TRANSFORMATION TUESDAY: HOW TO MAKE MARRIAGES WORK (pt 3)

Hello, HOPE-lovers and welcome to Transformation Tuesday!

For a while now, we’ve been looking at USA TODAY sex columnist, Anthony D’Ambrosio’s “5 Reasons Why Marriages Don’t Work” to find out not only what destroys our marriages but what also develops them.

Today we get to the meat of the matter, so I hope you’re “hungry.”

Preface:

Lately, we’ve been analyzing our contract-driven world and investigating the difference between contract and covenant. (see Part 1 and Part 2 for this)

Contracts, negotiated agreements between two or more parties, are all over the place.  They bring assurance, guaranteeing that the predetermined agreements will be reached, either through willful responsibility or enforced legality.

Handshakes have no weight in a world of subjective truth, mistrust, abuse, exploitation, and deception.

These are contract-oriented times.

Problem:

As we discussed last time, contracts acknowledge and reveal humanity’s propensity for selfishness and infidelity.  They would not exist if people thought of others and kept their own word.

But our world has created virtues out of “negotiating” and loop holes.

And since we are a contract-driven world, where does this leave interpersonal relationships like marriage?

Is love, culminating in bond of marriage, simply just another “business” transaction?

Is marriage to be subject only to these negotiable documents of mistrust?

Is there not more promise than a prenuptial?  Can we not obtain a firmer foundation than plans for failure?

I think there is far more beauty, depth, security, and fulfillment available to those who are married or considering marriage.

To be sure, the duplicitous nature of humanity is a major hurdle in all of this, but I do contend that there is more promise than a prenuptial.  I affirm that a firmer foundation is accessible and achievable for us; something far better than the negotiation-driven, loop-hole obsessed, “cover my back because I can’t really trust anyone” approach to love.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~ C.S. Lewis (from The Four Loves)

This is the adventure of covenant.  Of love.  Here are some questions we all must answer.

Is love permanent or seasonal?  Until death or until the benefits wane?  Is it based on conditional circumstances or unconditional promises?  “If…then” or “I will?”

Is love about giving or getting?  Sacrificial or selfish?  Self-focused or others-focused?

Is love a choice or a feeling?

Is love a gym or a playground?  Should love circulate around truth, accountability, and forgiveness or manipulation, avoidance, and bitterness?

I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.

In a world of taking, we get to give.  In a world of demands and entitlement, we get to serve.  In a world that only meets halfway, we get to give our all.  In a world of tasks and chores, we get to the privilege to enjoy.

As C.S. Lewis also said, “Love is unselfishly choosing for another’s highest good.”

Continue reading on how…

Practice:

It is no mystery why so many opt out of marriage — people that have been groomed to negotiate, look for loopholes, and simply prioritize themselves can NEVER enter into the security of covenant because of it’s self-sacrificing, service-oriented nature.

It is other-worldly.  This is not what mankind would create in of themselves.  We’ve all seen and felt what we create and it’s nothing good.  Nothing that lasts.

But deep down we yearn for something far superior to what we have seen and felt in the context of marriage.  Ask any young girl.  Look what Hollywood recycles a thousand times every year.

We create chaos but long for so much more.

So where can we look?  What transcendent example of steadfast, unconditional, self-giving, faithful love can we glean from?

I humbly suggest that we look no further than the Bible.

Covenants run throughout the pages of history (the Hittites, Babylonians, and Assyrians for example) and the Scriptures.  Whether it be Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Priests, David, or the global Church, predicted by the prophets and fulfilled in the Prince of Peace, our Great High Priest forever, Jesus Christ, covenants were a very common practice for forming pacts among the ancients.

See https://www.gotquestions.org/bible-covenants.html for some more introductory information.

* Side note: There is a great variety of positions held by Christians, ranging from one to twelve different major covenants illustrated in the Scriptures.  Maybe one day we’ll play around with eschatology on H4H, evaluating covenantal and dispensational ideas, but this is not that time. *

There is so much to be said about covenants, especially the promissory covenants highlighting the suzerain and vassal treaties that provide a backdrop of what we see in the Scriptures.  For the sake of time here, I want to highlight one such covenant from the Bible involving God and Abraham (Abram) found in Genesis 12-17.

Let’s look at one aspect from Genesis 15.  To get the full picture, please read Genesis 12-17, but here is an excerpt from Genesis 15: 9-10, 12, 17-18a:

He (God) said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”  And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other.  But he did not cut the birds in half…As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him…When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.  On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land…”

There’s probably a lot going on here that the western mind is confused by, but there is one thing I want to bring our focus to: only the “smoking fire pot and flaming torch passed between” the carcasses.  It is these devices that represent God Himself.

God alone walked between the severed animals while Abram just watched.  What’s the point?

God made covenant with Abram, and his descendants (which now includes the global Church — see Rom. 4; 11; Gal. 3-4; Eph. 2), and He swore it upon Himself!  Normally, both parties would walk between the dead animals, sealing the covenant with the implication that the party who breaks the covenant will suffer a similar fate.  In Hebrew, the verb meaning to seal a covenant even translates “to cut.”

Here’s the beauty: Abram, who would naturally be the only one who could fail here, was excluded from the deal!  Abram, and his “many sons,” gets all the benefits while being exempted from all the curses!  God will bear the curse Himself.  Why?  Because it’s who He is.  As Paul told Timothy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself!” (2 Tim. 2:13)

This is the height and depth of unconditional, steadfast, faithful, self-giving love.

My HOPE4Hipsters:

Marriage is the bedrock for family and society, but covenant is the bedrock for any healthy, lasting marriage.  And the bedrock for unconditional covenant, the only place where love can truly be boundless, is none other than God Himself, who shows us truly what it means to be giving, loving, faithful, and sacrificial.

Mutually expressed within the marital context, this giving, loving, faithful, and sacrificial approach is the only way to yield the healthy security and trust our world needs and our hearts desire.

I’ve been making this point lately: Our view of marriage is our view of everything!  So I must ask: Do you like how you view marriage and everything else in life?

Perhaps it’s time to dream again.  Perhaps it’s time to practice what we preach.  Perhaps it’s time to remove the plank in our own eyes.

Faithful.  Committed.  Whole-hearted.  Giving.  Risky.  Trusting.  Inclusive.  Open-armed.  Accountable.  Teachable.  Forgiving.  Loving.  Peaceable.

That’s who I want to be, but it’s impossible in of myself to actualize these ideals.  I need help.  A lot of it!  I need the infusion of something totally unlike me.  To give me the strength and hope of a better example.

What about you?

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