For whatever reason, my attention has recently been focused on marriage. Most of us are either married, have been married, or hope to become married. And even though it is experienced by so many, it remains a mystery to most. Maintaining a steady marriage, when the parties involved are inconsistent, is hard to do. But there is some helpful wisdom out there that can steady us. Tim Keller, in his book The Meaning of Marriage helps us navigate the sifting sands of marriage. In the excerpt below he confronts the myth of compatibility:
The in-love experience passes when the flaws in the other person come home to us. Things that seemed small and inconsequential now loom large. We begin to feel that we did not really know the person after all. And this presents us with the challenge of loving a person who, at the moment, seems in large part a stranger, not the person you remember marrying.
When this happens, people respond in a number of different ways. If your purpose in marriage was to acquire a “soul mate” – a person who would not change you and would supportively help you reach your life goals – then this particular reality of marriage will be deeply disorienting. You wake up to the realization that your marriage will take a huge investment of time just to make it work. Just as distressing will be the discovery that your spouse finds you a stranger and has begun to confront you with a list of your serious shortcomings. Your first response will be to tell yourself you made a bad choice and failed to find someone truly compatible.
What if, however, you began your marriage understanding its purpose as spiritual friendship for the journey to the new creation? What if you expected marriage to be about helping each other grow out of your sins and flaws and into the new self that God is creating? Then you will actually be expecting the “stranger” seasons, and when you come to one you will roll up your sleeves and get to work.
I think Keller is right on. Marriage is almost never a convenience and always a commitment. Why is it that we are so averse to working on our marriages?