are you? I'm enjoying your blog.

Please do come see us at Heritage soon. We have missed you! (Many of us will be gone this Lord's Day to attend a wedding in Virginia). Hope to see you soon.

Say hello to your mom and sister for me.

Christy Stouffer

Jessica said...

Great post, Susan! And that's wonderful that they recognized the sacredness of marriage at your friend's wedding...I've never before heard of someone not allowing photography of the ceremony for that reason...good for them!

Sherrin said...

A great reminder! I have been thinking recently that even though it is hard to wait, it is much harder to be in an awful relationship that ends in divorce (or that doesn't end in divorce!). Waiting on the Lord can be hard, but it is the only way to end up with a lasting and happy marriage.

I have recently been reading "Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper and she wrote of how important prayer is in keeping a marriage together. Have you read the book? I think you'd like it.

Anonymous said...

Marriage is a sacred thing. It saddens me to see the "testing" that happens before marriage. What is the actually ceremony then, beyond a legal joining of names? I started working in town this summer, and was saddened to see the way marriage is ridiculed. They say why bother, if you can get what you want without it.

I too am very thankful for the marriages I see around me that ARE lasting, the ones built on Godly principles, the ones I can watch and observe and learn from what a good marriage should be.

This was a rather long, rambly post -- forgive me, it's rather late!


Susan said...

Hi, Mrs. Stouffer!

It has been a while since I've seen you (last fall?). Too long. I'm glad you're enjoying my blog, and I will make sure my mom and sister know you said "hello." :) I hope you and your family have been well.


I had never heard of absence of photography for that reason either. I also liked another thing the pastor said. He said that as a pastor, he performs a lot of ceremonies, and he does a lot of church weddings. But he was glad that this time he wasn't just doing a church wedding, he was witnessing a Christian marriage.


What you said made me think of the old saying marry in haste; repent at leisure. You are right that waiting is best, even though it's hard! I haven't read that book by Noel Piper. It sounds like a goodie, though, and I'd like to read it now :).


Don't apologize for a comment being "long" and "rambly." It didn't strike me as such. I've clogged other people's blogs with far longer comments; my record was a 42 paragraph comment :). I've also heard what you have: people asking, "Why bother with marriage?" For many in our society, I think the main reason they do finally marry, instead of continue to cohabitate, is just so the bride (or her mother) can have that wedding of her dreams. If only we would spend more time preparing for the marriage than the ceremony. . .

See, there. My comment was at least as long as yours ;).

Ashley said...

I think I wrote a blog post about this same subject. :-) I think another reason why marriage is so easily broken in our society is that we tend to give up when things start to get hard.

I have witnessed the divorces of two different coworkers, and it made me want to try even harder to not have that be an option. It's always yucky, even if no kids are involved.

Katie Gillet said...

We had no photos taken in our ceremony save a few by the photographer (whom we knew to be good and subtle about it.) It's a worship service,after all, albeit a very different one!