My husband and I got engaged over the phone when we were living on opposite coasts. When we finally said good night and I was sitting alone in the newness of the promise we had just made to each other, a realization came over me: “So this is what the rest of my life looks like!”
A 2019 Pew Report found that most Americans today find it acceptable for unmarried couples to live together, whether gay or straight, and whether or not they plan to ever get married. Pew also reported that the majority of us also believe that married and cohabitating couples can raise children equally well.
My liberal heart would love to go along with this popular cultural view, but I just can’t. It’s not that I want to jump on the sin soapbox and say that cohabitating, with or without children, is immoral, because I don’t think it is. What I’m saying is “What a shame that so many are missing out on so much.”
I appreciate that the institution of marriage has a checkered past, which has left many people demoralized and wary. Younger adults were raised in the era when divorce became socially acceptable and common place. They were the first generation to be children of divorce and many fear putting themselves or their children through that kind of pain. Also, times have changed. Women today can support themselves. Men can raise children. So, in the end, why take a chance on marriage?
I’ll tell you why – married love. If the phone call I mentioned earlier had ended with me moving across the country to live with my then boyfriend without being engaged, I would not have been left with a vision of the rest of my life. I would have been thrilled to know that we would be together soon, but that would have been as far as my feelings and aspirations could have reached.
Love is like lighting a match. When you first strike it, it flares up in sparks and heat, like a mini firecracker, which is exciting and magical. What naturally comes next is a warm steady glow that, if kept out of the wind, burns constant and true all the way down to the end of the matchstick.
Marriage is a wind breaker. It is something that a couple creates together, which acts like a third partner in their relationship. While each partner remains themselves, the marriage itself becomes something worth fighting for, sacrificing for, and forgiving for. It makes each person aware that along with their separate selves there is something more at stake, something that coaxes each partner to fall in love with the other over and over again.
In a good marriage, love is grounded in an unconscious trust and belief in the other. In a great marriage, that emotional affinity spills out from the couple to family and friends and into the community – something the church calls the sacramentality of marriage.
There is a great deal of cynicism around these days suggesting that life-long love is rare, when in reality it is likely being quietly lived out in the home across the street. Yes, marriage is a scary proposition. Yes, marriages fail. It is a risk to love. What if it doesn’t work out? Ah, but what if it does!