The last few days there’s been a lot of buzz around the Catholic Blogosphere about the purpose of Marriage. Don’t get me wrong, this is awesome, and with society continually pushing the boundaries of marriage, we should be continually re-examining and re-evangelizing what marriage is. The two most popular articles have been “Marriage Isn’t for You” and its aptly titled response “A Response To: Marriage Isn’t for You“. While both of these articles are beautiful and make important points about the selflessness and God-focused nature of marriage, I think they miss the bigger picture, and are perhaps better when considered two sides of the same the coin. So who is marriage for?
Marriage is for Me.
We can try all we want to remove ourselves from the focus of marriage–whether for reasons of humility or whatever–but in reality I think we need to remember that we are still part of this marriage, and we have to put our own personal effort into making it work. My wife and I recently had a relatively serious argument about a decision I made, and both of us were feeling hurt and unloved because we thought the other was being unsupportive. Only when I realized that my feelings were both selfish and prideful was I able to move on and forgive my wife (and myself) for feelings that were causing disunity in the marriage. And believe me, it wasn’t easy, and it took prayer and grace from the Sacrament to let go of that anger that was so easily felt.
The point here is that if we push to ad-absurdium the fact that marriage is self-less and for our spouse, we risk missing the essential focus of marriage as a vocation and a path to sanctification. My marriage to my wife should make me a better man, a better Christian, and a better person, and indeed I think it has to start with me allowing God to transform myself in humility, self-giving, and love, before I can expect my wife to be transformed by the marriage.
Marriage is for my spouse (and others)
“Marriage Isn’t for You” had it right in some sense…a husband or wife who is focused solely or predominantly on themselves is not fulfilling their marriage or bringing it to its full fruition. While we do need to make sure we are allowing the challenge of marriage to transform and sanctify ourselves, it is equally if not more important, that we bring our spouse to heaven. Not only is it for your spouse, but it requires a spouse that is equally committed to making the marriage work. Furthermore, a solid marriage is needed to adequately and healthily raise children in the best possible situation. It is also a reflection of the inner love of the Trinity, the devotion to and effectiveness of the Sacrament, the fruitfulness of faith in family life, and the positive role of the domestic church in the universal Church and society. In this way marriage is not for “you” or “me” but for the good of my spouse, my family, the world, and the Church.
Marriage requires God
This brings me to my third point… and I think the “Response” article was close to making this point but I’d like to refocus it. While it can be argued that marriage is “for” God (although the implication or nuance of God needing marriage makes the theological part of me cringe a bit), I believe that it is more accurate to say that marriage requires God. Yes, insofar as a healthy marriage glorifies God, does his will, and brings about the Kingdom of God, marriage is for God. But I think the greater point here is that marriage, in a sense, subsists, in God. It is hard, some days its the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do, and its a lifetime commitment to daily choose to love this person and act on it. Love like that cannot be sustained without grace–a grace that comes most fully through God and the sacrament of marriage.
It Takes Three
I don’t “disagree” with anything the authors of the other posts said. I think they are very beautiful, pertinent, and well written messages that present a piece of the marriage puzzle. The most important thing however, is that Christian couples realize that God needs to be at the center of their relationship for it to be most fruitful. If marriage has only one person invested, it will fall flat on its face. If it has two, it may hobble along for a while, but will be crippled. If it has three people–husband, wife, and God–the marriage will dance and bare abundant fruit for the couple, the family, and the Kingdom of God as whole.
Did I miss anything? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below!