Tuesday, June 25, 2013

marriage, rotting corpses, and true love

It’s wedding season, and despite the fact that more than half of the couples who marry this summer will someday divorce, countless couples will dive right in. There is buzz that tomorrow, the Supreme Court will make a decision about whether or not same-sex couples have the right to marry. All this, and the fact that I am married, in and out of season, has me thinking about marriage today.

One of my favorite bloggers compared marriage to a rotting corpse in her post today. Ooh, that’s gross. Bizarre. And also true. Read what she wrote and come back, so we can talk about what she said here:

Marriage changes you. Marriage requires that you give things up, forsake all others, step through that door to the other side. Marriage requires that you die, and that you look death in the face and let it happen. When you marry, you cannot preserve your radical independence. You cannot preserve the idea that your needs and wants come first. You cannot pretend that you are a solitary person anymore.

Hey, I thought marriage was all about “love.” Isn’t that what everyone’s saying? That couples who “love” each other should have the right to marry, regardless of gender?
Let’s talk about love.

Leaving the same-sex debate for another day, I’d like to propose a radical concept.

Most of us haven’t the faintest idea what love is.

When I married my husband almost 27 years ago, I thought I loved him. I mean, he was sweet, kind, and attractive. We had fun together. Spending the rest of our lives together seemed like a fine idea at the time. We were “in love.”

But we didn’t know a thing about love.

Thinking about getting married? Want to know what love is about?

Maybe a rotting corpse is a grotesque example,but damn, it’s brutal, this love thing. Like Simcha said, it’s about death, people. It’s about dying to your very self, about putting the needs of your spouse in front of your own. It’s about forgiving, over and over and over again. It’s about recalling that you did not marry this person because it was going to be nice, fun, rewarding, or pleasant, although there will be times when it is all those things. If you are really loving your spouse, you are intentionally striving for that person’s salvation, whatever the cost.

You are also united into one flesh. One flesh doesn’t have two heads, two hearts, two wills. One flesh is one. If I am one, I hurt when my spouse hurts. I struggle when he struggles. When he sins, I repent with him, and I bear the results of his sin in my own soul. If he stops growing, so do I. If he is far from God, can I really say that I am close?

When I am loved by my spouse, I am cared for intimately. When seen through the eyes of love, I am beautiful – not necessarily as I am now, in my imperfection. My spouse loves me as he loves himself, and he sees in me possibility. He sees the wo(man) I can become.

I cannot, in my wildest imagination, dream of a scenario in which this would be possible without Grace.

This summer, brides will walk down aisles to grooms who will promise to cherish them, to be faithful to them, to lay down their lives for them. Many of them will fail. Many of us fail every day.

But miraculously, through Grace, we can “succeed” at marriage. (Success in marriage means, of course, we shall get each other to heaven, right?) We can only do this by death, the figurative and literal kind. We can only stay married, find a peace and even joy in it, if we look at the crucifix and say, “Yes. I am going to love. like. that.”

So first, we die. We die to self. We accept the horrible fallen state we are in, that we are sinners who will hurt each other again and again, and we will look at our other half, our image, the rest of our self, our spouse, and instead of asking, “Am I loved?” we will ask, “Do I love?”

That’s all that really matters, isn’t it?