We glowered at each other, frustrated. The silence hung awkwardly. We were stuck and didn’t know how to move forward. After so many years it felt like we had no idea how to do this. Marriage, I thought, at times feels impossible.
The other week the press reported another celebrity marriage split. Sadly it’s never much of a surprise when this happens, particularly with the blow by blow coverage from the tabloids and celebrity magazines, which must undermine the ability to have any sort of normal relationship. It’s such a surprise when two famous people have a marriage that lasts that people write articles about it as a strange new phenomena!
The news reminded me of a study that hit the press a couple of years back. The study said that the initial chemicals that bounce around your body when you fall in love last about eighteen months. For some people that’s a basis to believe that relationships aren’t supposed to last and that people should be free to move on when the magic fades. I take a different view. I see that initial chemical frenzy as akin to the rocket fuel it takes to launch a spaceship – it’s there to get things going, then you have to choose to invest in your relationship to make it last.
Yesterday my wife, Louise and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. The spat of the other day was a distant memory. It spoiled an evening but we stuck to the principle of not letting the sun go down on your anger and worked it through. When conversation finally creaked back into action and the grimaces had started to loosen we were able to pray and ask God to help us to start again.
When we were first married we were rubbish at communication. We had the advantage of a wise pastor we could talk things through with and we learnt through trial and error how to resolve our differences. Prayer was the glue to join us back together when things fractured.
Marriage is hard work but is the greatest joy I know. That’s not to say people should stay in abusive relationships or feel condemnation when marriages break down, it’s more that we need to get over the fairy-tale myth of the perfect relationship. Maybe it seems obvious from a Christian perspective where we are used to acknowledging our shortcomings before God but people should know we’ll ruin any perfect relationship or situation the moment we rock up with our imperfections. I remember a quote from a Hollywood A lister, around my age and on their third marriage saying that they didn’t believe in working at relationships, they just wanted to click with someone. In reality any relationship of substance will face tensions and challenges that need to be addressed.
Why do celebrities keep getting married over and over again? It’s because, like the rest of us they want the dream of companionship, security and happy ever after. The good news is that all of that is possible but it takes hard work and humility.
God’s view of marriage and relationships is far removed from the disposable approach common in our culture. God’s heart is for marriage to be a source of constant, increasing blessing as husbands and wives seek to build each other up and bring out the best in each other, in turn building strong and secure families and beyond that, communities.
The Bible’s countercultural proposal is that we focus on giving and not getting. As we do, we get more back and have more to share. God made us to be blessing machines, a source of propelling more goodness into the world around us. When we are running on empty we can come to him and he promises to fill us again.
A life based on accumulation it turns out, leaves you empty – a life based on giving is the way to be fulfilled.
This article first appeared on www.christiantoday.com