The Death and Resurrection of Marriage

Marriage is dying, but not in the way we might think.

I, for one, didn’t really care much about marriage when I was younger. I came from a divorced home, feeling separated from my father before I could even form a full memory of his face.

I watched both parents remarry and felt the pain and anger rage inside of me at the age of six, in knowing that despite my fantasy, my parents would never reunite.

I saw my parents new marriages be nothing like anything I ever wanted for myself–so much work, so much effort, so much sacrifice.

By the time I was 16, I was convinced that marriage and I didn’t mix. I wanted to roam free, be free, feel free. I didn’t need a man. I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me that I loved someone. I was enough and that was enough.

And then that persistent Savior of mine grabbed my heart hard and fast and before I could catch my breath in order to scream out “No!” I was reconsidering what it meant to say “I do.”

Because here it was, I had for so long said that I didn’t. I didn’t need a man. I didn’t need anyone. I was enough. And yet, Jesus knew there was no truth in that and instead He showed me just how much I needed.

I did need a man. Jesus.

I did say “I do,” and I said it to Him.

And without saying a word, He changed my mind.

I watched my own presumptions about marriage wither and lose life. The notions I once held about being free, were made so suddenly clear to me. Those notions had nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with no one.

And I sit in awe of the gift of marriage God gave to me–my proof that Jesus loves me.

I wonder at the goodness of God and just how painfully undeserving I am.

And marriage is dying.

Marriage is slipping into the category of a human right and not a spiritual covenant…

…and my heart breaks.

Not because of my politics on the issue or because I have landed upon some high and mighty theological mountain top, but because I know what’s at stake.

The loveliness, holiness, wretched beauty, and glorifying nature of marriage…

It is indescribable and yet fully knowable.

In all of the discussion over who should be married, who is allowed to be married, and what marriage is in the first place, no one is talking about that which rests right in front of us…

The very picture of marriage. Jesus and His Body.

No one is describing the mystery of this intertwining. No one is painting a vision of Christ’s true love.

But we have all seen it. We have all witnessed, often in wonder and amazement, the glimpses of this mystery. We have seen couples married 40 years who hold hands and laugh, whose smiles for one another are as pure and as lovely.

We have all seen two people exchange vows before God and man and felt that something mysterious is taking place–something supernatural has just occurred. “Two shall become one….”

We have seen that which Satan should have destroyed through adultery, pornography, or abuse be literally resurrected because He is present and Has given us power over death.

We have seen the way in which this mystery shapes us, grows us, refines us, and yet preserves us.

This metaphor for Christ and His church, cloaked in the form of a gift, dying from our hesitation to share what we’ve seen, what we know…

That this mystery is just that and is all together beautiful.

Please share about the best marriage(s) you know. How they have touched you, moved you, edified you? Whose marriage do you most admire and why? May we be encouraged as we share what marriage is, not simply what it is not.

29 thoughts on “The Death and Resurrection of Marriage”

  1. “Marriage is slipping into the category of a human right and not a spiritual covenant…”

    Such a bold slap in the face to post-modernism. You have prompted my next blog post with that remark. Actually, I sent Jonathan a rough draft of it earlier. Now it seems time to tighten it up and post it. Yes, I am grabbing your teaching and running with it. :)

    1. That’s an interesting quote. I don’t see marriage slipping out of one category into another.

      In my head the right to marry and the sanctity of marriage are two separate–yet important–issues.

      Meaning, I don’t think that one ought to be more pressing than another.

    2. Interesting quote. I respectfully disagree with it though.

      In my opinion, the sanctity of marriage and the right to marry are two very separate issues. Although both are important, in my mind, one has not replaced another.

  2. The first marriage I witnessed that was truly “spiritual” was my mother and father-in-law. They showed me what a godly marriage looked like.

    And the first wedding I ever attended where the Spirit was moving greatly was my daughter’s art teacher. She and her fiance (well- now husband) love the Lord and honored him with their relationship from the beginning.

  3. I loved this. I admire marriages that are real, that may have suffered but were resurrected by the power of which you speak. I admire marriages that honor commitment over feelings. I admire marriages which cultivate each person’s operating fully in his/her natural and supernatural giftings.

    I am humbled and thankful to say that, finally, after five years, my marriage looks like one I would admire. It hasn’t always been this way, but God resurrects and then reflects himself through each of us.

