Oh, there are certainly some individuals, some couples, that possess immense wisdom and knowledge on the subject; wisdom and knowledge earned from years of experience, crafted with an intuition and maturity that few achieve and fewer even attempt to achieve. Some people in our society know something about marriage. My parents know plenty about it. They’ve been married for over 30 years, they’ve had six kids; they’ve seen the ups and downs, they’ve withstood every challenge and obstacle that the world can present. Their marriage is real, their love is real, and it’s an inspiration to me and my wife. There are some in my parents’ camp, but our society as a whole? No.
No, it doesn’t know a thing about marriage.
Just look at what we’ve done to the institution. Look at the sorry state of the sacrament. Consider how frivolously and arrogantly many of us flutter in and out of marriages, like the union isn’t any more significant than a part time job at Applebee’s. The turnover rate in marriage these days is worse than the turnover rate at telemarketing firms. The “prevailing wisdom” about marriage is bunk. It’s garbage. It’s trash. It’s one of the principle reasons why our culture can not claim to be more “enlightened” or “advanced” than societies past. Yes, I am aggressively, passionately, unapologetically hostile to our culture’s “lessons” about life and marriage; that’s another thing I learned from my parents.
I’ve been married to my wife for two years so I don’t pretend to be some sort of budding marriage counselor. Still, I know enough to recognize lies when I hear them. I know that we’ve weathered the storms and drawn closer to each other by rejecting virtually every piece of marital “insight” this twisted country has to offer. Particularly because we are Christian and we build the foundation of our marriage in Christ — a strategy that doesn’t gel with current trends.
A few days ago a guy named Seth Adam Smith wrote a viral post titled “Marriage isn’t for you.” Of course, the message he conveys isn’t what you’d expect from the subject line. He goes on to make the important and, you would think, completely uncontroversial point that marriage isn’t something you enter into only for yourself. You are in it for your spouse and, when the time comes, for your children. Marriage is an act and an institution of love. And love does not point inward. You don’t find the secret to a successful marriage by plunging down into the Cave of Self. There’s nothing down there but your own old dusty fears and self-centered obsessions. You find the secret in the other’s heart. We pledge as much when we take that vow before God.
I’m paraphrasing Seth’s thoughts, so go ahead and give his post a read. Dozens of people asked me to comment on his piece, yet I initially hesitated. The man is enjoying some great success with a fantastic message about love and unity, and I’m not looking to piggyback on his traffic. But then I began to read how he’s being attacked and criticized by the usual cadre of neo-liberal trolls and eternal naysayers. Somewhere in this sincere profession of faith and love and gratitude to his wife, the legions of modernist fools found something to complain about. As someone who recently met the wrath of this Army of Imbeciles after I — you guessed it — expressed my love for my wife, I thought it appropriate to chime in.
Seth, stay strong, brother. Your message was true, urgent, and “old fashioned,” which is why it’s met with so much anger by all of these tolerant, “open minded” folks.
I understand what you were trying to say. It was easy to understand because you stated it pretty clearly. And, sure, married people are still selfish. Married people in successful marriages still struggle with the urge to be self-absorbed. Nobody is making any Utopianist claims here. But the point — not just Seth’s point, but THE point — is that we have to fight that inclination and always work to serve and love the person we’ve married.
Yes, serve. Oh Lord, how antiquated. You know what? My wife serves me. She does. Does it sting to read that? “NO WOMAN SHOULD EVER SERVE A MAN, YOU CHAUVINIST!” Yeah, take that attitude into your fourth marriage and tell me how it works for you. My wife serves me and I serve her. And our service to each other manifests itself in different ways.
You might say, “well, that’s ONE way for a marriage to work.” No, it’s the only way. I don’t know this because I’m some kind of expert. I know it because I paid attention to the vows I took.
In modern times, we like to pretend marriage is just a “contract between consenting adults,” which makes it about as significant as your lease agreement, or the contract you sign with the guy who’s remodeling your kitchen. But it’s more than that. Those words I said to my wife when we stood on that altar: they meant something. And they didn’t mean something in the same way that a great symbol — like the flag — means something. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that the words did something. Something happened in that church that day. Something mysterious and supernatural occurred. My soul was joined with my wife’s and we became one. That’s not just some nice little phrase: it’s real. It happens. I became one with my wife.
The ring I put on her finger was a symbol. The flowers, the dresses, the myriad of other superficialities, these were all decorations. But the ceremony itself, and the words we spoke, they were neither symbolic nor decorative. They were real. God was there, and He took this physical event and elevated it into something mystical and other-worldy. And He will surely hold me to the vows I took, one way or another.
People went after Seth, insisting that we “still maintain our own identity in marriage.”
Yeah, well, no we don’t. Yes, I am still me, but the nature of me has changed. If you want to be completely your “own person,” don’t get married. What is so hard about that? Coming to the altar with frivolous intentions is like a doctor performing neurosurgery just because he’s curious to see what a brain looks like. “Oh, you want me to actually fix this thing? Geez, I wasn’t trying to get into anything serious here.”
People enter marriage like mercenaries. They aren’t spouses — they’re scalpers. They give only when they get, and the amount that they give will be directly proportioned to the amount they receive. They are calculating and immature. They think their “feelings” are what should guide their union. They drift with the breeze until the breeze no longer carries them. They think of love as a train you buy tickets for and then ride as far as the track will take you. They don’t realize that love is a choice and we must CHOOSE it every day until we die. Sometimes we have to choose it in spite of ourselves and our feelings.
That’s the message about marriage that isn’t popular, and because it isn’t popular it must be shouted all the louder. I say these things not because I think I am an example of how to perfectly implement them, but because they are true. Simple as that.
Our culture is poison to marriage. Our culture is poison in general. Every day brings us more evidence of this fact.
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