Marriage: An experience of heaven and hell
Marriage is the best training ground to let us explore the terrain of heaven and hell. If marriage is seen as anything less, it will become either implacably dull or catastrophically overwhelming. This view begins with the assumption that all that is seen is intended to reveal something about the unseen (Romans 1:20). We are daily exposed, the apostle Paul claims, to data that reveals God’s power and character, which leaves us with no excuse for ignoring the transcendent call of life itself. If that is true of a flower or a honey bee, then it must be infinitely truer of a relationship that God made to reveal his image and glory: marriage.
Marriage gives us a taste of the goodness of God, the wonder of intimacy, the playful pleasure of erotic connection, and the startling naked holiness of what it means to be forgiven and found to be delightful. The goodness of marriage is almost more than we can comprehend. On the other hand, the bitter emptiness, the incomprehensible, confusing, alienating distance that comes with the hurt and failure that comes in marriage, is almost more than a human being can bear.
Consequently, it is easy to see why most couples learn to settle for less, expect little, and endure the losses as inevitable. We learn to love more at a distance, silencing our desires, and accepting that this is about as good as it is going to get – so be happy. Tragically, a philosophy built on the avoidance of conflict for the sake of a mediocre peace leads most marriages to even darker consequences and loss. We will always pay, whether it’s up front or later; no one gets a free lunch in marriage,or any other relationship that matters.
My hope for couples is for them to learn to struggle in a manner that opens their hearts to the wild, surprising, and enduring delight of God and, in turn, enables each partner to give and receive from the other all the goodness stored up in eternity for them.