The Express and Star (our local daily evening paper) ran an encouraging feature on marriage last Saturday. It reported that marriages in churches in the West Midlands are currently at a seven-year high. The article featured the story of two couples who were married last year. There was also pro-marriage comment from a youthful looking Neil Robbie (see the photo of me and Amanda on our wedding day almost 19 years ago) and some anti-marriage comment by a properly youthful baker (Laura, who says she doesn’t want to get married).
I’ve been married to my wife, Amanda, for eighteen very different years. Each year brings a new season to our marriage, with much to enjoy as well as challenges to overcome. We’ve been on a great adventure together, first as engineers when we moved to Malaysia and Singapore, and now on a very different path, as vicar and vicar’s wife, in Wolverhampton and now West Bromwich.
I believe that marriage is good for couples, children and community, at least when it works well. Marriage is a public promise and sign of commitment. Couples are most happy when their marriage is secure. The security of a good marriage lets us flourish in all areas of life, including our work and in community. Our children are most content when they can see that their parents are fully committed to each other.
I believe that the recent statistics on marriage reveal that we have failed as a culture to understand what marriage is for and how to make it work as it should. As Lily Allen sings, “I am a weapon of massive consumption. And it’s not my fault, it’s how I’m programmed to function.” In a consumer culture, if we find that the goods we have received are faulty then we take them back to the shop. The real problem is, we are all faulty. But marriage is a commitment to someone who is faulty, not something to consume.
I’ve found, since becoming a Christian believer when I was 24, and having gone through the pain of a couple of failed relationships before then, that Christian marriage offers a refreshing alternative to our individualistic, consumer approach to love. The bible’s teaching on marriage makes each of us ask a number of important questions: How can I best serve the needs of the person God has given me in marriage? How can I keep my promise to have and to hold, for better and for worse? And, knowing that I am faulty, how can I show I am sorry when I mess up and then make real and lasting changes to my behaviour or attitude? And perhaps the most important question of all: how can I love and show grace when I find fault with my spouse?
Marriage between two faulty people can be good, it is always difficult. It is also God’s idea and as a culture we need to recapture the real meaning of marriage.