    1. Renee,
      You said ” I admire marriages that honor commitment over feelings.” Oh man, that is so good. if only more people thought this, felt this, and sought this. Marriage as we know it would be quite different.

      Thank you too for sharing about your own marriage. I appreciate your willingness to do so. Love to you, friend.

  4. If marriage has become a political issue is because it is being denied to some people. Just as in the recent past interracial marriages were banned and made illegal so it happens with same sex marriages today. It strikes me as funny that one of the resurrections of marriage is taking place there where most people feel uncomfortable with: the same sex version of it.

    1. Marriage outside of covenant through Christ is merely an agreement, a deal, an arrangement. Without Him as the approving covenant witness, it’s just a piece of paper, and no amount of political posturing or knee-jerk emotionalism can overcome that truth, or diminish it.

    2. Alvin,
      I don’t desire to engage you in a political/theological discussion on marriage, however, I cannot let your comment go.

      I find nothing as egregious, as shameful, and as outrageous as the comparison between interracial marriage and same-sex marriage.

      Interracial bans on marriage were the equivalent of telling people that they were, in fact, not people. Not one gay person in American today has faced the kind of discrimination, hatred, and evil that those who fought for Civil Rights endured.

      I find that the comparison between the two both demeans the lives dedicated and the lives lost in the name of true freedom and weakens the case for same-sex marriage.

      Same-sex marriage can be argued from a number of positions, many of which are quite compelling, but the comparison to the struggle for Civil Rights is not one of them.

  5. Mine is the best marriage I know. This year we cross 30 years of marriage. My wife has stood by me though diagnosis and life of MS, she is my hero in every way. Not flawless, but easy to love. To me marriage is living the promise (to God and spouse) to love, honor, and cherish. I’ve never seen a cherished person end a marriage.

  6. I grieve the brokenness in our culture’s view of marriage today. I grieve even more because I know that I buy into such broken views, incessantly trying to transpose them onto my marriage. Nicole, thank you so much for your vulnerability.

    My parents are definitely one of the strongest reasons I chose to get married. They showed me that marriage is more about a shared journey towards Christ’s holiness, and not merely a quest for happiness; which by the way is always a by-product of said journey.

    I am Nigerian. My parents are from two different Nigerian tribes and cultures. God empowered them to overcome all the stigma and difficulty of that experience with a love that mirrors Christ and the church.

    They always see their marriage, and each other as gifts, not entitlements. God has always been the third and most important chord in their union, and He has kept them from easily being broken. My dad is a pharmacist, and my mom was a midwife. But I have seen God use them do more pre-marriage and marriage counselling in our living room than many do in offices.

    And this might seem like a small thing, but public display of affection between “lovers” was kind of faux pas in our culture. Seeing my mom and dad kiss, or rub noses together, or hug was a BIG deal. Of course it didn’t happen all the time, but they were still influenced by culture. so to see it happen as often as it did was such a breath of fresh air!

  7. One of the reasons I am a huge supporter of gay marriage is that one of the best marriages I know is between a gay couple. Their loving respect for each other, their commitment to Christ and teaching their adopted child about him, their positive involvement in the community around them is unparalleled. It is a beautiful thing to see such true love between two people, no matter who those two people are. That being said I also have to wonder – if we look at marriage as a purely spiritual sacrament, why is the government so involved in it? I think the government needs to stop granting special tax breaks, rights to spouses, etc to something that should be left to the churches. Anyone should be able to marry anyone according to their own religious beliefs – if you take away the governmental incentives then people who want to marry outside the church for purely monetary gains or for “additional rights” will no longer need to worry about having to enter into a religious sacrament for those things, making the holy sacrament of marriage something that returns to a religious institution instead of a social one.

    1. Aaron,
      From what you have said about these people, they obviously are peace loving communal people. That’s great. But that doesn’t make gay marriage God’s will. The Bible is clear: marriage is between a man & a woman. Anything outside of that is not marriage.

      I agree with you on the state’s involvement in marriage…I’m not sure of it’s practicability though.

      I think we (followers of Jesus) should be moulded by scripture not culture…when there is a conflict in our culture and the scriptures, the scriptures should take precedence. The culture is painting a picture of a “happy gay marriage”, but the scriptures strongly speaks against it.

      We (followers of Jesus) are fast becoming a generation without a foundation. Any foundation not based of the TRUTH…based on culture and how people feel is a faulty foundation and will collapse.

