Vol. 31 Num. 48
“The Myths of Marriage (1)”
First Published: December 10, 1998
Recently, I came across a very helpful set of articles on marriage by Dr. Glen Knecht. My wife, Anne, served on his staff at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC for a number of years. He is a much loved and respected minister of the Gospel. Currently, he is serving at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC (where Rob Norris is the pastor), especially focusing on pastoral care and marriage preparation. His words are so useful and wise, that I thought to share them with you (we have received his permission!). His series is entitled: “The Myths of Marriage.” For those interested, we will also post these on our church website (www.fpcjackson.org) should you desire to download them and share them with friends.
The Myths of Marriage (1): The goal of marriage is happiness
There are myths of marriage that keep us from entering into the real joys of this good gift. Our misconceptions bind us, but the truth will set us free to enjoy marriage even more than we have already.
One such common mistake is to think of the purpose of marriage as being our happiness. When we think in this way we can be readily disappointed when there are crosses to bear and struggles to endure and painful disappointments to undergo. It seems that our marriage then is not fulfilling its promise to us and something must be wrong with our mate or with us.
But the goal of marriage is not our happiness but our oneness. Jesus taught us this when He said, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:62)
The happiness that comes from marriage is a wonderful by-product, but it is just that. The end in view is our oneness and when we fulfill the purpose of God in this way, He rewards us with happiness and blessing.
To seek after oneness is costly to us. It means being drawn out of our isolation into close fellowship. It involves the sacrifice of the ego, so that human pride is crushed until it has no life of its own anymore. It means being stretched so that one is hardly recognizable to one's own self. But the end is being achieved. God is creating pure lovers with no agenda of their own, whose goal is to love this one other person as “they love themselves.”
The very times when marriage is the most stressful are the times when God is putting pressure on us through our mates to give up our independence and our willfulness and submit wholeheartedly to Him in the thing which our mate is asking. That is often the time we most feel like reneging on our commitment. We want to back away from such a demanding intimacy. But God won't let us. He is at work and the work is only half done. We are not yet the lovers God wants us to be. In these times our best solution is to yield our rights and complaints and let God shape us as a couple into the oneness which will reflect His image most closely.
The biblical and spiritual wisdom of Dr. Knecht’s words are self-evident. Let’s all commit ourselves to praying for the couples and marriages of our congregation. And, specifically, let us pray that we will (each of us) strive for a self-giving, self-denying oneness first.