      “We live in a culture where it’s WRONG TO SAY SOMETHING IS WRONG. I’m sorry. That’s WRONG.” — Mark Batterson

      My dear Aaron, what is wrong is wrong! …not matter how whitewashed it is.

      Jesus is coming for His bride….and by the way my dear, when Jesus comes your opinion and mine won’t matter. The only opinion that will matter is that of GOD. And He has not kept us in the dark about it. It’s clearly stated in His Word…the Bible.

  8. I attended two weddings in the last two weeks – both of people very close to me. My best friend got married with the most God-honoring, Christ-centered, Spirit-led ceremony I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. At one point both bride and groom were on their knees in all their wedding finery, worshiping God with abandon – and the entire congregation with them! It was an experience I will NEVER forget. It was so full of the mystery you speak of.

    And the following week I witnessed my older sisters marriage which was sweet, but simply a ceremony, a piece of paper being signed. We had a wonderful time at the reception catching up with family. Both weddings were beautiful in their own right, but so vastly different in depth and meaning. One was a sacred, permanent covenant. The other an agreement in which “we hope this one sticks”. And that breaks my heart.

  9. I’m nominating my marriage, as well. Next month we will celebrate 30 years of marriage. We’ve thrived through moves, alcoholism, naval deployments, successful and failed dieting to the chubby state I find myself in now, raising one son (and hoping he’ll move out one day), deaths of parents and now one of us is retired (not me). Through all this time there has been the notion that God has joined us together, for life. We decided to make this life sentence a happy one. My husband will tell any newly married couple that the first 25 years are the toughest. That may or may not be completely true. I’ll say the years when you think of your needs more highly than your spouse’s needs are the toughest. It just depends on when you decide to change your attitude. :)

  10. For God to use marriage as the holy relationship between Him and His church is outstanding. Originally, as He designed it, was for marriage to be a unification of two fleshes into one. A oneness (like the primitive Church how they were all in one mind and had all things in common), a pillar and example to the world of the foundation of a Christlike relationship. Today it is a mere arrangement for the satisfaction of individuals. Marriage today has turned into a “me” instead of an “us”. Marriage is taking a boat to an island and burning the boat when you arrive. There’s no going back. Today, we have fancy words like “irreconcilable differences”, infidelity and I just want a hotter spouse to break such a God-given covenant.

    If you want to get a good glimpse at the foolishness of how people see marriage today? Look at how easily we turn a deaf ear to principles pointed out in scripture regarding marriage. We have broken every single one of them with little to no conviction of wrong.

    My marriage is not perfect. 11 years and counting full of adventures, wars, and breakdancing (say what?), but yet, we have been faithful to this covenant.

    1. “Marriage today has turned into a “me” instead of an “us”.”

      There ain’t no “us” in marriage, Moe. It’s all about “me”. (Hey, I sound like a progressive Christian! Woo-hoo! Love me that New Christianity Jesus!)

  11. I recently got to join in the celebration of some friends’ 50th wedding anniversary. i don’t necessarily see wedded bliss in their relationship — i see two people who are extremely different but who lavish each other, each moment, each day with love, grace, and patience. the likes of which i don’t even exude in my own life of singleness, never mind when its demanded of in a union with another. they give me hope of what could be and show me even what should be. and mirror for me the incredible heart of Christ toward me.

    1. Alece,
      It sounds to me like you are describing that which marriage should be, not what we sometimes want it to be. It isn’t a Hollywood romance of “wedded bliss,” but rather two people choosing to love one another and serve one another when, at times, doing so is the more difficult way.

      I’m glad it gives you hope. It gives me hope too. Blessings, friend.

    2. “they give me hope of what could be and show me even what should be. and mirror for me the incredible heart of Christ toward me.”

      Amazing. Flesh and blood did not reveal that to you, Alece. And since you spoke it out loud, others are edified and inspired. Thank you, very much!

  12. Nicole! You are a bucket full of awesome. This was a great post as I have been experiencing some Spirit-tug in this direction in my own marriage. My marriage is a covenant and too-often I think we view covenant as “I give 50% and they give 50% and that is the covenant.” That’s not how God’s covenant has worked with humanity. God gave 100%. What would our marriages look like if we viewed it in the respect that each spouse gives 100% to the other?

  13. Oh but wait- Jesus did address marriage and how He intended it:

    And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’” (Matt. 19:4.)

    Notice, He did not say that He made them male and male or female and female. For how can two of the same flesh become one as God wants it? Exactly.

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